Thinning Slices

A Ramble About Market Saturation

There's a problem that a lot of folks who I happen to enjoy, support and agree with are not addressing, either because they're not looking downstream far enough, or they somehow don't believe it'll affect them. Whether we want to accept it or not, though, a ton of quality creative individuals and deserving experts in various fields, all trying to go the independent route for content creation, are going to end up crashing and burning due to a couple of cold, hard realities. Those realities are as follows:

1- There is a finite amount of money people are willing to spend on non-essential things. Substack is wonderful, and I love being a contributing member of the writing community sharing my work there. However, even though I have only one paid subscriber, I never even expected to get that. Likewise, things like Krystal Ball and Sagaar Anjeti's brilliant political commentary program, 'Breaking Points', is an amazing program, but it isn't doing anything that dozens or even scores of other programs aren't. Once upon a time, Netflix and Hulu and other similar streaming services were all but guaranteed to grow and grow, because they aggregated a TON of programming options for a single going rate.

Now, though? Now, everybody wants to do their own method, their own service, and offer less and less to audiences for similar costs. I understand the profit motive, and not wanting to be beholden to producers or advertisers. However, eventually, market saturation and the realization by customers that they don't NEED your offerings is going to bring about an end date.

2- Attention is finite. People only get 24 hours in a day, and to be functional, some of that time needs to be spent sleeping. And some of it working. And some of it eating. For some of us, rearing our children and spending time with our loved ones. Do we really want to spend what free time we have being choked down a chute to an open field of thousands of options? While it's nice to have options as a consumer, we need to find some that aren't going to demand more of us than we have to give. Personally, I like to spend my free time reading genre fiction, not fighting through a catalogue of who to listen to argue and bitch about this, that and the other.

I don't have time for that, and neither do most folks, so don't please devalue my time.

So, because of these realities, we have to, as consumers, find the sweet spot of cost both financially and attentively. To be quite frank, most of these sites and services do not reside within that space, and as such, they're going to eventually fail, hard.

I don't like the idea of a content creator being beholden to advertisers, because that external force is going to have a deleterious effect on the end product, regardless of what the creator wants to do. However, those advertisers often allow the content creator to make their product available to a broader audience. There's a balance to be struck, and I have yet to find anyone other than perhaps Joe Rogan who has managed to do that.

Likewise, creators who ask a minimal subscription fee for access to their material don't have that same concern, but become quickly beholden to their subscribers. The financing of these products and services quickly proves the biggest hurdle to clear for everyone involved.

This is why we saw cable companies get decimated by streaming services. People wanted to reduce their costs, but maintain viewing options and variety. In this regard, Netflix, Hulu and Sling were early giants in the field, each offering a wide array of viewing choices for a much reduced cost. But when studios and networks decided that their cut from these services wasn't profitable enough for their liking, they removed their content, thus reducing the value of those services while starting their own (Peacock, Paramount +, HBO Max, AppleTV).

Now, there's dozens of streamers, each adding to our total consumer cost, each bringing us fewer choices for that increased cost. It WILL be their downfall.

Things like The Daily Wire and The Young Turks are going to find themselves facing the same problem before long, just like The New York Times, Washington Post, and Bloomberg News; eventually, people are going to recognize that what they're getting isn't worth the price tag, because someone will eventually come along to aggregate from several sources at a lower cost.

So, with all of that rambling set aside, I ask the simple question: how long until someone on Substack recognizes this issue and brings in guest writers to offer more material for the same price as other newsletters? Will that one rise to the top? Will it be worth the cost? Time alone will tell, and I guarantee you, I won't be one of those high-volume Substack writers; I'm extremely niche, and that works fine for me.