Feb 13, 2012

Longform depreciation

Matt Yglesias on the immortal digital back catalog:
The existence of this deep back catalog is great for readers, but not necessarily as rewarding for the forward-looking production of longform pieces. Each day—each hour, even—all previous "newsy" items become obsolete and the demand for new newsy items is robust. But the existing stock of well-hewn blocks of substantial prose is already very large and it no longer depreciates the way it did in print.
His point is well-taken, but it seems to me it would be a rare piece indeed that would last more than a couple years. Novels have a much longer shelf life, and that never stopped the frantic production of new ones, even back in the pre-digital days of yore. Now, I grant that large collections of great longform stuff might have a substantial draw in the aggregate, but I still suspect the large majority of that kind of content will be topical and quickly forgotten, and the back catalogs will be of most interest to the curious few and historians.

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