a16z Podcast

Writers Writing, Readers Reading, Creators Creating

Chris Best, Robert Cottrell, Andrew Chen, and Sonal Chokshi

Posted January 26, 2020

We’ve been financing good writing with bad advertising — and “attention monsters” (to quote Craig Mod) for way too long. So what happens when the technology for creators finally falls into place? We’re finally starting to see shift in power away from publications as the sole gatekeepers of talent, towards individual writers. Especially when the best possible predictor of the value of a piece of writing is, well, the writer. The publication’s brand is no longer the guarantee of quality, or the only entity we should be paying and be loyal to, when a new ecosystem is forming around the direct relationship between consumers, content creators, and the tools and business models to facilitate all this.

So where do readers come in… how do they find signal in the noisy world of drive-by billboard advertising, “attention-monster” feeds, and the death of Google Reader? Particularly as machine learning-based translation, summarization, and other mediums beyond text increasingly enter our information diets, for better and for worse?

This episode of the a16z Podcast features Robert Cottrell, formerly of The Economist and Financial Times and now editor of The Browser (which selects 5 pieces of writing worth reading delivered daily); Chris Best, formerly CTO of Kik and now co-founder and CEO of Substack (a full-stack platform for independent writers to publish newsletters, podcasts, and more); and Andrew Chen, formerly independent blogger/ newsletter publisher, now also an a16z general partner investing in consumer — all in conversation with Sonal Chokshi. The discussion is all about writing and reading… but we’re not just seeing this phenomenon in newsletters and podcasting, but also in people setting up e-commerce shops, video streaming, and more. Is it possible that the stars, the incentives, are finally aligning between creators and consumers? What happens next, what happens when you get more than — and even less than — “1000 true fans“?

image: Thad Zajdowicz/ Flickr