In the pyramid, users are the stepping-stones that build the content. But eventually the content is sent back up to the top and the vertical model takes over again, while the creative kings make something from the content that gets dropped back down on customers.
Welcome to the disruption: Contributor, by Google, a flat media model. Contributor simply allows a person to pay for sites they like in order to fund an ad-free experience. Some are calling Contributor a new way to pay for the Web. I'm calling it a flat media model because it pushes content creation into the mold of a new media concept called "hyperemployment," where all of us end up working more than we ever expected in order to get "free" stuff.
Game designer and computational media scholar Ian Bogost is the best spokesperson I've read on the topic of hyper-employment. Here he is in a recent interview, explaining the underpinnings of the term:
"There's an aphorism that's been making the rounds for a few years now: 'if you're not paying, you're the product.' That is, companies like Google and Facebook that appear to be giving you all these wonderful services for free are really just mining your data to sell to advertisers, their real customers.
But I contend that this is a much deeper matter than just precarious labor on the one hand and data-mining tech business on the other. If you look around, everywhere you turn, effort that was once done on your behalf has become something that you now have to do."
In a flat media model, you do all the work. You subscribe for the service, you refine the algorithm through your participation, you provide the data rich target moving through the system. And now with Contributor, you pay to publish the content you watch. It's a sideswipe of media and new media critiques about the economics of sanity.
How much time do you really want to spend "working" for media platforms that require your subscription, participation, and attention? Think about how much sanity is spent organizing your time so you can claim free drinks on certain days to get your Starbucks rewards or ordering products on certain days to get Amazon discounts.
So sure, Contributor may make sites you like ad-free. But do you have the time and sanity for that?