The Short Sightedness of Selling Out

Bubblegen is way too smart to be saying this with any kind of incredulity:

Most of the blogs that have gone pro have lost their mojo. They’re boring now – not fun to read, losing their appetite for risk, they almost never take a position on anything anymore, in lieu of the same old middle-of-the-road presentation you can get, well, in any lame old newspaper.

Why? Because everyone else is just replicating mass media. It’s the same old game, all over again – middle of the road position drives attention sells ads. But today’s economics are very different – and so are today’s consumers.

None of these people want change. They never did. And so we shouldn’t be surprised that they’re not pursuing it when it could so easily be theirs.

Tucker made this very clear to me when we were discussing Caesar and Khan. Caesar, he said, was no hero because he was just attempting to realize the sense of entitlement he’d carried with him from birth. And in that light Gaul and the crossing the Rubicon take on a certain pointless but understandable patheticness. Caesar longed to be validated and conquering happened to fill that hole. Khan, however, just wanted to be left alone, to live as he pleased. And when that couldn’t happen, he remade the entire fucking world in his image.

What we see in bloggers like Techcrunch or Perez Hilton is more Caesar and less Khan. They always wanted part of the system but the system essentially rejected them. So they turned to the internet where at the time, it was easier to be heard through all the noise. To their credit, they brought something innovative to the table and were rewarded for it. But that doesn’t change the fact that what they really wanted was still elusive: a seat at the old table. And that will always define how they act. That means an inevitable slide toward mediocrity (the same post for the 100th time), relying on other people to do your work for little payment (guest posters), risk adversity, conflict of interests (investments) and selling out for short-term money (crappy shows on Vh1)

Khan though, never got tied up in emulating the traditions of the people he replaced because he never intended on replacing them. They were just in his way. And as I have seen from some of the 50 Cent/Robert Greene stuff: that is the difference between someone like Puffy and 50. One just wanted to be popular and the other wanted to be himself. That makes the former inhibited and the latter strategically flexible. So we’re going to see a whole generation of these bloggers self-destruct, ironically, in the very same way as the “man” they rallied against. (see: Gawker book) Ralafat at PaidContent created something of value–he might not be getting the attention for it right now but he’ll come out the winner.

We had an advertiser offer Rudius a ton of money if only Tucker would agree to change the word “fuck” to “f*ck” in all his stories. No. No. No. That’s the whole point–the reason that this niche even exists is because some executive five years ago insisted that people would be offended by that kind of material and look what they left on the table. And this week his book will hit #13 on the NYT Bestseller list, almost a full two years after it came out. The moral of that story is clear.

So I would offer this to the people who are my age and coming up. Trust your gut. Do the stuff that actually makes sense, let the short term money ride and build something based on reciprocity, authenticity and value. Be cool. Stop worrying about piddly shit. Buying in is only going to force you to sell out–sell out to a machine that almost everyone agrees is in its death throes. To the people who are already there, ignore everything your gut tells you. You’ve always been wrong, you just weren’t accountable for it. And trying to tempt the next generation into defecting before they can do serious damage isn’t a sustainable strategy–it just gets you further and further behind in the loop cycle.

But on the other hand, it can’t come as a surprise that some people choose the other route. Can you really blame them? It used to be a great strategy. I would just argue that that option is decreasingly daily as far as a payout goes. It used to be that you could sell out or coast for decades on an outdated business model–returns diminished gradually. Today, we’re seeing the rise and peak of companies just years, sometimes months after they’ve started. That means you’re fighting to stay alive. Innovation isn’t a luxury, it’s lifeblood and true disruption is the only opportunity for a slight breather.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.