The role of the gatekeeper
Youtube for videos and movies, Medium for blogs and articles, Amazon for books, Soundcloud for music and podcasts and others like them have all played a big part in helping people choose themselves when it comes to creating content and putting it out there without having to be chosen and approved by a gatekeeper and without having to pay fees to or share revenue with a gatekeeper.
This is fantastic. This has opened up new outlets for many creatives to share their work and spread their message and profit from it at the same time. There are several people that have built their careers and businesses this way.
But this kind of a freedom is a double-edged sword.
Previously, the gatekeepers provided their expertise in producing, packaging and distributing content — publishers for books, record labels for music, production houses for movies and television shows, newspapers and magazines for articles. And this used to be of immense value as people couldn’t handle these tasks on their own without the help of the gatekeepers.
Once the expertise of these gatekeepers was made redundant by democratising the tools needed for publishing, packaging and distributing and monetising content, the flood gates were opened for everyone and their mother to create and publish content.
This resulted in a glut of content that people could access.
And with more and more people creating content, it started to get harder and harder for people to curate this and discover the best content to consume.
Which is where the gatekeepers have been seeing a resurrection.
Sure, anyone can create and publish their content for everyone to see today. But just because someone puts their content out there doesn’t mean that they have an audience for it. They still need to work extremely hard in building up that audience by getting more and more people to trust them enough to engage with their content. And only when they convince a sizable number of people to do that do they stand to make meaningful monetary returns.
Whereas, while it is a long-winded and hard process to jump the hoops and run the loops in order to be chosen by a gatekeeper, that could have similar results at the end of the day.
The gatekeepers come with a trust and a ready audience. If you can get your article accepted in a popular Medium publication, or get your movie on Netflix (or even a popular YouTube channel), you have ready access to the large audience that trusts them already. The larger that audience, the more people vying to be chosen by that publication or channel and hence greater the competition.
So, despite the democratization of tools, a lot still resides in the hands of the gatekeepers as they continue to provide important value.
But, the only difference now is that there is a choice. A choice for us to go our own path and figure out everything that we need to in order to build up our audience or to do what it takes to be chosen by a gatekeeper.
And more often than not, people are taking both routes simultaneously. They are self-publishing their content and trying to get awareness while simultaneously trying to convince a gatekeeper to pick them.
Which is a sound enough strategy to follow.