I’m replying to Jackson’s comment on Sebs’ story.

The problem with Valerie’s thinking is that the argument isn’t “Is it morally right to pirate/download/generally break the DMCA” but “WILL people acquire digital content for free regardless of anything?” And they will.

Valerie’s lucky that guy asked for permission. Most people wouldn’t, and won’t. It’s not a morality argument, it’s an argument about what’s fiscally reasonable. And it’s not fiscally reasonable to build your business model on what’s morally right. The smart thing to do is to base your business on reality– i.e., in reality, what DO people want to pay for? The answer is shirts, sometimes donations, oftentimes hardcopy.

People don’t want to pay for something they can copy, paste, download, torrent. And unless you only offer your content in a hermetically sealed box in a Faraday cage, and only let people enter if they are nude and have gone through a CAT scan to determine that they have no method to record or distribute your media, and make them pay for the privelege every time they want to view your content, it’s impossible to prevent people from copying, recording and distributing your media.

In this day and age, it’s a hell of a lot more reasonable to make sure you get credit for your work. If people like your work and you get credit for everything you do, you’ll get attention, and attention is what you can turn into revenue on the internet. It’s the ONLY thing you can turn into revenue on the internet.

The person who emailed Valerie was offering to give her credit for her work and thereby expand her mindshare. By forcing that guy into this honor-system “I hope everyone does the right thing” paradigm, she’s only hurting herself. The guy is not going to pay her twenty bucks. She hasn’t gained anything. She’s lost a little bit of publicity she could have had.

Also, “giving away things for free is a dangerous foundation for a business model”? Go tell that to Google. Jeph already said the one really important point– ANY business model is going to fail if you don’t plan well and have a little luck. And the “risks” you are talking about? The risk of, what, having lots of people know and love your work?

That’s the very reason I’ve been writing online for free all this time– if I can A) improve myself to the point that my work is a viable product and

B) build up my mindshare a bit,

I’ve done well by myself. I’m not looking to get paid for every chapter of Bleakly. I’m looking to get a little more popular than I am now and get good at writing. If I was to publish a print version of Bleakly, I wouldn’t take down the online version. In the first place the print copy would get a lot of editing, and in the second place people are willing to pay for the privelege of hardcopy. Check out Accelerando.

Okay, to get more specific to Valerie’s post, just look at the comments. Like they say, the top 5% of webcomics are doing just fine as it is. Struggling webcomics will continue to struggle, successful webcomics will continue to be succeed, and the net’s gonna stay just as neutral as it is now. Why? Because people aren’t going to pay for the privelege to have the internet be worse. The second an ISP announces that it’s charging extra for a content-in-vending-machines scenario with torrent throttling and so forth is the second that ISP loses a huge amount of its customers. Capitalism isn’t great at everything, but the one thing it *is* good at is keeping the fat and happy consumers corpulent and content. Imagine if McDonalds announced tomorrow that it would only be serving salads and diet soda. Would that be morally better than what it’s doing now? Yeah. Would it mean America would get any healthier? Nope, everyone would just go to Burger King, and McDonalds would tank. Similarly no ISP is going to give up its fat, fat customers by restricting the way they surf the internet. Nope, the way to get more customers is to top your competition. How do you do that? Faster internet, more bandwidth.

Okay, let’s go with some insane idea that somehow all the ISP’s band together and eliminate all current pirating threats and basically entirely restructure the Internet so that it fits into the business model you’re talking about. Which is pretty much equivalent to the bees getting stingers. Thing is, what happens after the bees get stingers is, the bears grow thicker fur and skin, and continue to eat that sweet honey. It happens in nature, it happens on the internet, and it’s simply inexorable. Security is an illusion and has always been an illusion. You can no more make something completely secure than you can make yourself completely immortal.

I understand you’re hurting ’cause you sunk some money into your webcomic and you can’t see an easy way of getting it back. There are basically two things you gotta consider here. The first is, do you have a product that is attractive to people? Or in interwub terms, what kind of mindshare do you have? Do you have a huge audience? If no, how can you get one? Sell more ads? Create more provocative material? Blaming the consumers for not buying your t-shirts or clicking your ads is just as bad as blaming consumers for not buying the doo-dad you invented or the stock market for not cohering to your ideas about how it should behave.

Business is business, man. You have to either find someone who’s business-savvy or get really business-savvy yourself (if making money is what you want to do.) And in terms of your artwork being insanely, globally popular– you do that via really hard work. You got an art degree yet, man? I’m a college student too, and that’s one of the reasons I’m not all bitter that Bleakly’s not the most popular webnovel in existence– I know it’s a decent read, and I’ve put a lot of effort into it, but it’s just one step in my journey. Once I get a degree and get published twenty or thirty times, then I’ll start to wonder where I’m going wrong when my guaranteed hit doesn’t make it to the best-sellers list.

For the record I ain’t criticizing you, man. And I’m sorry you’re out a hundred twenty bucks. I’m just saying, monetizing the interwub ain’t easy. And plenty more talented people than myself have failed in much bigger ways than I can even really understand.


Although to counterpoint that statement, nothing is easily conventionally monetizable. No free lunches. Nothing is simple. Everything is hard.

That’s what she said.

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One Response to “@Jackson”

  1. deathbychiasmus Says:

    Yeah, I’m not entirely sure what to do with Borderline Boy. The thing is incredibly draining to create, and putting the money I did into revising the website was a pretty ill-considered move. It occurred to me yesterday that now I am pretty much holding my webcomic hostage, which is probably not the best response to my current straits. At the very best, this is a painful learning opportunity, and a chance to become more business-savvy. So…live and learn. Time to figure out a better way of going about this.

    I guess my basic point–something that I’ve learned the hard way–is that in order to monetize content for the internet, at some point you’re going to have to sell something. And when you’re putting a lot of time and effort into a project, and creating something high-quality, you as an artist have got a right to make some money off it. I love being able to read good comics for free online, and it makes me want to support these comic artists however I can, even if that’s just a plug or two on my blog to put a few more eyes on their site. But at some point, talented artists have got to cinch up their dignity and say, “Yes, my stuff is worth spending your money on!” and provide some things for sale.

    It’s a head-scratcher, and we learn as we go. Personally, I’m pretty excited about AssetBar, which seems to provide a new avenue for premium subscription-based content. It looks like it might do for selling your craft what Project Wonderful did for adspace, and that sounds pretty cool to me.

    Anyhoo, that’s my two cents. Thanks for the response to my comment.

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