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Scott McCloud Tries Webcomic Micropayment 283

Posted by simoniker
from the please-nickel-and-dime-me dept.
jaime g. wong writes "Scott McCloud's latest comic, 'The Right Number', is finally available online... for just 25 cents! McCloud has discussed the concept of micropayment for online comics before; let's all hope this idea, using BitPass technology, will succeed." There's more info via a a Comic Book Resources article, and Tycho over at Penny Arcade also has opinions on the micropayment route: "..if you have enough readers who care about your work to go through all that rigmarole, you could succeed with any business model... I see it as a model for compensation, lined up with the other models for compensation, like at the police station."
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Scott McCloud Tries Webcomic Micropayment

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  • people who don't/can't have a credit card/PayPal account/whatever ?
    • Ironic, ain't it? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by poptones (653660)
      WTF doesn't he just setup a paypal/amazon payment link?

      Sure would be nice if you could buy an ecash card in the checkout lane at wal-mart. If the phone company can do it I just don't understand why a banking company can't.

      Fucking hell - even Hustler does it. Time for Visa to step out of the 70's.

      • Re:Ironic, ain't it? (Score:2, Informative)

        by Qzukk (229616)
        Visa's done that. Not quite in the shopping lane of walmart, but my little brother used to have a visa credit card that was actually a prepaid card. It was his responsibility to make sure he kept track of how much cash was left on it, and to spend it carefully so he didn't embarass himself in front of his friends by having it rejected. I thought it was pretty cool, but I haven't heard much about it since then. (of course, if I have kids I'll probably hear ALL about the things I can pay for to give them..
        • Interesting (Score:3, Insightful)

          by poptones (653660)
          But that's not exactly "ecash." Your little brother still has a Visa number that stays with him - correct? Therefore it's not "cash" but "debit." No, these are not terribly hard to come by, although if you have bad credit you still may not get one.

          Debit cards are still not anonymous. When your little brother pays for something that purchase still can be traced to his home. When you pay cash for something, however, this isn't always so. That's why I said ecash and not debit; I was speaking of a card that wa

      • Re:Ironic, ain't it? (Score:5, Informative)

        by showler (619356) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @09:48PM (#6355175)
        WTF doesn't he just setup a paypal/amazon payment link?

        Because those services have a minimum service fee charge that is greater than/equal to the micropayment itself. All the money would go to Amazon or Paypal.

  • by Atrahasis (556602) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @08:38PM (#6354803) Homepage
    Is that a millionth of a normal payment?
  • That'll.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by PaulK (85154) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @08:40PM (#6354812)
    leave me out. I've inserted quarter after quarter, but now all my drive does is grind.

  • by Kwelstr (114389) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @08:41PM (#6354814)
    Stephen King already tried that and it doesn't work. Micropayments are too complicated. It reminds me of shareware... "please register" and stuff.
    • by Liselle (684663) <{ten.ellesil} {ta} {todhsals}> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @08:48PM (#6354877) Journal
      The reason why it failed for him was because he put the weight of the model on the individual people's honesty. Over the Internet. The anonymous Internet.

      If he had simply just charged a flat rate for everyone, not this "download for free but please pay" crap, it would have worked much better. If he wanted, he could have always provided a free chapter or two. A blind man could have seen the fate of that of little fiasco coming a mile away.
    • by MisterFancypants (615129) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @08:49PM (#6354879)
      Not quite.

      What Stephen King tried, and what failed, was a donation system -- the book was available for free download to anyone who wanted it, and then you were expected to pay some amount of dollars if you supported the author's choice to make the book chapters available freely.

      With these micropayments you pay first, then access the content. Just like a porn site, but cheaper and with less fake boobs.

    • If you prefer to buy software without trying it first, there's nothing stopping you from doing that with shareware.
    • I am not surprised that King's approach failed. Who would pay for a book that you have to read on screen or print out on your own expenses? The medium seems to accommodate Scott's comics much better. (But you won't be able to judge that for yourself until you insert 25c :P)
      Shareware is alive and healthy; it's still around after decades and some people still make their living off it exclusively.
      • (But you won't be able to judge that for yourself until you insert 25c :P)

        Yes you can, he gives the first 6 frames free. It didn't intrigue me enough to pay to see the rest.

    • Didn't work? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by wmspringer (569211)
      As I recall, he made quite a bit of money and he didn't even have to finish the book. Seemed as if it worked well enough..
  • I hate to say it... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @08:42PM (#6354823)
    But, "me too". What about people who can't (teenagers, for example) pay online? Is there something that will allow them to still read their much sought-after content (mailing in a money order to pre-pay, or something along those lines)?
    • by jpmkm (160526) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @09:09PM (#6354986) Homepage
      Yes, $1 to buy a money order and $.37 to mail it, just for a $.25 comic. I think a better idea would be to use disposable, anonymous credit cards that everyone talked about a couple years ago. Buy a card at kmart, put however much you want on it, and then use that number to pay for stuff online. Kinda like a gift card for the internet.
    • by jimmcq (88033) * on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @09:45PM (#6355166) Journal
      I'm not too familiar with Bitpass [bitpass.com], but it seems to me that they should have Bitpass pre-paid cards that you can buy for cash in stores (ala Calling Cards)... then you just 'activate' the card by typing in the serial number and adding the money into your online account.
    • by cubicledrone (681598) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @10:13PM (#6355286)
      Maybe they could like, you know, talk to their parents and sort of, ask them if they'll help. You know, parents?
    • I actually had a dollar bill mailed to me from France from someone who wanted an account at my site. Another sent a $1 bill from New York.

      $0.25 per strip is rediculous. I charge $1.00 to get 30 days of access to anything on my site. $2 for 120, and $5 for 365. I use PayPal to handle on-line transactions.

      Sluggy.com has his comics set up in "books." What would make sense (and be easier for all involved) is to charge X dollars for access to a "book" for Y amount of time.

      The idea isn't to make money off
      • First of all, this isn't a comic strip that he's selling, it's more like a comic book. When all three installments are finished, it will be longer than an average comic book. To read the whole thing will cost you 75 cents. That's a good price for a comic book.

        Second, you seem to have a lot of ideas about what "people" and "most people" want. Perhaps we should give this model a try before we dismiss it, hmm?

        Third, you obviously didn't read the BitPass site very carefully. There are no extra fees for the bu
  • by mikeophile (647318) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @08:43PM (#6354837)
    Or will this model go the way of printed comic books?

    More ads + higher prices.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @08:45PM (#6354850)
    http://www.pico-pay.com/ [pico-pay.com]

    Users don't actually pay anything, but need to watch some advertiser web-sites. Might be worthwhile for Comic publishers and independent music publishers too.
  • by Liselle (684663) <{ten.ellesil} {ta} {todhsals}> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @08:45PM (#6354852) Journal
    I hope that micropayments catch on. Right now, you need to jump through hoops to get it going, but if the cost to the webmaster is low enough, and it becomes common enough that people use it frequently, this could be a viable business model.

    It will be absolutely wonderful for people who want to see a small amount of quality content, without having to buy the whole sack of kittens. Also, I think folks will find it invaluable as a "try before you buy" sort of thing. I don't like subscriptions, I don't want to buy your t-shirts, but micropayments have really caught my attention.
    • I hope they don't. They give most of the power to whoever runs the micropayment system. There are already too many middle men on media, and I don't want another lobbying force in there.

      Further, you can't be sure that you'll get what you pay for when you buy information without having seen it (click here to get this comic - except that this one is with a guest artist who doesn't know how to draw and is too stupid to make good jokes).

      You want a good alternative? Try the subscription model. It works beau
      • Further, you can't be sure that you'll get what you pay for when you buy information without having seen it.

        When I go to the cinema, I have to pay before I've seen the film. What if it's crap? I can't imagine anyone going to the cinema.
        Maybe you could combine micropayment with a rating system. Only people who have paid for the product are allowed to vote on whether it's worth the money.

        You want a good alternative? Try the subscription model.

        I hate it. I want to buy and keep stuff. I don't want monthly
      • I disagree completely.

        They give most of the power to whoever runs the micropayment system.

        No, we just need open standards, unencumbered by patents, that anyone can implement, for the client side, the providers side and the "banking" side. I agree that if there were a single or even a few corporations controlling the market, it would be a Bad Thing[tm], but it doesn't need to be. But that's also the reason why BitPass won't take off, it is not going to happen anything before there are open standards.

        Try the subscription model. It works beautifully,

        What? Look around you? Do you see the subscription model working beautifully? If *AA could be making money on subscriptions, do you really think they wouldn't go for it, and we wouldn't be in the deep shit we are now. Look, the subscription model requires that you at least to a great extent control the copies of the stuff you're selling, you cannot allow your subscribers to pass it on. That's the core problem of everything that is bad about payments for immaterial goods now.

        I subscribed to Salon for a year, but I stopped, because for my subscription I not only got some very interesting and enlightening material, I also got quite a lot that was not well written at all. I didn't want to pay for that. If I could have paid by micropayments, Salon would have gotten a lot of money from me. Salon is constantly on the brink of going broke. Subscriptions does not work! (on this scale)

        I'd much prefer a huge one-time payment so that I didn't have to worry as much about it.

        I'm sure you would. But I wouldn't, and the problems you mention can be solved if just somebody bright enough sits down and think about it. Subscriptions have their place, I'm sure. Probably, many publications can successfully use subscriptions, and I have nothing against that (as long as they stay away from DRM).

        But you're saying that I should never been given the choice of paying with micropayments, that's just incredibly closed minded.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @08:45PM (#6354855)
    99% of web comics suck. The 1% that don't don't need to worry about payment.
    • by scrotch (605605) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @09:19PM (#6355041)
      Yeah, but now you gotta pay 25 cents to find out if it sucks...
    • The most glaring problem with micropayments, for me, is indeed the chicken and the egg issue. In order to gain any revenue from micropayments, there must be an established based of "consumers" already. Presumably this base is built from free content. Weening them from this content would indeed be difficult. For this reason, I could see a few, high traffic sites succeeding, and the other start up sites failing in their attempt to gain an audience.

      I do indeed like the idea of an ad-free net, and one in w
  • by sbszine (633428) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @08:45PM (#6354858) Homepage Journal
    There's an old PA comic where they mock Scott's love of micropayments here [penny-arcade.com].

    In today's PA [penny-arcade.com] Tycho clarifies this somewhat by making an interesting point about micropayments: they can only keep you afloat if you get lots of them. And if you're a comic producer getting that much attention, you can probably survive by selling ad space, merchandising, subscriptions etc. So the numbers needed to make micropayments viable are probably similar to the numbers needed to make web comics viable (in a business sense) full stop.
    • You slashdotted PA. I'll bet this is one time they wished they had a micropayment system.
    • mock 'em back (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SuperBanana (662181) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @09:03PM (#6354957)

      There's an old PA comic where they mock Scott's love of micropayments here [penny-arcade.com].

      (from PA's webserver) Warning: Host '192.168.50.65' is blocked because of many connection errors. Unblock with 'mysqladmin flush-hosts' in /data/users/penny-arcade/www/php_admin_header.php3 on line 11

      Perhaps Scott can mock them back for having their backend database server automatically block their frontend webserver, which is pretty piss-poor of whoever their admin is...not to mention, crappy error handling(programmer's fault) and insecure PHP configuration options(sysadmin again- detailed PHP errors shouldn't go to the user, only the logs, and yes, PHP has an option for this. For example, I now know that php_admin_header.php3 is probably an include- and includes sometimes do fun/exciting/revealing things when executed standalone.)

    • by Unknown Relic (544714) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @09:08PM (#6354983) Homepage
      Gotta love the news post [penny-arcade.com] for that old comic:

      (Our server never quite recovered from beatings sustained at the hands of News.com or Slashdot, the links from whom (while very much appreciated!) acted upon our frail machine like so many jackhammers. I'm told by our server techs that we'd seen over two-hundred thousand unique ip's in under two hours - but even given the caliber of the weapons aimed against us, I feared that the site had attracted the loathsome skr1pt k1dd13, who, fixing his perverse attentions upon our devices, proceeded to fuck them into oblivion.
    • by showler (619356) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @09:57PM (#6355216)
      Thing is, micropayments scale precisely with the bandwidth costs of every added viewer. The more viewers you get, the more it costs you for bandwidth, the more micropayments you get.

      Advertising seems to go in levels, you don't get the extra advertising money until you meet a certain threshold of viewers. If you are just below that threshold you get 95% of the hosting costs, but not the added advertising benefits. Being stuck there can break a website financially.

      Plus, micropayments leaves you less dependent on the whims of the advertiser.

      I always found it funny that the several webcomics I've read that complain about micropayments/free hosting/whatever, and say that the sites should be able to support themselves if they just "try a little harder", are the same sites that established their readership during the days of relatively high-paying banner advertising.
    • I guess you could also just sell your artwork [ebay.com] on eBay. Damn.
  • Note how it says once you pay you can save it to your drive. Bad copy protection, game over. I'm a comics fan and even I am reluctant to pay 25 cents for this, because I know I'll be getting this for free sent to me via email somehow.
  • There have been many attempts at micropayment systems. Some with accounts. Some prepaid. Some with anonymous digital cash. They all have failed so far.

    Paypal can do small payments (on non credit card transactions) but they don't push it and I doubt they make money on it. But at least they are a success.

    I think there is something wrong with micropayments, they are not just waiting for somebody to come along and do it right. Projects like digicash, cybercash, first virtual, millicent, all had major fu
    • Part of the problem of prior micropayment efforts was that they were topheavy, and cash-burning. I mean, if you're giving away $5 every time someone signs up for an account, that's $5 you have to earn in fees before you break even on that particular customer. Add that to the burn level required for website bandwidth, the venture capitalists, the lawyers (who are required by the VCs), etc. and that's a lot of cash that is being eaten up.

      Interestingly enough, BitPass is taking PayPal, which should help to
  • by jetmarc (592741) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @08:50PM (#6354884)
    I tried to find out how much I (as an overseas customer) actually
    have to pay to get $3 worth of BitPass credits, but even after the
    15th click through their pages and "FAQ" I couldn't find out. Do
    they accomodate for all charges, or do I end up with 15 EUR deducted
    from my VISA card, including charges, currency conversion fees, for
    3 dollars of cyber currency?
  • Lum The Mad (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rmarll (161697) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @08:51PM (#6354886) Journal
    Used to say donations and banner ad's weren't effective. That is until he put up a paypal donation button...

    Several thousand dollars later, stunned by the fiscal support of his readers, he got a job in the industry and quit writing...

    Doesn't penny arcade use a similar system(or used to). I remember the page having a themometer and measuring donations in thousands.

    So if good content can get by on donations, are micropayments even interesting anymore?
  • by QEDog (610238) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @08:57PM (#6354924)
    Will MicroPay if you mod me up
  • by fugu13 (597296) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @09:01PM (#6354947)
    Would be somewhat modeled on Apple's iTunes Music Store, with a bit of O'Reilly bookshelf thrown in. People could download an app, for free. It has exclusive access to a large number of online web comics. A person can enter their credit card info in the app (stored in the online store for one click purchasing, like amazon and apple use). They can view a small number of example strips from each comic to get a taste for them, but to view them regularly must subscribe to a script. Subscribing doesn't cost anything, but whenever the person looks at a non-previously viewed strip ina subscription, it adds a small amount, maybe 10 cents, to their bill. To explain my reasoning some: the reason for a standalone app is to make the experience very fast for the user, and continuous, unlike using a web browser. It should feel like a normal app (though a lot of the viewing could be done in a specialized markup language, like the iTMS). It also makes it much easier to do transparent micropayments. The example strips thing is obvious. It would also give the author a way of controlling the first look at their strip, a common problem with online comics (bad first impressions). The subscription thing is to prevent buyers from getting "I really didn't want to look at it" syndrome as easily. If they have to choose a strip as one they regularly want to view, it's a lot different from idly clicking a strip and having to pay 10 cents. It also makes in app organization easier to handle and use (since having an option to view a strip, and having a handy shortcut to it in your sidebar would be synonymous). You know, now that I think about it . . . *starts looking into how much it costs for a one click license*
    • In your system, you'd be paying 10 cents a comic. However, as I think the guys at Megatokyo recently talked about, there are different ways of viewing a web comic. At first, you're getting into it, and reading all the back story. If they post 3 strips a week, and you're like, 3 years behind, you're looking at 45 bucks just to catch up. Then you're looking at 10 cents a day every time it updates. In your app, going back to look at old comics would be free, as you already paid for them. So, while I defi
  • I read abou this, then I thought: how does this differ from PayPal? You still have to sign up for the bit pass thing initially. If you're going to be putting the effort into registering for something, why not just sign up for Paypal and pay the guy a quarter that way? There's no transaction fee, AFAIK.

    Until I can put a quarter in a machine and have it dissappear and reappear in the artist's machine, I don't think micropayments'll catch on too much. But I hope I'm wrong.
  • And it looks like Tycho will need it, to pay for all that bandwidth from the slashdot effect ;)

    Youuuuuu bastards,,, you slashdotted PA!!!

    Honestly, I'd much rather pay a micro fee than having to view annoying flashy ads. I hate them, and I honestly don't see how they really benefit the site owners; Does ad revenue like that really work? It's not like TV ads, and internet ads just don't have the same effect as TV ads, in my opinion. Except that they are much more annoying than TV ads, in general.

    Although

  • Worth It! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Michael.Forman (169981) * on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @09:15PM (#6355022) Homepage Journal

    I gave it a try. BitPass was painless to setup. I clicked on the $3 button, entered my email address as a username, a password, credit card info, and was reading the comic within 60 seconds.

    How was the story? Excellent! It is an enjoyable story with moments of tension and humor tied together by an underlying theme of mathematics. Great adult geek fare. I highly recommend it, although I'm still trying to decide if it was long enough for 25 cents. (Afterall I pay nothing for my operating system!)

    Michael. [michael-forman.com]
    • The problem with a debit-card solution is that this is a form of currency, backed by BitPass. The US Dollar is backed by the US Treasury, so if the US Govt. goes under, the Dollar theoretically becomes valueless. This probably isn't going to happen overnight. However, for BitPass...

      Think of it this way. Remember those old video game tokens you used to get, one for a quarter, 5 to a dollar? What did it say on the reverse side? NO CASH VALUE.

      If BitPass goes under, your $3 card becomes worth zilch...
    • well, how long was it?

      If you compare its length to the length of a typical print comic how does it work out cost wise?
  • by wherley (42799) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @09:33PM (#6355107)
    any of the gold based systems. for example e-gold.com [e-gold.com] (800,000+ account holders, averaging ~1-2 million USD plus in transactions per day, fee for a 25 cent transaction is .25 cents worth of gold).

    see a comparison of 8 of these type of systems here [dgcworld.com].

    how hard is it to accept 25 cents worth of gold?
    click 100998-USD.25.e-gold.com [e-gold.com] to pay .25 worth of gold.
    • That's *only* 800,000 users (the world is a big place) and one more pointless middleman selling people Disney Dollars.

      Micropayments turn web-masters into beggers. Is your site that barren that people are more likely to spend a quarter and never come back?

      Is it not concievable to you that you have at least $1 worth of merchandise you can sell up front to the customer instead of trying to scrape pennies at a time? Are you putting a gumball machine on-line or what?

      If customers are very likely to buy at lea
    • Seems to require at least two middlemen, as opposed to (e.g.) Paypal: first, e-gold, and second, some third party where you can buy e-gold ...
  • webcomics.com [webcomics.com] has hundreds of comics online for free.
  • .. microenough payment? Or has it all gone to click thru 'cause too many of us block popus, filter spam, and block adservers with cool things in userContent.css like

    A:link[HREF*="ads."] IMG { display: none ! important }

    ??
    • Hmmm. Could someone cook up an interface so that if someone wanted to send you an e-mail, they'd have to micropay your account? Major ISPs could credit your account with a limited amount of money so you could send e-mail to other ISPs. They'd do this in order to try and cut support costs related to supressing spam.
  • And say "Whoa, the Highlander has something on /., SWEET"?
  • Aren't people already buying stuff through peppercoin? [peppercoin.com]. Peppercoin enables digital merchants to sell content profitably at very low prices and allows consumers to purchase small-value items easily.

    The name is derived from "peppercorn," the smallest unit of value that can be exchanged to form a contract under traditional contract law. Peppercoin was founded in late 2001 by Professors Silvio Micali and Ronald L. Rivest, co-founders of the Cryptography and Information Security Group at MIT's Laboratory for

    • Aren't people already buying stuff through peppercoin?.

      No, not according to their website. They're still in the "sign up for announcements"/"early 2003 launch" stage. Too bad for them - if BitPass takes off, that's less of a market vacuum for Peppercoin to exploit. Looks like Peppercoin spent too much of their money on a flashy website, and not enough on trying to launch on time...
  • by ghjm (8918)
    If there was a slot on my computer where I could stick a quarter, I'd have done it. I have a quarter right here on my desk. But I really can't see filling in some form, working out a bank transaction, no doubt getting a bunch more spam, etc, etc, just for some comic.

    It's definitely worth 25c in a cash transaction. But micropayments still fundamentally don't work on the Web.

    -Graham
  • It would require people to pay for web comics.
    Majority of web comic viewers go to them because
    a)they have nothing else to do.
    b)there free.

    I have proably most english web comics out there, I still visit userfriendly.org, pvponline.com, and reallifecomics.com but I wouldn't pay for them.
    I might by merchandise, occasionally purchaes a hard bound version(if it contains new material), and regularly click on the banner.

    I would seem that anybody who would pay, should just click on a banner.
  • I really think Micropayments might revamp the Web if they caught on. The profit motive is strong!

    But having dozens of companies try to do it on their own has failed. None is universal enough to be worth the bother.

    The govt should step in and institute a micropayment system for all transactions over 5 cents, and handle transactions, for free. (Okay, included in your annual tax bill to be precise). This would avoid the lack of trust, conflicting standards, and huge advertising costs that have caused o

  • Anyone who would stiff someone over 0.25 would have to be the biggest lameass in the world, especially at what could be considered a critical time when a new business model is being implemented (and someone's livelyhood is at stake).

    Seriously, if you have any desire to check out the comic, cough it up.
  • by fred-rin (95265) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:55PM (#6355729) Homepage
    Personally I don't think micropayments will work because it goes against the basic way we all use the web. You fire up a web browser, you navigate to where you want to go, stuff shows up in the browser window. The stuff in that window you pretty much never worry about paying for.

    I think that when people spend money, and it doesn't matter how much, they like to have something tangible in their hands. A book, a poster, whatever. Having to pay to just look at something. Paying for gif or jpg files arranged on your screen (or flash versions, whatever) just doesn't feel like it has any value. I think people just don't warm up to the concept. Its like the whole DivX thing - it failed because people did NOT like the idea of owning a disk and having to pay for each time they viewed the what was on it. It was like 'I own this, yet I am locked out'. Video Rentals work fine, because we use something tangible, and we return it. We've paid to use something tangible, and we gave it back.

    The web is a little similar to that - we expect to be able to access stuff when we go to a site. Successful pay for content sites usually work because the gateway to that content is a subscription fee and you get a LOT of content in return. Webcomics don't work well under that because, well, its hard to produce that much content that quick ^^;;;. Comic require a lot of work of a long period of time. In fact, one of the nice things about comics is that they have the ability to improve over time because the creators get better, and they build a backlist of comics to view - the body of work slowly becomes something of value over time.

    By the time you work up to have enough content that is worth charging for, you cant suddenly make your archives pay-only. At least, I personally feel its wrong. Making something that was once free suddenly a pay thing doesn't work, and just makes people feel like they are being used and abused. After all, it's the readers who have been reading and finding the comic and the site that have made it something of value in the fist place.

    The micropayment idea is, logically, a wonderful idea - small payments for small bits of content. Biggest problem it has, to me, is that it smacks of metering - people hate being metered. People like to relax while going thru things - ask most people, they'd rather pay a bigger fee for unlimited usage than worry about what their bill will be later - even if it's more expensive in the long run. People spend money emotionally, not with the logic portion of their brain.

    People hate 'pay for what you use' models. The more media companies push this idea that it's the viewing of the content that you are paying for, the more people thumb their noses and download mp3s and fire up bittorents of DVD rips.

    Making the nature of the digital world work with the way the confluxicated human mind works is not always an easy task. While I said it wont work, I think its very much worth a try. I have a bit of a personal issue with making people pay for anything art related, because I don't feel that just viewing , listening, watching or reading anything creative should ever be paid for - there is enough money to be made in between the cracks with the incidentals that all this worry over actually getting paid for content sometimes puzzles me :) But my views on this are a little extreme, and really, I only apply them to my own works (in fact, I decided to no put something in a magazine publication because I decided that it was ripping people off to make them pay for it first)

    Yet, somehow, I've managed to survive, and its not right for me to think that others might do it the same ways I have. Maybe micropayments are the thing, I dunno, I just draw stuff, what do I know :P

    piro
    • When you pay an admission fee at an art gallery - you take away nothing tangible. When you pay to see a theatrical performance - you take away nothing tangible. When you go to the movies - nothing tangible.

      People only bitch about these things when the value for the money is not there. Charge $10 admission and give them a hurried look at two paintings before shoving them out the door and people will complain. Charge $7 for a piece of drek like Battlefield Earth, and people will complain.

      Give me a wallp
  • by Dan Crash (22904) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:57PM (#6355744) Journal
    Some people treat the subject of micropayments like they're telling ghost stories around a campfire:
    "I heard the Micropayment Monster's gonna start charging us for ev'ry page we look at on th' web!"

    "Well, I heard that this one guy surfed the web one night, an' the Monster sent him a credit card bill for a million dollars!"

    "Oh yeah, well, this kid's mom that I know, she totally freaked out cuz of micropayments everywhere, and threw her computer out the window and committed suicide!"
    Settle down, kids. There's no monster. Micropayments are good, and the BitPass model really seems poised for success. It took me only a few seconds to sign up for it last night, and a couple clicks later I was reading Scott's comic -- the most enjoyable 25 cents I've spent in a long time.

    First, the idea that every website is going to start charging people per page is asinine. The sites that try to nickel and dime you to death will end up in the same graveyard as the sites that try to advertise you to death. Don't you already mentally blacklist websites doused in crazy blinking Flash ads or shoshkeles [unitedvirtualities.com]? Most of us will just add the nickel-and-diming sites to the same pile. And advertising will always make more sense than micropayments for large, brand-oriented sites like CNN.com.

    Second, the BitPass model isn't going to spring any sudden credit card surprises on anyone. It's essentially the prepaid phonecard model applied to online content. You buy a BitPass card for as little as $3, spend it in nickels, dimes and quarters on your favorite webcomic, band or online beggar, and you're done. Buy another card if you want, or don't. It's pretty simple.

    Third, I've often heard people saying things like "I think an entire cent is too much" for online content and "it better be DAMN well WORTH it!"

    Let's get some perspective. Name anything that provides more than 15 seconds worth of enjoyment for a dime. Give it a shot. Even a quarter. What can you buy for a quarter? Anything? You probably couldn't get a hobo to kick you in the nuts for a quarter. Whining about the epic, tragic loss of a dime? That's comical. Griping that even an entire cent is too much to support the artists you like? That's insulting.

    Scott's comic is a good example of the value of micropayments. It's worth a quarter; it's not worth $7. There are all kinds of creators out there who are excited about micropayments because they know subscription or donation-based models don't work for them. There are worthwhile websites that aren't ad friendly that are creaking under the strain of overwhelming bandwidth bills. Micropayments enable them to survive and flourish.

    Tycho's quote that "if you have enough readers who care about your work to go through all that rigamaroll, you could succeed with any business model" just isn't true. If you have 10,000 readers who are willing to spend 25 cents a month on you, then the only way you're going to get that money is through micropayments. Period. With micropayments, you're a creative indie superstar making a living; without them, you're just another schlub barely keeping his website afloat.

    If BitPass succeeds -- and with the engine of webcomics behind them, I think they actually might -- it will change the web. Not in the drastic, market-mad campfire story ways, but in the amount of enjoyment and information we'll be able to squeeze out of the web. There will be more websites worth going to, more musicians being rewarded, more webcomics worth reading, more webloggers not just blogging but reporting.

    I'd say that's worth a quarter.
  • Internet content is like walking down Mission Beach in Cali with all the street performers (stay with me...). There's so much going on, good and bad, whose hat do you toss your quarter in? A 'donation' system would work so much better if it's promoted as more of a tip. Having recognizable icons we could click on and select amount to tip. These tips would build up until a 30 day cycle and charged to our card. The tip process could show our current tab each time we click the icon. No for some hypothetic
  • when some shmuck online will give it to you for free... welcome to the age of kazaa where, if it isnt tangible, taking it without paying isnt considered a crime(by people). (im not trolling)
  • Why pay when there are free comics?
    Because content isn't interchangable. Little 12 year old Billy's Dragonball Z wannabe comic is not the same as Scott McCloud's 'Right Number'. Billy's drek being free doesn't make it more worthwhile than Scott's which is a quarter.

    Comic creators can just ask for donations or sell merchandise or adspace - Megatokyo does.
    So comics are just a vehicle for pushing merchandise? What if the type of story you're telling doesn't lend itself well to easily marketed chareacters or advertising tie-ins - like Keeping Two [highwaterbooks.com] or Nowhere Girl [nowheregirl.com]? Should the artists adjust their tales so that can accomodate the merchandising? Maybe add some cute, wise-cracking animal sidekicks the way Disney does?

    If I was getting something I could keep I might do it. But I don't pay for non-tangible items.

    So you've never paid to go to a concert or the theatre. You've never paid admission at a gallery or exhibit. You don't go to the movies. You have no cable tv.

    So long as prices are reasonable, I'm willing to pay for an experience. In this case it's the experience of reading a comic. And a quarter for a full-size comic is definitely worth it.

    I don't want to pay for something that I don't know will be good

    So don't pay. No one's forcing you to.
    Unless the person had previous work as proof of their competency or offer some sort of a preview (as subscription site ModernTales [moderntales.com] does), then they won't be getting money from me unless I see some damn good reviews. If artists are smart, they'd offer the past several strips free and just charge for the archives - until their name is enough of a draw that they can justify charging cash upfront (as is the case with McCloud's comic).

    Yar - pirates
    If someone wants to rip off the artist - the artist can't really stop 'em. But as McCloud mentioned in his comic on the subject, it requires someone to use their resources and time. If the artists are charging a reasonable rate - I'm willing to assume that most people would ante up the quarter as opposed to hunting for a pirated copy or sharing a pirated copy themselves.

  • by friday2k (205692) on Thursday July 03, 2003 @03:21AM (#6356557)
    DigiCash's eCash, CyberCash's CyberCoin, Millicent, nCash (NTT), Paybox, ...

    Head ... Will ... Explode ... Flashback ... 199x ... Internet Bubble ...
    Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo, leave me alone. Do NOT EVER TRY A MICROPAYMENT A G A I N! Just don't.
  • by Krellan (107440) <krellan@NosPam.krellan.com> on Thursday July 03, 2003 @04:22AM (#6356726) Homepage Journal
    On the BitPass site, they sell prepaid "cards" that are just account numbers. Unfortunately, they map to credit cards, or PayPal (which maps to credit cards or bank accounts). So, there's no way to simply place money into their system, without using a credit card or a bank account.

    I can walk a block to the local convenience store on the street corner, and have my choice of over a dozen brands of prepaid phone cards! I give the store clerk some cash, and get a prepaid phone card. It is completely anonymous, and nobody has to pay the high fees of credit cards. I don't need to be a certain age, or have a clean credit history, or live in a certain country, to qualify. Anybody can walk in and pay cash for these cards! This is a huge market.

    I have often wished I could buy a prepaid "webcard" in the same way. I would buy a card, and it would have a fixed value that would be depleted as I spend it online. It could also function as a normal prepaid phone card, to be used as a wedge to get into stores that only are willing to sell phone cards.

    When I can walk into a convenience store and see a stack of prepaid BitPass cards for sale, I will know they have a chance to be successful. People that can't get a credit card will be able to still buy things online. This could be huge for the large number of teenagers that play online games and such! I really hope that BitPass can get their cards into stores, so that they can be bought with cash.

  • I've been reading and enjoying the (often excellent) work of Scott McCloud for years, but what's this - flash?

    That's really a shame, in my opinion - as far as I know (and please, do correct me), there's no flash player for Debian PPC that's up to snuff, free or non-free.

    And the page has a lot of text-as-images boxes... last I checked, Scott was pretty good at accessibility and web standards.

    I'm kinda bummed now - I've been looking forward to the new McCloud comic for a while but now I can't read it. Mayb
  • While not a true micropayment, this concept is already working for some online web-comic providers. I've subscribed to my favorite, Sluggy Freelance [sluggy.com] for $10 a year. I also forked over $10/yr for a subscription to My Comics Page [mycomicspage.com] solely for the ability to read back articles of Bloom County.

    Other sites have also been experimenting with this sort of thing, like User Friendly's [userfriendly.org] membership program.

    So I don't think it's a huge step to get to micropayments - the only real advantage micropayments have over the

  • by diabolus_in_america (159981) on Thursday July 03, 2003 @11:06AM (#6358605) Journal
    I don't think eCash or iCash (which term is prefered?) can work globally, across the internet on an anonymous or even a somewhat anonymous basis, the way regular currency does. Here's my thinking...

    To be accepted, whole and undisputed, currency needs to be backed by someone or something that we trust. That's why a $5.00 bill is accepted as being worth $5.00 by Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Joe Schmoe. The US Government backs the bill. The reason eCash won't work is because it's not backed by the government, but by corporations. And corportate eCash simply doesn't instill the same sense of trust that government-backed currency does.

    I see no future for concepts such as eCash without the backing of the government.

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