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Bitpass & Micropayment debate: Shirky, Manley & McCl
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Greg Stephens
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 11, 2003 9:24 pm    Post subject: Bitpass & Micropayment debate: Shirky, Manley & McCl Reply with quote

OK, check out these three essays, if you haven't already:

First up is Clay Shirky:

Clay Shirky wrote:
BitPass will fail, as FirstVirtual, Cybercoin, Millicent, Digicash, Internet Dollar, Pay2See, and many others have in the decade since Digital Silk Road, the paper that helped launch interest in micropayments. These systems didn't fail because of poor implementation; they failed because the trend towards freely offered content is an epochal change, to which micropayments are a pointless response.


Followed closely by responses from Joey Manley:

Joey Manley wrote:
It's true that there will always be fantastic free content on the web -- just as there is fantastic free content on television. But, just as with television, the advertising model on the web rewards lowest-common-denominator material, which can attract enormous audiences. .... The fantastic free content that isn't lowest- common-denominator, or at least designed-to-appeal-to-the-masses (which isn't always the same thing, but usually is) is destined to wallow in anonymity, for the most part, and relying on the unforced generosity of readers for donations will never be a business model that can generate reliable and regular cash flow.


And Scott McCloud:

Scott McCloud wrote:
Shirky?s "epochal change" is real enough. Free content is here to stay, file-sharing is here to stay, and any attempt to completely wipe out either is doomed to failure (as it should be). But that in no way precludes the co-existence of markets based on the desires of willing sellers and willing buyers. To proclaim without a hint of doubt that such a market will never exist for low cost digital content contradicts everything we know about the Web?s inexhaustible capacity for variety and adaptation.


It shouldn't be hard for anyone to guess that I'm with Manley and McCloud on this one. It's just plain foolish to say that something will never work simply because it hasn't successfully been done yet. With that kind of attitude, Man would never have invented the airplane, much less walked on the moon. Feh to that. More importantly, Shirky ignores some of the realities to the situation, which is mentioned in the responses linked to above, with regard to both the cost of providing the content (Shirky claims it's so close to free to do so that offering it to audiences at no charge is always the best way to go. He's wrong, since bandwidth always costs) and the desire to make money from producing your content (if I had worked out how to make a living by drawing my comics, then I probably would have updated the site since January (Cripes! Has it been so long?)).

There will always be doomsayers, won't there?
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Surlyben
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 12, 2003 4:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmm. As a consumer, I find myself agreeing with all three essays depending on which one I am reading. I find the following point to pretty much encapsualte why I have yet to sign up with BitPass.

Shirky:
Quote:
If you want to feel mental transaction costs in action, sign up for the $3 version of BitPass, then survey the content on offer. Would you pay 25 cents to view a VR panorama of the Matterhorn? Are Powerpoint slides on "Ten reasons why now is a great time to start a company?" worth a dime? (and if so, would each individual reason be worth a penny?)


I took a look at the content available, and figured that while I might be willing to pay 25 cents for Scott McCloud's comic, that was pretty much all I wanted to see. In order for me to be willing to start an account, I have to believe that there is three bucks worth of content on offer.

That said, I *am* willing to pay for webcomics (I subscribe to Serializer, Girlamatic and Moderntales) and as soon as there is some content that comes along that I can't live without, I'll be subscribing.

Mr. Manley makes a good point that not all entertainment can be substituted with other entertainment (I see Mr. McCloud makes the same point...). Speaking as a user, I can say that as soon as something comes along that I can't live without, I'll be signing up for BitPass. And once that first signup happens, I'll be willing to take a look at the content offered by others... I expect this will happen as soon as BitPass leaves beta.

This quote on the other hand, is something I see as spectacularly wrong:

Shirky:
Quote:
The answer is simple: creators are not publishers, and putting the power to publish directly into their hands does not make them publishers. It makes them artists with printing presses.


Anyone who publishes, is, by definition a publisher, and I have yet to meet anyone who self publishes, online or off, who would not at least like to cover their costs. Just because someone is an "artist" doesn't make them suddenly not want a reward for their efforts. The myth of the ivory tower artist creating art for art's sake is just that: a myth.

Speaking as someone who currently offers free webcomics, you can bet that as soon as it becomes easy to charge the tiny amount that I think they are worth, I will begin to charge. I'll go so far as to say that I expect that most others who are even vaguely serious about webcomics will do the same. (I'm only vaguely serious about webcomics... )
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Corax
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 12, 2003 8:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shirky:
Quote:
Free content is thus what biologists call an evolutionarily stable strategy. It is a strategy that works well when no one else is using it -- it's good to be the only person offering free content. It's also a strategy that continues to work if everyone is using it, because in such an environment, anyone who begins charging for their work will be at a disadvantage. In a world of free content, even the moderate hassle of micropayments greatly damages user preference, and increases their willingness to accept free material as a substitute.


*sigh* Always with the dragging of biology into strange places, these writers.

It should be noted that an evolutionarily stable strategy, or ESS, is defined as a strategy that cannot be "invaded". That means if someone else comes in with a new alternate strategy, people who use this new strategy will, in the long run, usually not fare better than people using the old strategy. This does not necessarily mean that new strategies will perish in the long run if you have one ESS already in place, which seems to be what he's implying. This is a term that, to my understanding, is usually used in the context of two or more groups competing with different strategies and eventually establishing an equilibrium, where you have stable population sizes of each group. Which, I would like to think, is what will happen eventually with both pay and free content on the web. No one strategy for web content will completely eradicate the other.
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Tim Tylor
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 15, 2003 12:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Personally I'm happy with BitPass so far. There seem to be a fair few webcomics on it already, from Scott's blog, and hopefully there'll be more in time. I can afford to leave three or four dollars in it for when something good turns up.
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Greg Stephens
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 15, 2003 1:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Corax wrote:
*sigh* Always with the dragging of biology into strange places, these writers.

I think that the metaphor of evolution is also popular for many of us Americans because it parallels the values of capitalism: Both theories foster a "survival of the fittest" ideal. (One prime difference being that capitalism wants competition in order to thrive, while evolution doesn't require such a thing, notwithstanding the fact that nothing on Earth exists in an ecosystem of one.)
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losttoy
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2003 12:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I will add my two cents worth ... which is the point of BitPass, right?

Porn sites offer free content in their tour section, but still make plenty of money with subscriptions. Yet, there are women all over the place. Get a girlfriend! (Of course, having a girlfriend is not cheap either.)

TV offers free content from their local networks, but how many people pay for cable?

There will be free content and file sharing, although look what happened to Napster. There is a growing change for sites to charge for music instead. Does anybody use LimeWire or those types? I personal used them a couple of times but find it hard to manage. Yet CDs are still being made and sold.

I do not think it is fair to judge BitPass when it is not even out of the gates yet. I have heard more buzz about BitPass than any of its predisesors. Am I going to sign up just for Scott's comic? Maybe ... I have been putting it off, but I sure plan to someday, especialy if more comics join up.

I do think it is important to be cautious when it comes to something that has failed several times before. However, I have to ask, why do the other models fail and what can we learn from it?
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Greg Stephens
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2003 12:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

losttoy wrote:
I do think it is important to be cautious when it comes to something that has failed several times before.

I'll go with that. "Cautious" is good. It beats those who claim that just because something hasn't worked in the past, it will never work in the future.

losttoy wrote:
However, I have to ask, why do the other models fail and what can we learn from it?

This is the real crux of the problem, and I think that the companies that are serious about working out some sort of micropay system are aware of the question. Only time will tell.
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Tim Tylor
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2003 6:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

losttoy wrote:
Am I going to sign up just for Scott's comic? Maybe ... I have been putting it off, but I sure plan to someday, especialy if more comics join up.


There are already some very good comics with them besides Scott's. The Right Number is interesting, and I'm looking forward to part two, but I worry that it's the only BitPass goodie anyone's hearing about. Wary Tales is a wonderful collection. Trunk Town isn't the finest artwork around, but it's a good story with great characters. I've only just started The Makeshift Miracle, but it looks pretty fine. The prose and music sections are expanding too. I think it's good value for a three-dollar "card" even now. It's a pity if folks think "BitPass = That McCloud thing + some other junk".
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losttoy
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2003 10:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There could be a explosion of BitPass comics, depending on WebComicsNation.

http://www.webcomicsnation.com/pressrelease.php wrote:
all the necessary programming and back-end database work for you to sell subscriptions to your content, or to sell individual pieces of work via micropayment


If the "micropayment" is actualy BitPass, then expect a lot of new comics when it launches.

http://www.webcomicsnation.com/ wrote:
The response has been incredible. I had expected, maybe, 10-20 beta applications. I got over 700.


And what about all the people who sign up when it is actualy open and ready for business. I am heavily thinking about moving that direction myself.
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losttoy
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2003 10:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Joey Manley @ http://www.talkaboutcomics.com/viewtopic.php?t=7397 wrote:
9. If you ever plan to get into the webcomics subscriptions or micropayment game, WebcomicsNation makes it very, very easy for you to do so. Use of this feature is optional, and we will happily host both free and pay comics for our paying customers. Note that when you use the WebcomicsNation subscription or micropayments engine, people will be buying from you, not from us -- so you will have to have your own PayPal and/or Bitpass accounts (those are the only two payment processing services we plan to use at first, but we will probably add more as time goes on).

Sounds to me that BitPass will be BIG.
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