Books don't belong on the internet

Part 1: Doxing myself.

It’s been a slower week on the frog blog, and a large reason for that is my other hobby project. At the risk of doxing myself, I used to be a “personality.” This is not quite the same thing as being an “influencer.” A “personality” is employed by interested corporate entities to represent their brand on camera or in writing. An influencer does the same work, and they also get paid four times as much.

I had gotten pretty good at engineering internet traffic, as a thrall of big corporations. To be idealistic, I wanted to see if I could do these things in a way that I felt was doing social good. To be blunt, I wanted to prove I had the magic inside me the whole time.

For Gamers (slur)

The frog blog was not for this. As I stated in my previous post, I don’t expect a blog to go viral. This is an archive of what writing I can upload without doxing myself, and an excuse to write about things I really care about. I’ve said enough things about corporate products. I like art, and particularly written art.

Where I have been trying to social engineer is my YouTube. This week, after successfully capturing the algorithm, I generated 11,000 views and counting on my third ever post.

Going viral on YouTube is a skill. It’s one you can learn and deploy to make certain things cool. You can promote vaping, video games, cinema studies, the concept of homesteading, and political extremism.

How do you promote books and prose in the same way you’d promote a video game or movie?

So here’s a question. How do you promote books and prose in the same way you’d promote a video game or movie? The secret to those products success in recent years has been the launch and continued success of “influencers” whose work promotes the media they cover. In a world where the New York Review of Books was popular, more books sold. In a world where Dream (Minecraft) is the most popular YouTuber in the world, more copies of Minecraft are sold.

Is it possible to do that for books in the internet current ecosystem? Could it be at some point in the future?

Part 2: Twilight of the Apps

Now that Twitter is “the website formerly known as Twitter,” the most popular social app is TikTok. I hesitate to call TikTok a social network. It isn’t a social platform really, just an entertainment feed. I did some work for companies on TikTok and concluded that there’s not really any point building a following on TikTok. No one has algorithmically launched a career off TikTok.

I hear you screaming the names of the exceptions: Bella Porch, The D’amelio’s. Here’s some inside baseball, they were manually launched. TikTok has a button on the back end that boosts a user’s posts. They use this to encourage posting by celebrities and, in the early days, to launch endemic celebrities. The pretty young people emerging from the app into the spotlight were perfect advertising.

No one knows who started the Colleen Hoover BookTok trend. Whoover that was didn’t gain a platform by which they could recommend more books.

There is no social element. Users don’t build audiences; they gain them and then one day, the algorithm moves on. Viewers become tired of their posts and TikTok responds accordingly. Without a means of capturing an audience, there is no possibility for sustained growth.

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Brands or products can organically go viral. Colleen Hoover, whatever that jug is that everyone wants. A dozen users try it and go viral, which spreads their recommendation to a hundred, then a thousand users. None of those users are remembered. No one knows who started the Colleen Hoover BookTok trend. Whoover that was didn’t gain a platform by which they could recommend more books. This hurts both the users and the ecosystem. The user isn’t rewarded for their work. Books didn’t gain an influential voice.

Part 3: Quick Math

There are the two functions necessary for an app to build platforms and culture.

  1. Good work rises to the top.

  2. Ownership of good work is rewarded.

Without both these things, the app or platform builds nothing. There are exactly two ways apps that currently do this. With one exception, and two hopefuls.

Part 4: What content remains

YouTube is the greatest and easiest platform to build an audience. It’s the only place left on the internet where hard work can go viral. The algorithm is tuned to measure people’s interest, and while that opens the door to all kinds of “attention hacking,” fundamentally that means good work will find an audience.

Once that audience finds you, they can subscribe and will see your posts until they unsubscribe. You own the audience you earn through making good videos.

There are some weird consequences to YouTube being the best place to create content. Film essays on YouTube are obviously successful. You can put film on screen, it turns out. Book and music essays? Much harder.

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The biggest “Book Tubers” release regular unscripted video. The behavior YouTube encourages. It would be difficult or impossible for them to write and deliver the style of reviews that once sold books to the masses. YouTubers have to keep an audience engaged. That’s what the algorithm that builds their audience prioritizes. Our trend of “spicy” books is at least partially resultant from what gets clicks and retention on video apps. People talking about lit-fic is just not nearly as exciting as people talking about smut.


The front page of WebNovel

Newsletters are what written media have turned to. There’s a downside, good work only rises to the top when someone forwards or links an email to someone else. This limits the virality of good work.

The good news is that once you deliver that work, the audience is wholly owned by you. Unlike YouTube, no platform change could ever harm you.

We have seen this in action after Substack’s CEO gave a bad answer over and over again. All the newsletters hosted on Substack took their audience and left.

Let me own your email and I’ll send you blogs like this!

Newsletters allow for coverage of anything. It’s the magazine for the modern age split per writer. Pay for exactly what columns you want. Exactly the opinion writers you care about.

My prediction, if Newsletters stick around, is that more and more of these writers will band together. Linking their audiences will increase their stability and revenue. Much like movie streaming has reassembled cable packages, we will eventually re-assemble the magazine.

Reddit is my exception. It obviously provides value. Good content reliably rises to the top, but my second function, the idea of audience management, is totally absent. No Redditor has built an audience that entirely divorces itself from the website. It’s been too hard to follow one individual’s contributions, and even if it wasn’t, why would you want to? Seeing someone post across four different subreddits isn’t valuable to someone who only wants one type of content.

Part 5: What platforms to come

And yet, Reddit is also my prediction. The website has done two things since 2020: lock down the platform and build social functions.

The app-ified platform prevents Reddit from being an inflow point for other websites. It keeps people on Reddit and builds ways for good work to transcend individual subreddits. The social features are adding my second function, that being audience building. I have several followers on Reddit. Not something I planned on, but my contributions to book related subreddits and occasional frog related posting drew enough attention that people wanted to see more of what I wrote.

The website has done two things since 2020: lockdown the platform and build social functions.

I asked a friend who is more active on the platform what that meant. She’s an artist who produces— “spicy art” (getting those thumbs up again). She said that the platform has become one of her main social media sites. One of the primary drivers of traffic to her Patreon. People follow her Reddit profile like they would once have followed someone on twitter.

It’s long been said that “where porn goes, the web follows.” If people find the functionality useful for gathering “content,” it will be useful for gathering content.

It’s long been said that “where porn goes, the web follows.” If people find the functionality useful for gathering “content,” it will be useful for gathering content.

What’s more, the platform is adding on site monetization (I bet you hadn’t noticed that). For now, only frequent contributors to big forums can reach the requirements of that monetization. The people who post the patch notes on video game subreddits.

I suspect that there will, at some point, be a push to promote user pages. If Reddit can drive their sizable audience towards monetizing individual creators, it will be a competitive platform with YouTube.

It will have achieved what Twitter never did. Images and text will be directly monetizable content.


That’s an interesting future to live in. Particularly as a hobby blogger. My website ( uses markdown, as does Reddit, so I’ll experiment by posting the entire text of this post onto my user page (if you’re reading this on there 🙋‍♂️).

That’s a world in which blogging, text, could be profitable and viral. Maybe a future in which writing about books could have a platform.

Web novel platforms are a two-fer. A few weeks ago I wrote about the clash of WebNovel and WattPad. In that piece, I touched on the idea that these “popcorn fiction” sites are parasocial. Ways for writers to build audiences for serial fiction. I painted an almost dystopian future there. To be clear, I think that fan-fiction being monetized is bad for the fiction ecosystem.

However, it is undeniable that no one pays for short fiction right now. There is no way to earn money or build an audience writing short or unpublished fiction. Getting published in various short fiction magazines (as I occasionally have) earns you a few hundred dollars at most. Not the kind of money that supports and nurtures the future Great American Novelists.

Until someone steps up and provides a text first platform, one thing is clear. Books don’t belong on the internet.


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