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Production is Marketing

September 28, 2013

I found myself recently engaging in a discussion on Linked In about how to find an audience for valuable content on the internet. My point was that the more time one spends creating good content the less time there is for marketing. The response was made that ‘Production is marketing.’ My immediate thought was that it most definitely is not. I assume that the man’s suggestion was that good content will always find an audience. I think that is absolute rubbish and I would go further and say that the power of mass marketing is the dumbing down of content to go for mass appeal.
Why do we need an audience at all, you may ask? If your content is so important to you, in quality terms, then you may say that you can just carry on producing good work. Hmm, but clearly there are advantages in having an audience. Last night I watched the results of an architectural heritage competition and the interviewer asked someone what is the value of an award like this. I paraphrase what he said, ‘There is an immense value in early recognition of one’s work, it gives you a platform to express your ideas.’ I thought, that is it, you are so right but in the cold light of day one of the things that strikes me about competitions is that there is one winner. No-one remembers the person who didn’t make the final cut but does it mean that their work is of lesser quality?
William Blake never won a competition but those who beat him in the hunt for that platform for  ideas are eclipsed by Blake’s legacy. Thankfully he didn’t give up because he didn’t have an immediate audience. He worked hard, almost up to the moment he died. His God and his creativity were the important things in his life. Blake wrote:

I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create

Blake was a difficult man but he may have become increasingly so the more his work was ignored and ridiculed. It is isolating and dispiriting to have one’s creation whatever it is, totally ignored.

In the 1960s when I was at Aberystwyth University a friend of mine said you must go along to a poetry reading given by R. S. Thomas. I had never heard of R. S Thomas but I went along. The room was large, too large as it turned out for the number of people who went. There were about twelve of us, just one row of people, and that row not even full. I was captivated by the man’s work and to have the poet himself doing the reading was amazing. How did R. S. Thomas feel about having such a small audience? Was he disappointed, embarrassed, did he feel like giving up? I don’t know, his face gave nothing away. It was a professional performance with no jokey interaction with the audience such as one might have today, the work spoke for itself and no-one thought anything of this wild, rather dishevelled-looking figure at the front. Thomas was not there to say, ‘Look at me, I am the greatest living Welsh poet.’
I remember one of the poems he read that day and it is appropriate to what we are talking about. It is called ‘The Welsh Hill Country.’

Too far for you to see
The fluke and the foot-rot and the fat maggot
Gnawing the skin from the small bones,
The sheep are grazing at Bwlch-y-Fedwen,
Arranged romantically in the usual manner
On a bleak background of bald stone.

Too far for you to see
The moss and the mould on the cold chimneys,
The nettles growing through the cracked doors,
The houses stand empty at Nant-yr-Eira,
There are holes in the roofs that are thatched with sunlight,
And the fields are reverting to the bare moor.

Too far, too far to see
The set of his eyes and the slow pthisis
Wasting his frame under the ripped coat,
There’s a man still farming at Ty’n-y-Fawnog,
Contributing grimly to the accepted pattern,
The embryo music dead in his throat.

The beauty of the country as seen from afar is a romantic view, look at it close up and you will see the reality of the pain and struggle, for both sheep and man, for both there is the constant awareness of hardship and death. It is a way of life which is the very antithesis of romance and pleasure. I know the set of those eyes. I saw them yesterday in the eyes of a beggar on the streets, tired, inward looking and hauntingly sad.

So which is more important, content or marketing? Content all the time, I say. Would I be happier if R. S. Thomas had spent more time on marketing and less on writing and how would Thomas or Blake have coped in today’s world of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and any others I have missed out. Would they have worried if they had had only 12 likes for their latest post?

My mother once said to me after I was looking particularly tired, ‘You are not a cart horse, Jane.’ How wrong she was. A cart horse is exactly what I am, a show horse I  certainly am not. I understand what I am trying to do as did Blake and Thomas and I hope I am as uncompromising in the pursuit of the best as they were. How quality content should be marketed is another question altogether.

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One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on Xuyen V Tram.

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