Quantity Over Quality

Plus my January “now enjoying” list

Matt Savener

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Small perks of relentless California rain

I just have to share this insight from Max Read that is equal parts profound, mundane, and depressing:

The key lesson, the thing I would impart to any aspiring bloggers, content creators, or newsletter proprietors, is that the cornerstone of internet success is not intelligence or novelty or outrageousness or even speed, but regularity. There are all kinds of things you can do to develop and retain an audience — break news, loudly talk about your own independence, make your Twitter avatar a photo of a cute girl — but the single most important thing you can do is post regularly and never stop.

The inspiration for this is Matt Yglesias and his two decades of mediocre-to-bad work that, despite the low quality, has made him one of the most successful bloggers of the 21st century. Yglesias has pissed off just about everyone at some point and has been legendarily wrong many, many times. In a meritocracy, this kind of track record would cause the slow decline of reputation and lost attention of most/all readers.

And yet.

Max is right: Yglesias’ success is due not to valuable insights or reporting, but simply to regular posting. As Yglesias receives backlash about the stupid thing he wrote today or how wrong he was yesterday, it may seem that he’s being held accountable for low quality. But in the long run, all he’s doing is racking up views.

Like Max writes: “I’m not even talking here about controversial or outrageous writing, though its success is a reflection of this basic principle.” That trolly/attention-seeking stuff is a level of bad all its own, but this is more about the content-production mill that every successful creator runs now. Like water, content quality will naturally seek an equilibrium when there’s enough space for it to spread out.

This is how distribution systems work all over the internet. Quality can get you some level of attention or even admiration, but the real key to success is quantity. As long as you’re willing to withstand the criticism and deal with the shame that comes from producing content that might be lackluster, off-putting, or even wrong, you too can win the internet — just like Matt Yglesias.

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