TLDR: The age of free apps & free content is over

By NY Mag (these highlights provided for you by Annotote)

Tumblr is among the most important sites online — a central hub of what is nebulously known as “internet culture.”

Reddit, the so-called “front page of the internet,” has been unable to fully capitalize on its enormous audience and influence, even after being purchased by Condé Nast

Twitter steers a huge portion of online culture … but still has trouble turning a profit.

4chan … is probably the most influential single website of the last decade, but its owner Hiroyuki Nishimura has said he is likely to shut it down. Even YouTube, which is synonymous with online video, still has trouble with profitability.

What makes these sites so friendly to creative expression? To begin with, there’s a focus on frictionless, near-immediate sharing — making posting hassle-free. 4chan doesn’t even require an account … It also has to be easy for users to iterate or remix content [like reflagging or retweeting]

The general thinking in the rise of social networks was that if you make stuff that gets a lot of attention (or, better yet, own the real estate on which others are making stuff for free), brands will put their ads next to it. But with a small handful of exceptions, the advertising riches never really materialized.

Maybe more importantly, [nobody’s] had data-mining operations as sophisticated as, say, Facebook. That’s why most of the advertising money in the industry has drained toward Facebook, which has 2 billion users, mounds of data, and can better assure advertisers of content cleanliness … by selling ads against people’s identities, rather than their creative content, the company has churned out impressive profits

The next hubs of internet culture will learn from the mistakes of the past decade, hopefully by doing one of two things: developing a way to collect revenue directly from its audience, like Twitch or Patreon allow now, or by eschewing the notion of a sustainable business at all.

The overall stumbles of building centralized hubs of internet culture mean that, going forward, content might soon be consumed not by one large audience on a single platform, but by thousands of smaller audiences across a variety of online spaces.

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