Is The Publish Button Evil?

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The ability to publish content was once one of the most valuable forces in the world.

“The pen is mightier than the sword.” There is no doubt that you are familiar with this quote. Do you believe it? Facebook is an interesting place. For the most part, I see people posting questions. Lots of questions. Sometimes, these questions are super smart… and the answers that follow just move me to think differently (totally rejuvenated by Facebook since the addition of private groups,and some smart folks). Then, there are a lot of silly questions. These questions are being asked to just get attention or to kill some time. As you scroll through the newsfeed, it’s sometimes sad to see how desperate brands (and individuals) can be for some semblance of attention. There’s a lesson in this: we all want attention. We all want people to like us. You can imagine that you’re more evolved than this, but you’re not (and I include myself in this list). In fact, Facebook proves that we’re not. Time and time again.

But, there is something more to this idea.

If you don’t study media (or if media is not a part of your profession), it’s hard to understand how profound this ability to publish a thought truly is. This is less about how the invention of the printing press changed the world. This is less about how the Internet has changed the world. This is much more about respecting the ability to publish, communicate and connect. It’s about class. It’s about respect.

Why you should respect the publish button.

Everyone has a publish button now. In fact, everyone has many, many, many publish buttons now. We publish on Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, Periscope, whatever. I see something, I publish it. I write something, I publish it. The publish button (like advertising) shifted (really quickly) from being something scarce, curated and special to being as omni-present as a light switch. We don’t see content as something special. We’re starting to treat it like air. Imagine if publishers (individuals and brands) took a step back from this. Imagine – for a second – that everything wasn’t seen as a piece of content to publish and generate an impression off of. Imagine if there was a respect for that publish button.

When you publish, do you see it as something to respect or something to flood the market with? 

I’m scared of the publish button. The publish button, to me, is like a blank page/screen. I’m trying to create something on it that interests you… that will engage you. I don’t want to waste your time. I don’t want to interrupt your experience, just because I can. The people who create the real “stuff” respect the publish button. They fear it. They don’t want to waste it. They toil, tinker and sweat the details. They are doing things in the service of the content that they are creating. Not everyone thinks like this, but quality (not quantity) comes with that kind of care and cost. When you don’t care, you do whatever it takes to get attention. Because we have these many publishing buttons, we’re seeing this gluttony play out in real time. Brands that used to respect the process, are just carpet bombing the world with content. What’s my take? That their great content is being lost. Because they’re amping up and pumping so hard, the stuff that could stick, resonate and connect is getting lost because consumers are (rightfully) thinking to themselves: “well, even if I miss this one thing, there will be more…” and publishers are less worried about the distribution and promotion of the good stuff, as they focus on the next thing to pump out.

What happened to, “always leave them wanting more”?

This respect for the publishing button is something that smart brands are starting to consider. The old, quality over quantity debate rages on. Quality wins… you have to hope. The challenge for most brands is that publishers are pushing them to do much more. Of course, there are financial reasons for this, but here’s the thing that we know about content that resonates: it must be innovative and creative. The one thing that constantly stifles this backbone of innovation and creativity is the idea of what brands think (or are told) that they are supposed to do. I spent more time than I care to think about in the music industry. Bands that had any form of success were constantly being told (by record labels and their managers) to stay within the lanes of what brought them success. A pop band is a pop band. A folk artist is a folk artist. Bands believe their own success too and think that they have to record “Who they are” instead of “what they’re feeling,” because they don’t want to lose their fans. Content is a form of artistry (it really is). So, if a brand is being told that in order to be successful you have to double down on content, be everywhere and begin the pounding of the publish button to stay in line, they are – without a doubt – potentially losing their true brand way. The north star of success.

Is it just me?

Do you value, respect and love the individuals and brands that are simply pounding it out there? For my dollar, I’m retreating. I’m looking for the individuals… and the brands… that still fear (and respect) the publish button. The ones that aren’t publishing against an always-on, real time marketing world, but the ones that are rising above and trying – all of the time – to raise themselves up higher, not because they’re doing more, but because they’re doing it better and getting the incremental results that validate this strategy.

Hit that publish button, but do it because you have something to say, instead of doing it because everyone else is.