Provenance the Web Magazine

ISSN 1203-8954 - Vol.  2 No.  2 Spring 1997

Throwing a net over the new writing - or - "Freelance writing in an electronic age"

by:  Brian Buchanan
- freelance writer and business consultant, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Whatever will happen to freelance writing in the electronic age?  One answer:  everyone will do it.  That is, everyone will have access to the envigorating ethers of the Net to search for primary information and publish one's own explications, prolificly, at will.  Who will need magazines and newspapers? One will merely read the wire service stories or other information from research or intelligence-gathering data banks right off the screen, print what one wants and move on to the thousands of usenet groups, forums and other collections of like-minded or like-interested devotees of every subject under the sun.  Out of the hunt for Everyman's red october will come everyone's private magazine.  A very sophisticated clipping file, personally spun.  Brian Buchanan picture

Oh sure, the odd large-circulation mags like Time, US News and World Report, perhaps even Toronto-focussed Macleans might hang around in an electronic form, paying a few staffers and even fewer freelancers to scribble a few words.  But won't information technology make everyone an editor-writer-researcheo Magazines are all electronic now.  Won't scale economies make them cheaper operations requiring fewer writers? Sure, but look at the these magazines on the net.  They're still made the old way.  Once a month anactronisms.  So maybe even the conventional big publications will fade away.  They're not current and "now" enough.  The newly and truly wired will simply go out for a quick hunt with a good search engine and concoct his news and commentary fresh, without intermediaries. 

One quibble in all this compositional democracy.  Oh, maybe two or three.  Analytical and writing talent are relatively rare currencies.  Most people, even bright sparks, couldn't write their way out of a paper bag.  In fact, considering the quality of 95% of what one sees on the net, most authors of this dreck should wear paper bags to hide their embarrassment.  Although judging by the hubris betrayed on much of the net prose, its authors probably have severely underdeveloped shame glands.  So modern wired man and woman may still turn to professional thinkers and writers for their daily intellectual bread, instead of attempting to make it themselves every day, or hoping to rely on the humble efforts of multitudes of fellow amateurs.  Equal technical access won't produce equal intellectual product.  History revealed a similar phenomenon with the Gutenburg revolution: at first everyone got into the printing game, churning out gigantic volumes of uneven quality, but mostly bad.  By the end of the 18th Century, professional writers and publishing houses were firmly established, and amateurs receded into richly deserved oblivion.  Look at the amateurs' works now and weep for egalitarianism.  And pray for the professionalization of the net. 

So there will still be a place for writers.  The great freelancing rush will give way to the best and brightest, just as the post-Gutenburg printing rush did the same.  Talent will out.  Or more accurately, lack of talent will be out; possession of creativity will be commercial.  But freelancers? Maybe the future for them is particularly bright.  Look at the syndicated writers on the US commercial net services now.  Can one imagine one's favourite columnists available for sale one column at a time? "Let's see, today I'll buy a Fotheringham and a Palmer."  The service is there now for a few well-established writers who earned their fees and following from the hardcopy media. 

In the next millennium, writers will carve commercial swaths and flog words to a hungry public who will only know these authors as the creatures of the ether.  New writers will emerge, marketing their wares globally while protecting their creative efforts and charging for it one hit at a time.  Newspapers will be modular, barely recognizable things, sold in fragments, on good screens and downloadable in myriad forms, changing shape and substance before your eyes with new stories and commentary from freelancers and staffers alike.  Exciting? Sure.  Daunting? Yes, that too.  So, how do we flog our wares, now that we don't call up stony-faced editors with queries any more? On the brighter side, no longer will we suffer the bad editing travesties of lesser talents.  The dreadful old truth will no longer matter: those who can't write, edit.  Editors will disappear like the T-Rex's they so often resemble. 

We have seen the future.  It is us.  However, it needs work.  The plots will undoubtedly thicken.  A great deal is left to do in copywriting and marketing.  He who creates order of this chaos will make many of the next billions.  Let us at 'em. 

- Brian Buchanan

HOUSEHOLD WORDS .  .  .  in our infinite variety.  .  . 

· the prose mundane: verbal concrete and two by fours -- for reports, letters and writing on the routine and regular spin of company life verve and clarity that practical, speedy communications can handle. 
· paint and decor, in words: when bragging and vivid description go public -- paper and electronic brochures, video scripts and advertisements with gusto and guises --- lights, camera .  .  .  we're in action!
· rich tapestries and wordful art: when the commercial milieu draws up to its fullest cultural height, colourful ribbons of artful narrative spin their way across the pages and screen, looking a lot like serious literature, with a client in the star turn --- public relations releases, commissioned articles and extended stories reach deeper into the body politic and body commercial, looking to impress. 

Brian Buchanan sells words.  Just that.  While he works with photographers and artists of various sorts on projects, he has one product line: words, words and more words.  Tis enough.  Twill serve.  Would you like him to save a good word or two for you? Call him.  Go on.  The costs are surprisingly low. 

When that old wordsmithing is just getting you down, call an expert.  Brian Buchanan knows the alleys and byways of commerce and education.  He can get you there from where-ever your rhetoric may maroon you.  Brian Buchanan.  A Paladin of prose.  "Have words, that will travel." 

Brian Buchanan picture

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Originally published by Provenance web magazine for information professionals © Copyright Brian Buchanan 1997