I have a drafts folder full of notes and ideas and topics I think I may want to write about one day. One of them was about YouTube Red and the increasing commercialization of the online world. It was called “The Death of the Internet.”
I never wrote it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
Huge companies are slow to adapt, but once they do, it’s game over. They’ve finally done it. They’ve figured out how to monetize the World Wide Web. They saw us cutting our cords and getting our information not from TV but from our phones and while it took them a while, they changed their business models and came online with a vengeance.
They’re in it for the money. Slideshows are easy; attention-grabbing headlines are profitable. The race to be first is so important that being right is a distant second. Read Ryan Holiday’s book about how easy it is to get a rumor to go from a blog to CNN. Buzzfeed is the 21st Century version of a bad sitcom with a laugh track that gets millions in ad money.
Grantland wasn’t in it for that. The Dissolve wasn’t in it for that. These sites are what we dreamed about when we were kids. We didn’t have the Internet, but I always wondered why the media didn’t pay attention to the stuff we were talking about. Why didn’t they see what we saw?
As the online world grew, we found people like us, who weren’t tied to the old way of thinking. Those sites embody that mindset. They did deep dives into movies that were beloved but not famous. They let their writers document their trip into a YouTube wormhole. They had discussions and arguments we had in our homes or our favorite bars, but they did it for all of us to read.
A few years ago, someone on Twitter said that they could see my style of writing belonging on Grantland. It was one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever gotten. I knew I wasn’t polished enough to write for it, but I kept that dream alive. I didn’t read every piece published on the site and I didn’t even enjoy reading every writer, but others did. That’s what it’s all about. I don’t like chocolate ice cream, but I don’t begrudge a store for selling it because so many others do. There was something for everyone and the site rarely pandered or treated its audience as if it were stupid or less than.
Grantland, The Dissolve and sites like them are the best of what the Internet has to offer and they’re dying.
We’re in trouble.
Christopher Pierznik is the author of eight books, all of which can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, and many more. He has been quoted on Buzzfeed and Deadspin. Subscribe to his monthly reading review newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.