Tuesday, March 26, 2013

On Monetizing

This really came about because I was ruminating on ways for creative blogs like web comics, and web series, to monetize their product and how the limited ways that they can or do monetize ultimately limit and shape the edges of what those creative endeavors can or do become.  The first sentence that I managed to write down on this thought stream was about living in the cracks of fame, being known and loved by a small audience but not able to create broader appeal to take whatever creative project they are working on to the next level.  For reference much of this was in regard to Watch the Guild, SMBC Theater, various web comics and comedy blogs.

Shows like watch the guild and smbc theater don't make it on the large screen, even with their reasonably good production quality they won't draw mass appeal outside their niche for various reasons that are outside the scope of this little rumination.  This shortcoming  limits their ability to explore their craft and sharpen their story telling because at the end of the day they have day jobs and outside activities that will draw them away.  Various methods of democratizing payment have been floated and are being experimented with, but they rely on 3rd party infrastructure and require you to establish your base before you pitch your idea.  Indiegogo and kickstarter are clearly ways for established niche players to capitalize on their success and build bigger/better futures for those involved with longer running creative adventures they don't help sustain "micro level" production.  Blind ferret bundles comics together to form volumes on Looking For Group and SMBC Theater releases DVD's of each "season's" worth of sketch's, but a high percentage of that value is not going directly to the projects themselves but rather to pay for the physical goods, and also represents a real risk for those producers as most of the time they have to assume some risk to get the product made before they can sell it.  These avenues do pose risk for them loosing money.

Other experiments people are proposing call for direct contribution via Flattr (a kind of tip jar), but assumes people will remember or even consider giving money for things the creatives are just putting up on the web for anyone to consume. The urge to pay for things on the internet is not a strong one, and it represents another thing/service consumers have to sign up for and care about. The final approach I've seen is a hybrid subscription model with various twists.  They give some percentage and then charge for "deeper access".  In specific Me In My Place (MIMP NSFW) is pursuing this type of a model with their photography app.  They offer a mobile browser app that is supposed to give you additional pictures not shown on the MIMP tumblr (NSFW duh) blog.  On problem with this model is the push to move more subscriptions inevitably causes the creatives to show images that are supposed to be "subscription exclusives".  Since moving to the paid model I've found the pictoral quality is exceptionally repetitive, and the site appears to be having a harder time recruiting women to participate as models.  Whether this is a problem germane to erotic/semi-erotic work remains to be seen.  As a side note I've also seen a slight permutation of this model taken by a writer "retiring" work from her blog/site as it is compiled into books of stories for sale. For people just discovering her work the site's content can appear a bit thin, but she offers several books for sale.  You're left with an odd delemia as both a new and old reader.  New, you have to choose to buy her work based on a thin selection of current work which may or may not represent past work or as a long time reader your favorite stories have to be purchased to be enjoyed again. The site in question is Remittance Girl, a NSFW erotic story site, I'm not trying to be mysterious here, I just needed to get the warning in before I linked to it.  This may be an excellent model for the specific content being generated in this context, but I'm not sure how well it translates to other genera's.

I posit that hybrid "all of the above" approaches are needed to drive the continued creation of so called "micro content" single comics, stories and webisodes.  The compilation/tangible goods model via DVD, comic books, or real books, or other items for sale is one way for supporting the creation of independent creative material that has real draw backs for the creatives, where the flatr/tip jar has real draw backs for the consumers and Indie Gogo/Kickstarter success or failure could be an albatross for the artist in the future.  In the longest foreseeable future ad revenue and or sponsorship may be the lowest hanging and traditional route to cling to, but has a relatively low pay rate and places limitations to the type of content you can created.  For instance few advertisers want to be associated with profane, or pornographic material.

So sorry for serious adult face here to the people that actually read this silly blog from time to time, it was a though in my head and really the only place I had to plunk it.

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