Although everything seems to be forever on the internet, it really isn’t. It’s oh so fragile, and the prime time of your life can be crossed out by one CEO’s pen swipe.
Take UGO for instance. The other day it was announced that Ziff Davis was shutting down the venerable website, following their acquisition of IGN, which had in turn acquired UGO some time ago.
UGO (Unified Gamers Online) goes back to the very dawn of the Internet, 1997—as does my own relationship with it! Back in the day I was doing a nerd-oriented cable access TV show with some friends, and at one point a nascent UGO was getting into acquiring “short films” for the internet because now there was broadband to post videos, and we had a brief discussion about budgets and pacting and all that. It didn’t go anywhere, and our paths diverged for a while, but many years later I ended up in several rounds of talks about their acquiring The Beat—something which happened on a monthly basis in the salad days of 2006 and 2007. Nothing ever came of that, either, but I did a season of Ultimate Fighter recaps and a few other things for them and remained pals with vp Chris Radtke, who wrote of the site’s demise:
I've spent many years of my life trying to turn UGO.com into something entertaining for you guys. Hopefully you stopped by recently to watch one our funny videos. Or you found yourself debating one of our nerd culture lists, read a movie review or pondered the age old question "Who would win in a fight, a minotaur armed with a trident or a centaur armed with a crossbow." Could be you tried to win something off our homepage or you Googled "Hot Girls" and found a couple of pics you liked. I don't really care how you got here, just as long as you were entertained when you did.
And thus, another page of the tale of the internerd is written. UGO has evolved mostly into a gaming site, with a men’s focus on pictures of celebs, movie coverage and that kind of thing—internet staples, really. But there’s a scent of change in the air. Just as G4 has changed into a more upscale men’s channel, Ziff Davis is focusing on IGN as an eSports hub and their Askmen site with more of that kind of upscale men’s coverage—dating and working out and so on. Valerie Gallaher writes of the information evolution:
What do the tea leaves at the bottom of this particular cup say about the future of “nerdutainment” news versus a more homogenized, male-driven approach? Will female fans get lost in the shuffle, or will increasingly have to turn to “niche” sites that cater specifically to their gender? To be fair, IGN did recently cover “Parks and Recreation” and the wedding of Leslie and Ben. So are we really seeing the pushing away of the female demo…or the “mainstreaming” of the entire kit and kaboodle?
But it’s not just gender based. It’s also getting harder to stand out as a website that covers nerd stuff. When everyone has the same news and videos and interviews…it all blurs into one…just like dating and workout advice will eventually blur into one. And then the new thing will happen. Whittling sticks, maybe.
In an even more devastating pulse wave, the entire Posterous platform is being nuked. Originally a Tumblr-like blogging, Twitter acquired it last year and has decided to shut it down. (There is a way to export your content to Tumblr.) But this is an Alderaan-level event. As Ruud Hein writes, in a post called How To Not Make The Mistake 15 Million Bloggers Made With 63 Million Pages. Hein writes for one of those weird search engine sites called Search Engine People, but I think his warnings about moving all your content to someone else’s business platform is food for thought:
Any service, any business, can fail at any time. Yours can too – but only you have your best interest in mind. Others will throw you under the bus, and drive it, as long as that serves their business interests.
You have to own your content and you have to own the publication.
It’s real simple: your blog, your site.
Or as I like to put it: No one is ever going to care more about your creations than you do.
I see lot of folks are moving their art blogs to Facebook, and I get it—it’s a huge community and way more feedback and people don’t have to go to 20 or 200 different places anymore. I guess it’s no different than getting all your electricity from one company, but it just seems like you never know what you will wake up to find Facebook has decided to do.
The same thing happened with AOL’s long gone blogging sites, GeoCities, and to a lesser extent LiveJournal and will happen someday with Tumblr and Deviant Art and all those other places. Someone pulls the plugs, literally…and it’s gone.
Granted, as my own web travails show, just owning your own domain and managing your own site is no guarantee that the internet gods are not going to smite you. (WHY was I getting so many nginx errors today???) And not everyone is a digital hoarder. But my own advice would be “Backup, cross-post, stay multi-platform.” For $12 a year you can own your own domain, the price of a cocktail in my neck of the woods, and you have your own brand. And put everything on the cloud.
Of course nothing is safe from the zombie apocalypse, but when that comes, you probably will have other things to worry about.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.