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The Almighty Buck

Scott McCloud on Comics and The Internet 115

Galvanick Lucipher writes "Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics, has begun to tackle the issue of art, payment, and the Internet in his latest column of I Can't Stop Thinking! Comics are yet another art form which could greatly benefit from cutting out all the middlemen. And as always his presentation is entertaining without being distracting." Actually, it goes far beyond being just about comics, but content overall - really well done work.
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Scott McCloud on Comics and The Internet

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  • Todd MacFarlane hit on this idea way back when with Image Comics. The creator of any particular comic owns all rights to it. Image [imagecomics.com]

    Dancin Santa
  • I dont know if anyone will ever pay for a comic on the net. Maybe if it was the funniest or most interesting comic out there. I just think of comics as something that comes with the news in the paper to lighten the newspaper up. A news paper can be very depressing and the comics can help out. I hope that he does find a way to "feed his family of four" but I dont think I would be paying for it on the net.
  • I noticed it again that same 'geek gene' that makes us all love Tolkein and 'Star Trek' and Anime, is making us love comic books too.

    I have an idea for a new super-hero, 'Anonymous Coward-man'. He would have secret super-powers like invisibility, and anonymity.

    Whenever there was a dangerous criminal running around threatening to dominate the world with a crap operating $ystem, AC-man would appear, and thwart those plans with a few well-placed comments like 'code wants to be free' or 'open source or death' or 'j00 14|\/\3rz \/\/1|| |\|3\/3r d3f347 /\/\3, I 4/\/\ 31337!!!!!'

    That would be good. Or linux man, he would kill criminals with one whip of his humungous beard, or stun them with his fearsomr B.O.

  • The site [pvponline.com] does a pretty good job cutting out the middleman. He started to make money off the site first (enough to support it full time) and then went to paper...

  • isnt scott Mccloud the guy from highlaner?
  • Lots of entertainment media (and other "information" creation fields) have come to the point where people can create and publish their work with almost no cost (other than their time).

    More and more, I'm finding that I prefer the "freeware" work of these hobbyists more than the commercial stuff. cf. linux, thousands of artists at mp3.com, etc....!

    Comics, in particular, need almost no capital to produce. So why do we think we need a way for comic artists to get paid? If the author doesn't think his work and the happiness it creates is worth his time (without the money), why should we think it's worthwhile either? Therefore, I'm ok with letting them die along with lots of other old media. As for me, I'll stick with pokey the penguin [yellow5.com] and untitled.gif [untitledgif.org] ...

  • I like micropayments. They work on a similar system to microCREDIT, which is a model that allows small loans to allow poor people to start cottage industries, hence inducing economic growth in a third world area or in a poor US community.

    A successful micropayment system, like microcredit, would have to be based on community trust and enforcement of honesty; the payments are too small to be enforced by, say, MasterCard, who would not make enough of a profit on an online transaction of twenty-five cents.

    All of the scifi versions of the Net, in Gibson et al, have been based on such a pay for content system, which allows "market forces" to vet the quality of content as well as eliminating the need to build a community of users, then sell that community to advertisers. A much more honest method imho.

    I will note that the artist's way of putting his content in comic form is cool but prevents me from cutting and pasting a relevant quote from his strip into my slashdot post. How's that for content control? ;)

  • IMHO people keep taking the traditional (and somehow wrong) approach to the Internet market.
    Right now (It'll probably change) one of the best ways to get money with the internet is NOT by selling what you create, but by creating something that generates a lot of interest and therefore a lot of traffic to your Web Site...
    This traffic will attract banners... banners bring money. (Banners is just one example of ways to get money out of a heavily visited website, I'm sure there are many others)
    There are web-sites (User Friendly and Dilbert Zone for example) that don't sell their comics, but they have generated such an interest that I'm sure they could be a good business just by the number of readers they attract
  • Wiley of "Non-Sequitur [non-sequitur.com]" fame had already tried a $2/month subscription-based idea for distributing his spin-off, "Homer", online. And found that the vast majority wouldn't pay for it. Even at that low a price. Advertising (or run-at-a-loss) has given everyone the impression that "everything on the web is free", and the vast majority of comments on the subscription idea were reflecting that. For getting a presumed readership of several million, they only got 1200 to actually subscribe (I did). They canceled the whole thing and switched to the sell books (though the first book has never made it to print so far, and its been over 2 years).

    Details @ http://www.non-sequitur.com/homer/badnews.php3 [non-sequitur.com], but the best quote is "Others wrote to say they would not pay for anything on the net, no matter how much they like it, as a matter of principle."

  • by *weasel ( 174362 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @01:23PM (#518673)
    isn't that what he's proposing? charging small amounts from the fan base for the content - eschewing the process and middlemen? Sure, Stephen King may not have been pleased with a couple hundred grand off 7 parts of his wilting Plant, but i'd imagine many web authors would be more than pleased with that.

    The only way such ventures will (and do) fail, like Stan Lee's online venture failed, like most of the Image comic book ventures failed, is if the content just isn't worth the price. If the content, really is just consumed due to a fabricated quality-level, pumped by the marketing machine. I think guys in King's situation are underestimating the power and reach of marketing to the passive crowd - vs providing content the interactive crowd desires.

    Ask a fan of Pvponline if they wouldn't kick in $2/year to see Scott do PvP in full color every day... there is such content, there is such demand... the key is getting the pricing structure to match it. I have to believe that even a 40% paythrough of Kurtz fan base at $2/year would blow away what he gets from banner ads.

    (un)fortunately enough - charging for content just might prove to the content creator that advertisers are willing to pay to fund the crap gobbled up by the masses - the crap that educated consumers just would not pay for themselves.
    (TV sitcoms are another great example as a whole)

  • I disagree. I myself enjoy reading User Friendly and I also buy the compilation books as they are made available. As it is free the writer will not recieve an instant paycheck, but I think that will be more than compensated for by developing a good fan base. And while I have not endeavored to find a Dr. Fun book I am sure that if I ever stumbled across one I would by it.

    I am not sure how much, if any, revenue is generated by people advertising on User Friendly, but that too can offset the cost and can feed that family of four.
  • "I noticed it again that same 'geek gene' that makes us all love Tolkein and 'Star Trek' and Anime, is making us love comic books too."

    Maybe I'm not the typical geek, but I think Tolkein was OK when I read it, Star Trek was cool, but has become 95% soap opera + gadgetry, and Anime I just don't get. I also don't play computer games (chess is an exception) or read comics, these things just seems like a waste of time to me.

    What I'm trying to say is I don't think it's valid to assume *all* Geeks/nerds have *all* of the same interests as you. Probably the only common thread I can think of is the propensity to find stuff on Slashdot interesting. ;-)
  • by Eloquence ( 144160 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @01:31PM (#518676)
    Very well done indeed. Many people have been saying this, yet the industry doesn't seem to get it. Why? Microsoft does have a quasi-monopoly on the browser market, why haven't they implemented a secure transaction protocol? They could be running the bank themselves and be making billions in fees. Take a look at page 2 [thecomicreader.com] in the carton linked at Scott's comic: That's exactly what it could look like.

    The practical applications are endless. Even when I only think about comics: Right now, good comics that convey a political or scientific message are rare. But imagine: On Kuro5hin [kuro5hin.org], you get 1000 users to vote on a story -- why shouldn't the same 1000 users donate 10 cents to the production of a comic? And the resulting art would be free to reproduce wherever you like. I would really like to see a good, free evolution theory comic in response to Jack Chick [chick.com]'s creationist *$()=).

    Now, think about what could be done on sites like Slashdot -- imagine the Slashdot effect with "money-URLs". Slashdot's weekly worthy cause: "Donate 1$ to the EFF" == 10000$ in donations. "Donate 1$ to help this college student get a good lawyer." "Donate 1$ to build a school in Cambodia [kuro5hin.org]."

    Now that you think about it, doesn't it sound suspiciously like the powers that be may be afraid of our combined monetary power? And even if this is not the case, do we really want a central Microsoft bank that controls our money flow?

    Where is the open-source movement when you really need it? This is one of the most important battles of the 21st century -- I'm not exaggerating, consider that this payment method will be applied macro and micro, for shopping as well as for donating.

    Why don't we have an open micropayment foundation, and an open-source bank, with Richard Stallman as the director? Heck, I'll even settle for Natalie Portman, but really -- the crypto is out there, writing a browser plugin shouldn't be that hard. A mini fee (say 1/10 cent per transaction) might be used to pay the bank, surpluses go to the EFF. What are we waiting for?


  • The one with Zoe on the front in her 'Little Devil' outfit with the fishnets and leotard. Whoohoo!

    While the idea of micropayments seems a little more friendly to the music industry, I can see how online artists (rightfully) want their slice too. What I think will be infinitely more successful than micropayments, however, is merchandising. There is a wealth of Sluggy Freelance [sluggy.com] mugs, shirts, and even books available. Elf Life, [elflife.com] one of the most popular strips around, has offered a cast shirt and the artist who drawsAcid Reflux [www.acidrefluxcomic] offers an original art service where she draws pictures of your favorite RPG or MMOG character.

    Even some fanauthors/artists are getting into the act by offering merchandise with pictures of original characters or logos.

    Micropayments are good, but I htink that merchandising is the way to go for the online artist if he wants to profit from his work.
  • This article hits on a lot of good points, many of which the author of Pentasmal [pentasmal.com] has had to deal with.
  • Actually, that's a completely different idea. Todd McFarlane simply created a publishing house, same as author/artists (such as Scott McCloud or Dave Sim) had done for years. Image was different only because the founders left Marvel to profit on their success rather than for artistic reasons.
  • Have you read any of the old Image comics? They were terrible and never came out on time. Very few people have the ability to write, draw, edit, and manage the publishing end all by themselves. There's a reason for everything, and in this case that's the reason that creators don't self publish very often.

  • The Case Against Micropayments [oreillynet.com] at O'ReillyNet is a good counter to Jakob Nielson's Case For Micropayments and also this slashdot-entry. This paragraph provides the best summary:
    In particular, users want predictable and simple pricing. Micropayments, meanwhile, waste the users' mental effort in order to conserve cheap resources, by creating many tiny, unpredictable transactions. Micropayments thus create in the mind of the user both anxiety and confusion, characteristics that users have not heretofore been known to actively seek out.

    He draws parallels between one-time-cost services vs. accumulate-as-you-use services like the utilities. The 20-minutes (or less) for $1.00 long distance thing sells because its predictable. One can budget x- number of phone calls and know that they won't exceed them. With long-distance rates varying based on distance, as in the old model (or AT&T's default to this day), a bill for 10 phone calls can be 50 cents of 50 dollars and you wouldn't know until you got it. No-extra-costs for long distance calling is a BIG selling point for celular phone contracts these days.

  • That was some very good thought-work.

    When a while ago we approached an accountant with our business plan for an online health site (not the site linked in teh .sig below) he asked us to consider micropayments as an alternative to the revenue models we had proposed (ie. instead of subscriptions and advertisements and the-like).

    The concept of micropayments is really old - Newspapers have been working along the same principle for ages (sell many, cheap - read Terry Pratchett's "Truth" =)). No-one is handling it in the transparent, single click (uh oh, Amazon =)) way he mentioned due to the problems with security. We probably need a form of PKI infrastructure that could identify us for - but in a way that the privacy is retained. And more then likely that would need to be free/cheap to gain a large following.

    Companies like pay-pal are doing ok but when I remember the hoops I had to jump though to buy The Satori Effect [thesatorieffect.com] (A good read btw) it was everything but transparent, certainly not single click (not David Pesci's fault - PayPals).

    It would be interesting to hear from those guys and compare for example David Pesci's experience to the "Ad powered" ones like userfriendly [userfriendly.org] and (my favourite "site support" comic) helpdex [linuxtoday.com]

  • by Robotech_Master ( 14247 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @01:40PM (#518683) Homepage Journal
    If the author doesn't think his work and the happiness it creates is worth his time (without the money), why should we think it's worthwhile either?

    Well, there's the simple matter of comic book artists needing to put food on the table like everybody else...

  • ...I currently hold the patent on using text and images in a series of panels to amuse the viewer on the web.

    I will be expecting royalty checks to start pouring in. Gabe, Iliad, I'd like to point out that if I do not find a particular comic amusing, I have reserved the right to pull it.

    Hint: I find the word "flan" infinitely amusing. Please plan accordingly.

  • What it appears he is looking for is a system like PayPal [paypal.com] to take hold so I could check his comic every day and he could charge me 1c a viewing. But it would have to be really simple and common before it would start to work. Personaly I wouldn't mind a system like this, perhaps paying .5c each day I visit slashdot wouldn't be a bad idea.
  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @01:47PM (#518686)
    You are NOT going to make money if you distribute your high quality product on the web for free along side a physical product of the same or better quality, you are going to lose money in the end. The internet comic strip is the same way -- there's only a few comics that the authors got lucky to make money off the stuff and it's usually for other endevors (for example, the guy that draws Penny Arcade is an illustrator for much of GameSpy as well).

    But, alternatively, you offer a decent but not high quality product on the web and offer a high quality physical product, and you'll make a few bucks - for comics, that ray of hope is through Plan 9 Publishing, a publishing house that does a lot of small (10,000 copies) runs for many many internet comics, include Sluggy, Kevin and Kell, Ozy and Millie, etc etc. There's also merchandise from the various comics that are available, Sluggy t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc etc. And this is generally where if any money is to be made is the sale of these secondary products along side the free distribution of the comics. It's not a LOT of money, from what I've been told, but it is more than enough to offset costs of hosting and make a small profit in return -- but you'd better not plan on making your living off these ventures.

  • by Robotech_Master ( 14247 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @01:48PM (#518687) Homepage Journal
    Not a one of the 2-threshhold posts I've been reading has yet mentioned the PayPal [paypal.com] micropayment system. Isn't that a viable micropayment system?

    I mean, sure, you have to sign up for it, but what with all the paperwork surrounding banks and credit cards these days, it's almost a certainty that you'd have to sign up for whatever micropayment system came along anyway. And sure, it charges businesses a transaction fee, but not as big of one as credit card companies (and micropay systems have to make their money somehow anyway).

    You can send a little as a penny with PayPal (though you have to put a dollar in your account to do it), and I've seen quite a few people (like the Alice Comics [alicecomics.com] guy) putting "click here to drop some coins in my hat"-type links with it on their webpages (and then reporting being surprised at the number of people who donated with them). What does PayPal lack to make it a viable micropayment system for the 'net?

  • Must be, there can be only one.
  • Wiley of "Non-Sequitur" fame had already tried a $2/month subscription-based idea for distributing his spin-off, "Homer", online. And found that the vast majority wouldn't pay for it. Even at that low a price. Advertising (or run-at-a-loss) has given everyone the impression that "everything on the web is free", and the vast majority of comments on the subscription idea were reflecting that

    There are always whiners (see Napster). However, those who make the "People see the web as free beer and are never gonna pay for content" argument overlook one important thing: People are LAZY. Millions of Americans are too lazy to even cancel Internet account subscriptions they're not using! [wired.com] Now if people are too lazy to cancel a subscription that costs them money they will hardly take the effort to make one unless they really, really want what's offered (Napster might offer a big enough incentive to join).

    It must, as Scott pointed out in his strip, be as easy as a single click. (Something else that might work: Have a phone number on the page you must call to be automatically billed via the phone bill. Goes via cell phones as well.) Anything else is not going to work for the majority. Oh, and don't make it mandatory. People will pay because it gives them a warm fuzzy feeling, Stephen King proved that. If it's easier than in King's case, the number of people who will pay will be even higher.

    Hey, I used a lot of formatting in that post.


  • I don't expect all slashdot posts to be intelligent and well-informed, so I don't particularly blame the author of the preceding message. But jeez, you guys! Don't mod up what you don't understand. Calling Todd MacFarlane the inventor of creators rights is a bizarre distortion of comics history. Giving him precedence over Scott McCloud in that department is a grotesque and bizarre distortion. Introducing said grotesque and bizarre distortion as if it's relevant to the issue of micropayments is...just goofy, really.

    Now I feel guilty for never having gotten around to that Reinventing Comics review I promised Hemos. Perhaps this weekend...
  • by Xenomech ( 301655 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @01:52PM (#518691)
    Advertising (or run-at-a-loss) has given everyone the impression that "everything on the web is free", and the vast majority of comments on the subscription idea were reflecting that.

    Has the rush to commercialize the web destroyed its commercial viability? :-)
  • Mojo Nation [mojonation.net] is creating a micropayment system with their concept of mojo, but they also plan to control the bank, which makes it too centralized for my taste. What may end up being more valuable than micropayments is profile sharing, for as the three trillion dollar direct marketing biz will tell you, information about you is worth mas mojo.

    The trick will be to separate your identity from your profile and create a market in (possibly authenticaticated but) anonymous demographic information. Payments can get made to your pseudonymous persona that can collect or trade them with brokers to create quantities useful to convert to some useful form - or to barter back into the network.


  • Mod that one up -- that's a brilliant line. :)
  • I'm speaking purely from my ass here :-)

    I think merchandising offers a good way for artists to make quick money, but the problem then becomes that no one buys merchandise once the comic has an established base. What would I do with two Sluggy Freelance mugs, once I already have one? (See also; HDTV's failure to catch on. Everybody already has three TVs.)

    Another problem is, as Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes) likes to rant and rave about, is that merchandising tends to cheapen the intrinsic value of art. Obviously this is completely subjective. Scott Adams definitely has no problem with it. :-)
  • I will never pay for an online magazine either.

    This idiotic way of thinking was tested once by CompuServ and failed miserably.

    People will only pay per view if they feel they are paying for something that has a live vs. recorded value (boxing) or if it is porn and they need it at the time. For everything else, there's the flat tax model used by the cable companies - you will pay $35/month no matter how much you view of which channel. Want some more channels? pay more tax! How does the content maker get paid? an independent third party keeps track of the number of views he got.
  • 1200 subscribers at $2 a month is $2400 - almost $30,000 a year. I know lots of people who'd love to have that kind of salary (non-geeks, obviously) - and I bet the subscriber base would grow a lot more once the comic got started and publicity was generated. Sounds like he was too premature in canning the idea...
  • You had a couple good points there and then suddenly became troll-like. Whatever.....

    Here's the way I see it, if someone produces some interesting art it would be nice if I could toss them some coin in return. It makes me feel good and it encourages them to make more cool art.

    But if I get the art for free I miss out on that warm, fuzzy feeling. And I certainly don't feel warm and fuzzy if I buy it at Amazon.

    Freeware is nice, but rewarding people who do cool things is nicer.

    Jon Sullivan
  • Wiley's "Homer" had been running in hundreds of papers for months, before he decided to put it online, and go back to his regular strip. It wasn't a matter of generating buzz. 10s of thousands of people were already enjoying it.
  • If there's one thing that geeks may agree on, it is that it is much easier to show something than to explain it. You may have to back that geek in a corner and beat on him a while, but eventually, he may agree.

    That's why we like open source (look at the code rather than document or talk about the code), and maybe why we like comics - it can be a great story, which shows you what it's talking about at the same time.

    Scott McCloud's "informational" comics are usually long on ideas, but it slides easy, because of the pretty pictures, which complement the idea pretty well.

    Anyway, here's a possible solution to the micropayment problem - what about an online newspaper? Not NYT, or the local rag, but a do-it-yourself content bundle. It acts a bit like a clearinghouse, where online content providers submit material, the newspaper brokers the deal between the user and the creator, and the user gets a tidy bill for the whole package.

    Example - let's say I want my personalized start page thing. I get news from the AP wire, Yahoo! style, fun tech stuff from Slashdot, and a half-a-dozen internet comics. Yahoo! and Slashdot come free, but I get ads, unless I want to pay a nominal fee. The comics, for instance, are half-a-cent a day, so my daily paper comes to about $0.10. As more users are added, more options are added, and choices are cross-correlated, so that the server can offer advice as to what you may want.

    What's the advantage over other mediums? I can decide exactly what I want (whereas now, I throw out the sports, home, and classifieds section of my paper), and I pay for it when my eyeballs hit it. I can access it anywhere (like a links webpage), and the creators get compensation either way, through advertisers or user-payments. And, if they want to jump to traditional medium, they have proof people would pay for the content.

    It's just an idea, throwing it out there to get ripped to shreds...
  • I dont know if anyone will ever pay for a comic on the net. Maybe if it was the funniest or most interesting comic out there.

    I was thinking as I read this that I would gladly pay to read several of the webcomics that I currently read daily -- but then it occurred to me that I'm that into these comics because they have, in most cases, a year or two of story already, and characters I'm attached to. It would be very hard to build the kind of loyal readership (the people who'd pay for the comics) in a system where they have to pay beforehand.

  • I think the most obvious route for online comics is to realize that you will get little or no revenue if you try to charge for a comic that isn't already popular. However, if you give it to them for free and then squeeze them later you'll have better luck. Anyone else buy Doom or Quake after playing the shareware versions?

    Offer your comic for free. If it's worth paying money for then people will buy merchandise later. Look at the disgusting amount of Garfield or Peanuts crap available just about everywhere. People don't *have* to buy the books, shirts or coffee mugs to read the comic strip in the paper, but they do buy them.

    Check out Penny Arcade [penny-arcade.com]

    They did a great job on a free comic and are now selling out of their t-shirts and recently started taking orders for a hard and soft-cover book. I read it every other day and I'm seriously considering the book.

  • Warning: It's the goatsex link on steroids
  • Keep in mind a LOT of the money wouldn't have just gone to Wiley. Taxes for one take out a LOT of that -- first the "sales tax" (if/when that gets applied...albiet not right now), then there's the tax taken out for each bit of it that would go to a person (Wiley is one, but so are the coloring artists, etc...; remember that given Wiley's income (_much_ higher than $30K i'd guess, given the success of non-sequitur), a higher portion of his income would go to taxes).

    Then there's the software and bandwidth costs. If reading online through a single site is the only way to get a comic, that site must be able to handle the demand (who remembers when user friendly first got slashdotted and the user friendly virus went on its first contagious rampage).

    Plus, if managing subscriptions and restricting access, you get into some degrees of intellectual property protection -- you have to 1) configure the server to recognize the subscribers (cookies? basic authentication?) and 2) higher lawyers to handle unauthorized duplication. That don't come cheap, either in the lawyers or the geeks.

  • Look, the whole problem with micropayments is:
    1. must have an audit trail
    2. must trust all along payment and receipt trail
    3. must let them access big bucket of cash
    4. pay extra for processor to glob together electronic payments into large transfer

    The solution is a Bucket of Goop. You buy a bucket of goop somewhere (Amazon, Slashdot) with a secure payment authority ONCE. You then spend until the Bucket of Goop is gone. During that time, micropayments are from that site or network of sites alone. E.g. AT&T sells a Big Bell Bucket of Goop usable for Cable Service, Long Distance, ESPN rentals, whatever - on their VPN with their security. They show you how much more goop you have. If you decide to bogart from AT&T (you like AOL), you have them pay back the remainder of the Bucket of Goop.

    Note: this cannot be patented, because I already copyrighted it and have prior working models. So tell Bill G to get his slimy hands off my patent, which is public domain.

  • What? Pay 0.005$US each day to read Slashdot? You must have that backwards - Slashdot should pay me 0.005$US each day I read it.
  • From the build up slashdot gave it, I was expecting another critic non-producer talking about how all art (the production of others)shouldl be free or WORSE "comics should be free and you can read why they should be free in my new paperback for $9.95 at a store near you."

    Instead, I found a well put forth, real artists explaination as to why he wants to try to sell his work directly to the consumer via micropayments.

    It IS important for the reader to udnerstand the differences between his art, which can be done on his home PC, and, for instance a record album or movie. the latter requires a large upfront capital risk no individual artist can afford to make.

    One of the earliest movie studios was United Artists, which was formed by three rich moivie starts to comntrol their own destiny (Mary Pickford, Doug Fairbanks and Erol Flynn.) The rest of the actors and actresses hwoever NEEDED the major studios to put money into their pictures that they could not.

    Similarly, lest we forget, the record studios and computer game publishers put millions of dollars into producing products that may never sell.

    The centralized dsitrubtors do mroe then move packages around. they fund their production and their promotion.

    If an artist has the wherwithal and desire to try to go it on his/her own though, more power to him/her. But that in of itself is nothing new, that's where UA came from.

  • Actually, Scott mc Cloud handles Image Comics in his book, Reinventing Comics.
  • by TheTomcat ( 53158 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @02:26PM (#518708) Homepage
    People expect web content to be free.

    I would, however, consider a deal with certain 'content' providers to make a payment in PLACE of their ads.

    Don't pay, get bombarded with the ads, as usual. _DO_ pay, see no ads.

    Also, I find google's search-sensitive, non-in-my-face ads to be much more effective than stupid banners. F'rinstance, as I'm typing this, the banner at the top of the page is a broken image, and I have NO IDEA what the banner on the previous page was, because I have, as have many many web users, developed some sort of automagic ignore-the-banner reflex.
  • by Robotech_Master ( 14247 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @02:26PM (#518709) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps the fact that it doesn't work outside the U.S.A.?

    Actually, that's not true anymore [paypal.com].

    PayPal is now available in the following countries:

    • Australia
    • Austria
    • Belgium
    • Brazil
    • Canada
    • Denmark
    • France
    • Germany
    • Hong Kong
    • Ireland
    • Israel
    • Italy
    • Japan
    • Mexico
    • Netherlands
    • New Zealand
    • Norway
    • Portugal
    • Singapore
    • South Africa
    • South Korea
    • Spain
    • Sweden
    • Switzerland
    • United Kingdom

  • Here's the difference:
    • With micropayments, everybody who views the content is expected to pay a little bit. Nobody gets a free ride, but there's a lot of infrastructure that needs to be set in place for this to work.
    • With the SPP, the creator simply waits to receive the pre-ordained payment amount, and then releases the work into the public domain. The creator receives no more money for that piece than the original payment amount. You could conceivably have situations where one person pays an artist $10,000 to release content online, and then 10,000 users download it for free.
    There are lots of pros and cons for both. Personally, I don't care too much which one becomes the predominant one, as long as one of them arrives soon enough to put the top-heavy music & publishing industries out of business.

    However, micropayments require a lot of infrastructure to be built, which means you need a well-controlled, easily-metered distributive system. This is why you hear about micropayments a lot for writing and online comics -- those are spread through the web -- but almost not at all for MP3s. The ways that people get MP3s are far too varied -- FTP, Napster, web, e-mail -- to imagine slapping a micropayment onto them.

  • Micropayments are an outgrowth of the push for creator's rights. Having full control over one's work is really what McCloud is asking for, isn't he? He wants to cut out the middleman and deliver artistic content over the web, but he's complaining that he doesn't make enough money doing it.

    McCloud steps right on the main issue with the Napster reference. The value of something is tied directly to its availability. Just as I wouldn't join any Porn-o-the-Month clubs because I can get the crusty scrapings of those sites for free at their affiliates' sites, I seriously doubt that people will pay even miniscule amounts for what can be had for free. Why buy e-music when you can get it from Napster or Gnutella for free? Why pay for porn when sites like Persian Kitty [persiankitty.com] list hundreds of free sites? Why pay a quarter to read something that I've already read?

    The argument can be made, of course, that people do in fact sign up for porn site memberships, and it is perhaps the most profitable industry on the web. The response to this is that porn is PORN . It is an anomolous industry that thrives on personal privacy, whereas comic books or e-books (e.g. The Plant [stephenking.com]) are not things that people are reluctant to buy in person.

    McCloud is dreaming if he thinks users will pay for content. Even a micropayment is a micro too much. I'll be glad to be proven wrong, though [snopes2.com]

    Dancin Santa
  • It's true that the "Everything should be Free" (as in beer, not in speech) attitude is quite pervasive now, and will probably linger for a while. I don't think it'll be permanent, though. Give it a few more years of ad-supported content companies going bankrupt, and the vanishing of all the ad-supported ISPs, and people will realize that producing content is work, just like anything else.

    I think we just went through this really odd historical phase, where so many people believed that eyeballs for advertising were extremely valuable. It seems like an odd clash of the old advertising mindset of stuffing consumer ideas down your throat, and the new (Internet-enabled) mindset of picking and choosing only the experiences you want. I'm glad we're winning, but the minefields aren't all cleared out yet.

  • by fhwang ( 90412 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @02:36PM (#518713) Homepage
    PayPal's alright, but if you had to make those donations five times a day at different sites you'd get pretty bloody sick of it.

    Convenience is key. The ideal is for micropayments to require only:

    1. A simple registration process to sign up, and
    2. One simple click to transfer money every time the user views new content
    Anything more cumbersome, and not many people will go to the trouble. It's not that they're selfish with their money; they're selfish with their time. (And why wouldn't they be? You can always make more money, but you can never buy more time.)
  • by Eloquence ( 144160 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @02:36PM (#518714)
    This: "Please note that in order to send, receive, or withdraw money with PayPal, you will need to register and confirm a credit or debit card."

    Unfortunately(?), credit cards are not very popular outside the US. People in Europe don't trust them, and far fewer people have one. So if someone offers me something and wants me to pay via Paypal, I can't, even if I want to. (And international wire transfers are expensive, slow and complicated -- been there, done that.)

    Of all the existing systems, Paypal is indeed the most promising, though. Maybe they'll allow me to wire money into an account on a German bank soon.


  • Merandising is really quite a different thing from a micropayment system.. Anyone with a paper, ink and acces to a scanner/the internet can run an online comic. Making and selling merchandising is harder to do and more expensive for the creator. You add another step to the process of making money (delivery, maybe even rpoduction which would add at least 1 more, maybe more steps), somene else who wants a slice of the pie. Sure it's doable, and sure, there's a living to be made that way. But it's not going to be the start of a comics revolution. but the micropayment system has that potential.
  • by klieber ( 124032 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @02:38PM (#518716) Homepage
    The problem with Micropayments, as least with today's technology, is that by the time you build the system to process the micropayments, the cost per transaction to run that system (including depreciation on all the equipment, etc.) is actually more than the micropayments themselves.

    Think about it -- you need to build a transaction system that will:

    • Handle thousands if not hundreds of thousands of transactions securely and quickly.
    • Interface with credit card companies, who take a percentage of any transaction. (and if you think micropayments can be successful without credit card companies, you should be sharing whatever it is that your smoking. People aren't going to tape two dimes to a postcard and mail them off 50 times per day)
    • Have some sort of settlements system so the proper people get paid the proper amount. (Not all the cash goes to the same person -- several different people have to get their cut)
    • Have at least a few system administrators and accountants to make the whole system work
    • Oh, and after all this, it also needs to be profitable enough so the company running this micropayment settlement system can stay in business.
    This system is absolutely buildable with today's technology, but it costs so much to build and then maintain that there's almost no chance of a positive ROI.

    I'm not saying this is an insurmountable problem, but so far, I haven't seen anyone with a successful, wide-spread solution.

  • As a Canadian, I have to pay a fee on every transaction to cover the cost of converting the payment into US dollars. The fee is 2.6% plus 30 cents, which kills any micropayment possibility.

    The fee is charged twice if you're sending money to other Canadians -- once to convert it to US dollars and once to convert it back. The magic of the digital economy!

    (I posted this yesterday, so if it sounds familiar, that's why.)

    Even if PayPal did work, I agree with the O'Reilly article that the hassle of micro-subcriptions would be too much. I would rather tip when I think of it than be required to negotiate entrance each time.

    Failing that, perhaps some sort of affiliate network modelled after cable TV could work. You pay OmniCorp $10/month and get access to a variety of sites. OmniCorp happens to cover Penny Arcade, Slashdot and the New York Times, so you subscribe to it rather than its rival. OmniCorp then divides its takings among its affiliates. (Sounds a little like AdultCheck, now that I think of it.)

    As I say, I'd prefer a working system of tips.

  • Well, you may have noticed in the Reinventing page [thecomicreader.com] that you linked to, there was ample discussion of what surely would be considered 1-Click Ordering by Amazon.com:

    ".. for small amounts, the process should be as simple as a single click."

    So do we have a patent problem here?

    Also, on a different topic: people make these kinds of donations now. Look at FuckedCompany's Edgewater victims fund: [fuckedcompany.com] over $16K in just a couple of weeks, using PayPal. So perhaps we're not as far away as you think.

  • Very true. And what amazes me is the prices advertisers pay when there is enormous evidence to suggest that people are not even seeing the advertisements. People channel surf during network TV commercials, the fast-forward through them on VCRs and TiVos, and virtually ignore anything on the web that is rectangular and flashing.

    It makes me wonder if corporations and advertisers have their collective heads in the sand with respect to the effectiveness of advertising. How do you ascertain whether or not your TV spot is effective or a colossal waste of money? With the web, they can at least use click-through rates (which shows them to be *completely* ineffective).


  • Mojo Nation [mojonation.net] provides a content-distribution service with integrated micropayments.

    Right now, our beta network is just a proof of technology -- you can publish and download content and Mojo keeps track of who is contributing bandwidth and disk space to the network. In the future, however, Mojo could be used to remunerate the actual artists who create the content.

    Mojo Nation is an open source project. Check it out!


  • Jeeze, that link explains a lot. Not the least of which is the continued success of AOL.
  • All-you-can-eat is much more popular for "meterable" services - there's a good article [thestandard.com] in The Industry Standard about this:

    Demonstrably inefficient and irrational, it has nonetheless left the realm of old-economy dinosaurs like the U.S. Postal Service and become the billing method of choice for most Internet service providers.

  • You never had a popular website did you?
    Unfortunately advertising doesn't work that well.
  • One simple click to transfer money every time the user views new content

    Yeah, and get sued by Amazon for patent infringement.

  • McCloud: "I will not allow commercial interests to dictate my art. I thumb my nose at shallow pop culture. My art is not for you, it is for me, but if you like it I am ecstatic. Pay me enough to support my family."

    Public: "Stop begging. Do what artists have done for centuries. Suffer for your art, clown."

    Dancin Santa
  • Well,dang. Now I feel bad about being so harsh in my last message. Thanks for the thoughtful response.

    Having full control over one's work is really
    what McCloud is asking for, isn't he?

    No. Not here, anyway. The essay we're supposed to be discussing here is all about the proverbial Benjamins. The freedom-of-content issue has pretty much been fought and won on numberous different fronts in the last decade.

    <cheap shot>While Image was a valuable demonstration of the right of "hot" artists to write their own scripts, no matter how bad an idea it was&lt\cheap shot>, other publishers, like Fantagraphics [fantagraphics.com] and the late lamented Kitchen Sink, were giving artists the freedom to explore their own sensibilities and visions. It opened the field up enough that now as personal and genre-defying a book like Reinventing Comics [scottmccloud.com] (admittedly, one with proven market value) can be published by DC, albeit with a funky disclaimer on the title page.

    In the meantime, Image has taken up the work-for-hire policies that they were ostensibly founded to combat. One sign the war is over is often when you can't tell which side is which anymore.
  • MicroPayments are going to be the next huge revolution. I have no doubt that as soon as some micro-payment systems become trusted and widespread; authors, musicians, even programmers will finally start getting fair payment for their efforts. The surplus of their labours will no longer fatten the bourgeoisie.

    Anyway, well done musings in comic form.
  • hey dude that's not a bad idea.
  • Umm, hello. We are the content of /.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm well aware of (and appreciate) the worthy stories and efforts Rob and all the editors contribute- but I don't think you can compare what /. provides to a site that provides original content.

  • okay. the biggest issue i have with online comics is that, damn it, i don't want to read them online. thinking of the internet as a medium with which to replace other mediums is utter stupidity, i believe. the internet is less a replacement of paper than it is a replacement of voice; instant communication brings us one step closer to telepathy, not one step further from a sheet of paper. therefore, things like comics (and i mean comics as in comic books, not as in peanuts) should remain as they have always been: printed on crummy paper, with a fusion of word and art on the page. viewing these types of things on an illuminated screen just doesn't do it for me.

    it seems, however, that it does do it for other people, so i wanted to raise the point that pay-per-view works better for comics than for virtually anything else except porn or sports: readers of print comics have the opportunity to purchase each comic individually or get a subscription. most seem to purchase individually. the problem lies in the fact that the internet is not a store: you cannot walk around, peruse different books and choose what you want after checking out a few anime wall scrolls. it's the screen, the bits and the bytes, that screw everything up-- stop thinking of the internet as another place to peddle your wares, people! use it for what it's meant for: communication, education and perhaps even *gasp* enlightenment.


    www.grizzo.com [grizzo.com]
    it's 100% grizzo
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I totally agree, This is one of the most important battles of the 21st century. But the internet was never designed to be used for economic transactions. What really needs to be done is go back 20 years and tell the designers of the internet to add in security for e-commerce. Commercialization of the internet was a bad mistake. It should of never happened because it wasn't designed for that. If we really want to have ecommerce we need to start over and build a new C-net "commerce net" that meets the demands. I dont believe a software solution will fix this either.
  • Well, They do support Israel, but they only do Visa. I needed their service for some transfers and found to my dismay that they do not accept my MasterCard, and will hardly admit to not accepting MasterCard.

    So much for their international support, besides they incur an extra fee on international transfers, something like 2% extra.
  • These three things (micropayments, DVDs, and pay-per-view commerce), plus others (ASP applications, digital video and audio with copy control bits) all tie together, in the sense that "big media" is trying to come up with a way to continue making money in a world where copying is ubiquitous.

    I don't have a problem with this.

    What I have a problem with is that increasingly, it is looking to be a one sided deal. What do I mean by that?

    Maybe I am wrong (I hope I am), but it seems like only the "big interests" want to have the payments come to them. They want you to pay them. If you happen to set up content that they want, and want badly - that is "protected" by a micropayment scheme, so that you can earn money, they will scream bloody murder over the fact that they have to pay to use it. At least, it seems like this is something they would do.

    What they want is you to pay them, as they gradually up the micropayments, with you not being able to keep up monetarily wise (actually, just barely keep up - because if you couldn't, you would have to stop, if for no other reason than because you are broke, and parasites try not to kill their hosts if they can keep from it).

    The only problem I can see out of all this (if they allow it), is that it will force people (that is, ordinary Joes) to start publishing material, in the hopes of getting enough micropayments to pay their own information addiction. Perhaps rings of groups would spring up, those within the ring being able to access each other's content for nothing, while those outside have to micropay.

    Somehow, I see a vicious, ugly circle brewing...

    Worldcom [worldcom.com] - Generation Duh!
  • I can definitly see where the artist and writer of the online comic is coming from because I am one as well. For the last few months I've been holding a full time IT job and trying to create a monthly comic, and let me tell you it is not easy. I do it because I love doing it, because it enriches my life in a way that other IT work does not.
    The writer does a good job of presenting the problem I am faced with, which is how do I do this full time and not live in a cardboard box with a DSL connection.
    The method he brings up is an interesting one of charging small amounts of money to view an issue, much less than you would find in a comic shop. I agree that the interface would need to be transparent and would be fairly straight forward to do in something like PHP or Cold Fusion. I am still not sure if people would pay or not. Which is better to get your story read by millions of people or make a few dollars and have it read by only a handful of people? Is there any hope for this medium? What do you think?

    Take care everyone
    J.B. Settle

    Shameless Plug
    If your interested in taking a look at the comic I am working on goto http://www.n2comics.com [n2comics.com]
    Shameless Plug
  • Reminds me of Captain Compaq (?) who was in some of the "comics" handed out by Compaq during job fairs :)
  • People are paying for comics on the web and they are doing it voluntarily. Check out Nitrozac's [fairtunes.com] page on Fairtunes.com [fairtunes.com]. Someone out of the blue sent Nitrozac $10 for their comic series.

    While I certainly don't imagine that voluntary payments could feed a family of four. I do think many artists and fans would be surprised at how many people would voluntarily send money for art that they appreciated if it was presented to them properly.

    Anyhow, we certainly saw a bit of an out pouring for Linus [fairtunes.com] over the last several days ($145 in voluntary contributions so far).


  • Wow. I thought you people were Slashdotters.

    Okay. The basics:

    The internet is like a big party in a convention center, filled with lots of people talking and sharing ideas.

    If one guy tells a story at one end of the building, and it's good, it's going to spread. It's SUPPOSED to spread. That's the nature of the human drive to communicate. It's INSANE to try to limit this to those with credit cards. It leads to elitism and cultural brain damage.

    I've read Scott's stuff many times in many places before, and I think the man has a heart of gold, but I also think he's dead wrong about micropayments.

    Here's the key: Comic book publishers sell COMIC BOOKS. Content is simply the draw to buy the book. The ideas themselves are, and should be free.

    If anything, Scott should be trying to get cash off the ISP's.

    I can't believe I have to point this stuff out.

    -Fantastic Lad.

  • Ted Nelson's old idea in the Xanadu system was essentially to have a flat rate per byte, set low enough that you could mostly ignore it while say, just reading something. That would take some of the uncertainty and confusion out of using a micropayment system, but I'm skeptical myself.

    All bytes are not created equal. If you have some information that you think is worth more than the flat rate that the system charges, then you just won't put it up on that system, and the hope of having a universal information exchange medium would never be realized.

    (What I'd like to know is if Scott McCloud has been reading Jakob Nielsen's stuff, why does he have links that aren't blue underlines?)

    (Oh, and if anyone cares, I've got some nitpicks about "Understanding Comics": CLOUDY [grin.net].)

  • Comics, in particular, need almost no capital to produce.

    If you only think about it in terms of the hardware and software to produce them, and the cost of Net access, it might not seem like much. No one ever seems to put any value on the artists' time and creativity in this type of discussion, though. People have no problem reimbursing people for doing jobs they don't want to do themselves, but they want things they can't do themselves for free.
  • Already got Enlightenment http://wwww.enlightenment.org

    Sometimes I use it for Windowmaker or Sawfish, depending on my mood and resource needs.
  • I've done some thinking about this issue, being as how I've had a daily online comic strip [evercrest.com] for two years now. The problem is that with the amount of money that most people would be willing to pay to read the strip, it's such a miniscule amount that charging for it is impractical.

    I've found moderate success with merchandising. I imagine the larger comics would be able to be self-sufficient enough to make a living through such an endeavor.
  • ...at TOTK.com Sports [totk.com]. We don't make money off of TOTK. We haven't run many ads to speak of--only Web ones with really bad CPM rates because of the dearth of banner ads, which is fine, because they suck--because we think they distract from content.

    I asked readers once--online and offline, since some of them are local people--what they thought of ads. They aren't opposed to them, because they know we have to pay the bills. All well and good, but the ads will just be ignored, and where have we added value? Nowhere. But we wouldn't mind running relevant ads in our emails--be fine by us. But when we do get someone relevant, they either never reply or think we charge too much. Gah!

    Because I continue to spend more time on this--instead of the rest of my so-called life--and because we're adding new technology along the way, we've decided to do a trial period idea, something I wouldn't mind feedback on. The idea is this:

    1. Content that is newer than N weeks is free for viewing on the Web. That way, you can see what we have before you choose to subscribe.
    2. Subscribing to email releases is free for N weeks, and we tell you that up front. This allows you time to get to know our content well--people will read what they willingly push themselves to read, and email is the best way to let consumers push themselves content--and decide whether you like it enough. [Hopefully, you do. =]
    3. Becoming a paid subscriber would give you the ability to customize how we do things highly--columns only from this writer or on that sport or in that ezine, whatever--and allow you unlimited access to the archives.

    Be happy to see what people have to say. Email or reply...I'll see it either way.

  • Scott is right about the unfortunate future of web advertising (which seems to be convinced the "future" involves pop-up ads, interstitials, and pretty much anything annoying you'd find on a porn site). However, he's forgotten that the web is free and is pretty much stuck that way. There will always be free stuff on the web and if you charge for your stuff, no one will come see it.

    Since McCloud's recent strip, it's been suggested that Keenspot Comics [keenspot.com] (home of half the comics listed here) start this micropayment trend. However, I think this would be a really bad move. As it has been stated, this would only work for comics that are already popular and would surely stunt the growth of even popular comics. What new reader would pay for Nukees [nukees.com] when Goats [goats.com] is available for free? Even though Keenspot [keenspot.com] and Keenspace [keenspace.com] house most of the webcomics out there, only the most die-hard fans will bother paying when all other web content is free. For artists that have worked for years for little to no pay, I think readership and artistic integrity is still more important than cash.

    I think the solution, if the advertising market continues to die, is "Pay for convenience," not for content. We may, for instance, institute subscription rates for email delivery, or even home paper delivery (would you pay for a monthly digest of your favorite webcomic snailmailed to you?)

    The real question is what will people pay for? Will people pay for convenience? It's difficult to tell. It was mentioned that Carson Fire of Elf Life [elflife.com] has recently offered a cast shirt for sale, but it was not mentioned that few have bought that shirt. I've seen lots of shirts go unsold even though reader polls have shown high interest. So it turns out readers are lying when they say they'll pay for something? I think so. That music label buying Napster, for instance, is convinced that 1/2 of the current users will pay a $15/month fee for its use, based on a poll they conducted. How many of you believe that?

    So what will people pay for? That's the real question.

    Darren "Gav" Bleuel
    Keenspot Comics [keenspot.com]
    Nukees [nukees.com], an atomic comic.

    Darren "Gav" Bleuel
    Nukees, an atomic comic [nukees.com]

  • Kuro5hin has 1000 users?
  • by jafac ( 1449 )
    how about the cable TV model?

    DO pay, AND see ads.

    PAY MORE for PPV stuff. (and see ads in the form of product placement IN the PPV movies).
  • When I was younger I used to read lots of comics. I began with the standard Marvel and DC superhero-type comics, but quickly moved to independent comics. Scott McCloud's "Understanding Comics" ranks among one of the best comics I've ever read. I didn't realize scott had work available online. I would have started reading long ago.
  • Ok look here's my basic reasoning as to why people will be very slow to accept micropayment stuff. You simply don't get a tangable object. When I buy a CD I get a CD, printed label, jewl case, booklet thing possibly with lyrics, and all of the little objects that come with a CD. When I buy a comic book I get a comic. I can pick up that flimsy paper object and open to any page at any time. I can lend it to my friends. I can't do that with internet comics. I mean I could have a friend come over and read someone's comic but what happens when I want to show someone Cerebus (thousands of pages of "phonebooks") or the Sandman Collection? Maybe if instead of HTML you got some kind of a program... that might be a bit better. Then I don't have to wory about my connection being up or forgetting my password (thing about that is I could always copy it and send it to my friends... sort of defeating the purpose). [Then again for 25 cents I'm sure people wouldn't mind just paying... hell if MP3's were like 25 cents each maybe people would be willing to pay for them to...]
  • FYI, there was an article on the advent of online comics and the poor state of the comic industry:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi%3Ffile %3 D/technology/archive/2000/02/08/ape.dtl%26type%3Dt ech_column

  • This isn't exactly true. I use a PayPal account so that users of my MUX can contribute to the cost of hosting it. They send me money with PayPal, and I pay the hosting service out of the PayPal account. I've never had to register a credit card or bank account. Sure, it means I won't be able to turn PayPal money into "real" money, but I have no need to do that.
    Obfuscated e-mail addresses won't stop sadistic 12-year-old ACs.
  • A lot of postings have discussed the logistical problems with micropayments. The infrastructure isn't there yet. Audit trails. Privacy issues. Trust over long chains. Etcetera, etcetera.

    Here's an alternative. Suppose you want to pay 1/10 cent to an artist for having listened to his MP3 or read his comic strip or whatever. You can't really send him 1/10 cent, but mailing a check for $10 makes sense. Use a fair random number generator to generate a number from 1 to 10,000. If the number is 1, send the $10 check. Otherwise just read/listen and enjoy.

    If people do this en masse and don't cheat, it will work just like micropayments without requiring any fancy new infrastructure.

  • I have ABSOLUTELY no problem with product placement so long as it stays passive -- I mean, so long as ET doesn't start asking for Pepsi, and the characters don't make stupid references to the products.

    Yeah.. Pay AND see ads sucks. I _REALLY_ hate it when I pay $10.25 for a movie ticket, and have to sit through a 3 minute Passaat commercial.

    I don't mind the trailers so much, because they're at lease somewhat related to what I'm about to watch, but car commercials at the movies tick me off. (-:
  • Lots of entertainment media (and other "information" creation fields) have come to the point where people can create and publish their work with almost no cost (other than their time).

    Whoa pal, that's quite a big "other" you're trying to gloss over. Maybe your time costs nothing but you're in the minority.

    Art takes innate talent, but it also takes skill and practice. Artists who can practice more often (by being able to support themselves with their art) will produce better art for us all to enjoy. You're familiar with the Hierarchy of Needs, right? If artists can't eat, they can't produce art either.

    I think you need to read the column again.
  • by WillWare ( 11935 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @06:07PM (#518753) Homepage Journal
    King's experiment could have worked just fine. He was making money. The reason it failed was his arbitrary condition that a particular percentage of those downloading must make a donation. Suppose he'd stipulated only the total donation for each chapter, regardless of who paid how much. Eventually, he would have gotten almost any amount he could have asked. He is, after all, Stephen King.

    The failure of The Plant was rigged.

    Why? Was he trying to prove to himself (like Hofstatder's failed 1983 lottery in Scientific American) that people are or aren't honest, or that their honesty is an interesting thing to try to measure? I doubt it. Here's a more cynical theory.

    King has been publishing a long time. He has long-standing buddies in the publishing industry. If direct payment over the web works, and new artists don't need publishers any more, then those guys are going to be feeling some pain. Maybe King rigged The Plant to demonstrate that direct web payment can't work. If new artists believe him, they'll never try. If it could work and nobody tries it, then new avenues of artistic expression will be lost, and some new artists' careers will end unnecessarily.

  • Publishing content on the internet takes a lot more time and energy than "telling a story" at a party. Actually creating something interesting and original is hard work.

    Actually creating something interesting and original is hard work.

    Yes, creating something interesting and original is hard work. I create content myself, so I know.

    But where did people get the notion that just because something takes 'hard work' one should automatically be compensated for it? That's nonesense. Nobody deserves anything. If you want compensation, you have to do more than just get pouty. To make money from your creations, you have to go where the market rewards work. On line can be a place for that, but not through Mircopayments, as McCloud suggests. To do so would undermine the essential value of the web; changing it into something ugly(er).

    --Keep in mind, I'm not saying that artists shouldn't be paid, but that the payment structure should revolve around the understanding that content is not the sale item. The physical medium is.

    To this you say:

    No one would buy a blank book (or a blank CD). The content gives the book value.

    I agree. Indeed, that's essentially what I said!

    Think of it this way: When you lay down money for a book, you're physically walking home with paper and dried ink layed out in patterns. That's ALL you have. The meaning of those ink patterns is interpretive and ephemeral. They're ideas. And, yes, that's what people want to see when they buy the medium, but the ideas want to be free; that's the nature of communication. Artists should be paid a percentage of the physical product sold for having provided the draw for people to buy the product. That's how the thinking should work.

    There ARE ways to make this work on line. Ask yourself what the physical product is that people are really paying for when they surf. (There are many more than one.) Review the obvious. Review what you know.

    The problem is that people have been led to believe that ideas should be bought and sold. But if people freely shared ideas, the world would be a MUCH better place to live in. I'd just as soon see the net remain a positive, selfless thing than have it turn into something where thoughts are price-tagged, (even ones that require 'hard work')

    Do you understand?

    -Fantastic Lad

  • Sorry to disagree, but we have been making a (very good) living doing animated cartoons on the web for three years now, and trust me, the middleman is your friend. Everyone with an arts degree seems to think that unless you are the one with the pen in your hand, you are overhead. They have no clue, and that is the big reason they can't put food on the table. Musicians are exactly the same, they all dream of pressing their own CD in their own recording studio and selling it on the net. Worse than thinking they will make money this way, they think they will save money. Linux people often suffer from this too.

    Why can't online cartoonists make a living? Well, because they can. Just team up with people that know something about marketing, and something about business. Why can't they keep all the cash for themselves? Because they can't earn it themselves. Why don't most cartoons sell? Because they are made to please the cartoonist, not the audience. Read another way, the cartoonist thinks they are great, but nobody else does. Will micropayments work? no. If they did, would that mean you could cut out the middleman? no. get serious.
  • The creator of any particular comic owns all rights to it.

    Which explains why most of those books that were started by the original "Image Seven" are either no longer in production or drawn and written by people other than the creators? (Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon [savagedragon.com] being the notable exception.)

    Jim Lee sold his Image "studio" Wildstorm Productions [wildstorm.com] to DC to concentrate on getting back to creative stuff, but all of the stuff I've seen from him has a DC logo on it. Another of the original seven, Whilce Portacio, sold the rights to his "creator-owned" book Wetworks to Wildstorm just so that it'd see the light of day; it has long since been canceled.

    Rob Liefeld has apparently become content to be a has-been in the comics field after leaving Image under acrimonious circumstances -- except for a recent Wolverine stint a few months ago, he hasn't put pen to paper in ages. His line of "Awesome Comics" comes out once in a blue moon, and Liefeld doesn't do anything other than the occasional "collectible" promo cover for those.

    Marc Silvestri has a good thing going in Top Cow Comics, his Image "studio". Having J. Michael "Babylon 5" Straczynski writing not one but two comics (Rising Stars and Midnight Nation) for him, with fellow B5 writer Fiona Avery picking up the new title No Honor keeps me interested in the line; Silvestri relegates himself to doing the odd "collectible" cover as well.

    Erik Larsen, as I said, writes and draws Savage Dragon, which for me was rather enjoyable until the big "status-quo-altering" #75, where he replaces his whole continuity with a nightmarish parallel universe of sorts; it hasn't been as fun for me to read since.

    Jim Valentino has stopped writing and drawing comics so far as I can tell and is the President of Image Central; his focus is the Image "non-line" of books that really are controlled by their creators (as in, the people who actually write and draw them!) Mage, Violent Messiahs, The Red Star, Powers, Warren Ellis' line of "pop comics" (starting with Ministry of Space and Morning Dragons), to name a few.

    And Todd McFarlane.. aah, Todd Mcfarlane. It's amazing how someone whose claim to fame was allegedly "the creator should be king" now makes a pile of money off of other people doing his stuff, not to mention licensed products:
    • Kiss: Psycho Circus
    • The Crow (based on the TV show which was based off of someone else's comic even!)
    • a metric fuckton of action figures for Austin Powers, Movie Maniacs, Sleepy Hollow, Kiss, Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Zombie, Where the Wild Things Are

    Spawn? Hasn't been written or drawn by him in quite a while. (I think he's listed as "plotter", which means he probably says something like "Well, in this issue Spawn scowls a lot, stands in shadows so we don't have to draw as much of him, and laments the cruel twist of fate that put him in this position like he has since issue #2. Oh wait, is this issue #100? Oh, well, kill off Angela. What? Yes, I know she's Neil Gaiman's character and he's accusing me of screwing him over on the rights to her, Cogliostro and Medieval Spawn [fandomshop.com], so this will put an end to part of that problem."

    While Image Comics may still be a place where creators can go to have some creative control over their works, it's interesting to note that six of the seven creators are no longer the creators of their own titles.

    Jim Lee: Sold Wildstorm to DC, and making people orgasm by doing guest work there; the last title he drew for was Divine Right, a Wildstorm title that is no longer in production.

    Rob Liefeld: last comic work was a stint on Wolverine for Marvel. Does not write or draw any of the titles at his own production house that I'm aware of -- when they even come out.

    Whilce Portacio: sold his "creator-owned" book to Wildstorm before issue #1 hit the stands. (To be fair, the guy has a serious family crisis or two to deal with in the time before Wetworks #1.) Currently drawing X-Force for Marvel.

    Jim Valentino: President of Image Central, and kicking ass by allowing other creators to have a shot or two at the spotlight, as well as providing a home for many formerly-self-published titles. Hasn't drawn a book since Shadowhawk (and hasn't drawn a good book since Guardians of the Galaxy for Marvel, IMO).

    Marc Silvestri: Busy running Top Cow, does the occasional promo or #1 cover for Top Cow books.

    Todd McFarlane: Hasn't drawn a regular book in ages; makes lots of money off of other people's work. In fact, Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada publicly challenged McFarlane to team up with Quesada in drawing a Spawn/Spider-Man crossover written by Kevin "View Askew" Smith. [comicbookresources.com]

    Erik Larsen: Still writes and draws Savage Dragon after all these years -- in fact, he went back and did a replacement for issue #13 of SD that was guest-drawn and -written by Jim Lee so that he could claim an unbroken string of self-produced issues! I guess he's the exception that proves the rule...

    Jay (=
  • The problem with advertisements is the fact that business are attempting to use them as the sole source of revenue. While this is adaquate for a single artist who is trying to use the web as a supplement to other work, a business who must pay employees for simply maintaining the site simply can't make a profit from it unless the operation is extremely streamlined, gets a lot of visitors, and get a decent rate on bandwidth.

    Ads should be paid for by companies that actually draw the majority of their revenue from non-advertising based methods. If I sell a product or service and use ads to promote it, then both I and the seller of the advertising space will benefit.

    Do people not pay attention to ads? Well, if you're not advertising something that I require, then probably not. If I have to buy something, and you can sell it to me, then you have a market, and an ad will catch my attention.

  • I'm surprised Marvel and DC haven't jumped on the internet in a much bigger way as a distribution channel. The whole challenge these firms face is how to bring kids back to comics -- the traditional distribution channels are clearly broken, since kids can't by comics anywhere they might actually be shopping with their parents. Nobody wants to take their kids to a comics shop, with the Simpsons-like freak behind the counter, but there are few other places to buy comics -- not at CVS, grocery stores, etc.

    Marvel and DC could reach out directly to kids who increasingly spend time on the 'Net, repurposing their comics into some format that would at least get kids interested in the characters.

    Just a thought.

  • I'm currently working on something like that, a "teaser" version of the strip at a static URL that updates daily that anyone can feel free to show as an image on their page as a link to my full page. This is the teaser [evercrest.com] for the full strip on the main page [evercrest.com].

    I haven't put this into public use yet because I'm waiting until after my upcoming server move, but it at least seems like an awesome idea to increase traffic to the site. I've also toyed with the idea of making a co-branded destination page, so that someone could make it appear like the target content, the full strip was a portion of their own site.

    I'm not sure what type of money would be involved in something like that, even in which direction, but it's an idea I'm exploring.
  • Interesting, I didn't think about "Paypal-only" transactions. Thanks, I'll try it out.


  • Anyhow, we certainly saw a bit of an out pouring for Linus over the last several days ($145 in voluntary contributions so far).

    I slung him five bucks. It was worth it, just to put the comment j00 r0x0r, l1nu5! [fairtunes.com] onto Fairtunes.. :-)

  • Micropayments are bad because people don't want to have to worry about the cost of every click; the effort of considering whether a purchase is worth the money ("mental transaction cost") should not outweigh the value of the money spent.

    Microdonations are fine though, because you donate what you want when you want, and click away freely knowing that each click costs you nothing.

    Whether anyone can make enough money out of microdonations to be worth it I don't know, but I don't think the arguments against micropayments apply here. There's also some interesting issues with the legal infrastructure needed to reassure the donator that anyone trying to get my microdonations by passing off pirated content as their own is going to get sued for it; I suspect trusted intermediaries are needed.
  • Saw the parent comment in meta-mod, so I know I'm coming late to the discussion and few people will ever see this, but I couldn't help but respond.

    I think the problem is that $2/month is far above the market rate for a single comic.

    Consider: for $15/month, I can subscribe to a newspaper which has 30-40 comics a day, not to mention news, opinion, TV and movie listings, etc., etc. $0.10/month for a single comic would probably be more in line with market value, I imagine.

"To take a significant step forward, you must make a series of finite improvements." -- Donald J. Atwood, General Motors