written by:

Word on the web is professional content is back in vogue, and amateur content, specifically the half-hearted drivel riddled with misinformation, is out.

Good riddance, I say. It’s not always easy to distinguish yourself from the crowd of professional and not so professional writers out there. It takes work, guts, insanely long hours, caffeine, research, creativity, and alcohol. Lots of it. Preferably 80 proof, well-aged, or imported. Lots of it.


Finally, once you think you’ve made it – and as a writer, “made it” means something along the lines of not having to eat ramen noodles anymore, moving out of your parents house, and upgrading that 1986 Toyota Celica with the peeling paint that you’ve been driving around since your sophomore year in college to something a little nicer and more reliable – you soon realize there will always be someone younger, wiser, more hip, more experienced, or better informed coming up from behind.

This realization will make you feel like you are losing your edge. You will get depressed. You will cry. You will take up smoking and realize you hate it. You will start dressing like a Goth and realize it is dumb. You will cry. You will sleep for weeks. You will cry. Eventually, however, and only after much deliberation (writers love to deliberate), you will come to accept that the race to stay ahead of the competition is back on, and, in fact, that it never really ended (alcohol helps with this step, in particular).

Now, once you accept this fact of creative life (and life in general, for that matter), as long as that competition consists of experienced pros and industry gurus, fine. Competition is healthy, hard work is good for you, and stagnation, professional or otherwise, should be avoided at all costs.

However, when writing for the web, your competition often consists of a large body of ill-informed, amateur hacks taking weak shots in the dark, invading your beloved forum with poorly-researched opinions, error-laden articles, and hastily formed ideas. And you may find yourself asking, “Is it really worth it?”

Lucky for me, and others who make a living crafting online content, a shift seems to be underway as I write this. It seems the seasoned writer is back in demand – and the rookie scribes are on their way out. The cause of the shift? It is likely two-fold. On one hand, web professionals and dot.com CEOs have finally realized the quality of content on their respective web properties largely dictates how much they can charge for advertising. On the other hand, web users are demanding more from the online experience. Add those two things together and the result is an increased need for well-written, reliable, and engaging content.

As writer Tony Dokoupil explains in “Revenge of the Expert,” a recent Newsweek web exclusive:

Fueling all this podium worship is the potential for premium audiences—and advertising revenue. “The more trusted an environment, the more you can charge for it,” says Mahalo founder Jason Calacanis, a former AOL executive who was previously involved with several Web start-ups. It’s also easier to woo advertisers with the promise of controlled content than with hit-and-miss blog blather. “Nobody wants to advertise next to crap,” says Andrew Keen, author of “The Cult of the Amateur,” a jeremiad against the ills of the unregulated Web. (http://www.newsweek.com/id/119091/page/1)

So there you have it, people. Writers, turn on your Macs. Get out your pens. Pour the shots.

The race is on.


5 thoughts on “Rock, paper, amateur, pro.
  1. Aryeh says:

    This is an amazing and refreshing perspective that gleans valuable insight into where the internet and e-commerce are currently, and more importantly, where things are heading.

    Only the strong and talented survive.

    Nice work 🙂

    Eric Rosen

    USC Marshall School of Business

    MBA ’09

    Director of Marketing

    Jewlicious Festivals



  2. Molly Simon says:

    The word “writer” has some what of a loose meaning. The very broad meaning of the word “writer” is “one who writes.” It’s wonderful to know that there are people that take this calling, for lack of a “professional” word, to write so very seriously, however, it is ridiculous for one writer to burden web users with their negative OPINIONS about amateur writers. I guess some people must have begun their writing career as a professionals…. wait a minute… NOPE! Is it not true that every writer has to start somewhere? Writing is a wonderful gift, true some writers are better than others, but it is not an isolated gift. Everyone has the right to express themselves creatively. Whose place is it to judge someone else’s writing? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What may appear to be a hack job to you, may appear to be a great work of literature to others.

  3. Amanda Moshier says:

    Yes, it is true, everyone starts somewhere. It’s not about beauty, or opinions, it’s about factual, well-researched, and informed content.

    Who has a right to judge someone else’s writing? Editors, publishers, financiers, advertisers, TV producers, viewers, and readers, to name a few. When you get paid to write, it is implied that your writing be judged.

    We’re not talking poetry or journal entries – for the purposes of this blog, we’re talking about content on websites that is so compelling advertisers want to advertise there, because people want to read it.

    Furthermore, once you get into magazines, tv shows, movies, and the like – the same thing applies. Someone has got to want to read or watch the product for it to be worth anything.

    As far as anything being my opinion, I would direct you to read the articles linked to in the post. That may shed some light on what this is really about.

    Finally, I truly doubt there would be much discrepancy over what is a “hack job” and what isn’t. You’ve either researched your facts and constructed your argument in a logical way, or you haven’t. Style is a completely different animal, and only then does “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” even come into play.

  4. Amir says:

    I think these two dudes got in the same argument, but about journalism:



    I think everyone’s a writer. Some people are clever enough to get paid for it. Professionals often get caught up in distinguishing themselves from the hordes, but really it just means you are making money.

    There’s probably such a thing as “craft” and “research,” but I don’t know how much they matter anymore. The rules of grammar always seem to be up in the air, and someone with a degree is always complaining about someone else undermining language.

    Being a pro just means tricking other people into thinking that you’re good. I guess if you can do that, you probably are.

  5. Mike Mothner says:

    I believe that the point here is not in identifying appropriate definitions for “writer”, “professional” or “amateur”. To me, the bigger issue is that poorly researched, uninformed writing on a topic — whether it is from an amateur or a paid professional — deteriorates the experience of consuming information online. One would assume this is less likely to happen with a professional than an amateur, but this is certainly not universal.

    The scary thing to me is that the vast majority of readers of blogs and online content are taking it at face value, and not applying a lens of credibility and research. In many cases, this can result in propagating pure opinion, or even flat out inaccuracies. Scary stuff!

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