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Tragic Lad
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2001 4:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aside from the technical aspects, most of the arguments raised against micropayments seem solvable with just a bit of marketing.

Listen, people shelled out over three million dollars this weekend to see The Animal. If there are people willing to dish out five, ten bucks to see dreck like that, then is it not possible to convince them to shell out a penny to read PA? Could we not induce some folks to ante up a quarter to read PVP for a month? Seriously, are the webcomics so hideously awful that they are not able to outsell a stick of gum?

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damonk13
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2001 7:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:

On 2001-06-24 14:57, Anonymous wrote:
To be quite honest I must agree with the guys over at PA. This whole crazy idea of "micropayments" would not work successfully for most if not all possible applications.


See, that's exactly why people are trying to discuss ideas about how to make it work. People once thought that we'd never make it to the moon, or have a cure for polio, or any other such advancement that was once thought absurd or pointless...

There's nothing wrong with people critizing and questioning approaches and ideas -- that's part of how we progress, invent, and evolve.

but instead of just saying "that's a sucky idea," people should offer reasons and elaborate as to WHY the idea may or may not be sucky. you can't make something out of nothing, and offering nothing as a retort to people who are trying to offer something is pointless.

Quote:

Most people who read these online strips are probably college age and younger. And I am sure most of them don't have a credit card to charge these miniscule "micropayments" on.


this is a very good point, and likely quite accurate... again, this is why the whole micropayment thing is still a working theory, and NOT something that is already a standard...

Quote:

worth paying for (not that I don't love PA and think it is great), they would be syndicated and published in half the newspapers in America and making some real money.


now here i have to disagree...

a number of quality webcomics auch as When I am King, for example, could not be accepted in print media specifically due to form restriction, not to mention content restriction...

and a large number of syndacates accept a markedly minimal number of comics each year, while a great number of quality work remains ignored; it's not like syndicates just hand out contracts to anyone with talent...

syndicates are also known for their more conservative values when it comes to deciding what to choose and market; a lot of non-mainstream work of superior quality work will get ignored because of this market bias (is it the syndicate's fault? tought to say... but some could argue that they are censoring what the public may or may not think appropriate)...

Quote:

P.S. - I have to agree with TB about Scott McCloud. His referring to him as the "self-proclaimed" lord of comics is in reference to what I see as a cocky, know-it-all attitude towards the field of comics.


when did Scott ever claim this title? And are you telling me that just because someone decided to voice his opinions, and got published, he's meant to be seen as a "know-it-all" or "cocky"?

Geez... he's offering his opinions, just like i am, and you are... i think you're either misunderstanding his "position", or you seem to be unconsciously envious of the fact that he managed to stick to his guns and get recognized for it...

i don't agree with everything Scott has to say, but i don't think that he's cocky because of it...

Quote:

Also what a hypocrite to offer up this lame brain micropayment system while he himself doesn't even use one.


of course he doesn't use one yet -- the whole micropayment thing is just a proposed suggestion, not something that's been tested and finalized!

why do you think he and many others are still exploring possibilities; if you bother to read his book, you'll see that he never once says that micropayments are here already.
also, if you bother to read these threads, you should have noticed that he is still looking around for any new ideas and possibilities...

i'm sure that we/he'd gladly listen to any constructive suggestions you have, but naysaying and slurring isn't going to get anyone anywhere...

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Jack Masters
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2001 10:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:

A few friends of mine along with myself may soon be starting a web comic with a similiar satirical view at the world and specifically gaming much like PA. I personally would not make anyone pay to read that comic.


Well, I'd send you a stick of gum.

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Max Leibman
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2001 9:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have to agree with TB about Scott McCloud. His referring to him as the "self-proclaimed" lord of comics is in reference to what I see as a cocky, know-it-all attitude towards the field of comics.


Note this is not meant as an attack on BDJ, or any critic, specifically, but...

Expressing one's views does not make one "cocky" by default, no matter how many views one has! Especially when the expression of such views is backed up by some sort of grounded thinking and/or research (two things Scott does do) and when it is done in a professional and articulate fashion (which Scott does).

And, as for "know-it-all," Scott DOES know more about comics than any critic of his who has posted on this board (go ahead, defy me on this point. I dare you).

Now, ENOUGH with the attacks on Scott McCloud's ego and image. Whether you like his public image (which he's earned -- how many other creators, or how many of you, for that matter, have done the work he's done to craft a landmark book of comics theory, a la Understanding Comics? How many of you have researched comics possible future formats and markets to the extent he has?) or not has nothing to do with whether he is right or wrong. If he's wrong, show us HOW, and quit trying to make him into some egomaniac comics monster. Which he may ultimately be (although, obviously, I don't think so), but you're lashing out at a (skewed) image of the man when you should be laying out well-constructed criticisms of his positions.

Frustrated that what could be a fruitful debate keeps degrading into a chance to sling mud at somebody who's got the guts to take a hard public stance,

Max Leibman

[ This Message was edited by: Max Leibman on 2001-06-25 09:03 ]
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DanSTC
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2001 5:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was afraid of this. PA parodying scott's ideas has sent a few PA-reading parrots to these boards.

I really wish people would actually try to understand what they're ranting about before they pass Judgement.
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Scott McCloud
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2001 5:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My response is up (see new thread).

Here.

--Scott
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DanSTC
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2001 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The excerpt link is broken. Just thought you should know.
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Scott McCloud
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2001 7:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fixed it. Thanks!
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2001 5:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think the P-A strip is dead on. And, more to the point, it is very hillarious.

I think micropayments are a pretty good idea, but there are still many problems yet to be worked out with them (one of the most pressing at the moment is their non-existence). Moreover, I doubt you will ever see micropayments be the complete source of income for most web comics.

First and foremost is the technology. The technology to lock away parts of the comic from people who have not paid, the technology to make, schedule, and process payments, the technology to keep track of everyone who has paid. Sure, none of that is in any way "show stopping", but it represents an added requirement to the features of the site, and that will most definitely cost money (even if it isn't much money).

Following closely behind that problem is deciding exactly how to decide what gets locked up, how much to charge, what to unlock, etc. Do it wrong you lose your readers and you end up having to sniff glue to hold off your hunger until you can raid the dumpsters at 2 am. Do it right and maybe your site can be almost as popular as it would be without micropayments. Well, if THAT alone ain't a ringing endorsement of micropayments I don't know what is!

Then there are philosophical / moral questions. Is it right to make your site more accessible to the rich than to the poor? Is it right to prevent people in some countries from reaching your site? What happens if (not when) someone pays their micropayment then downloads all your content and hosts it for free somewhere else? See, NOW there would be significant motivation for someone to do that. You will need to smack their ass down hard or you will have an appointment with the glue-sack. Let's just hope the smacking doesn't cost any actual money (lawyers can be costly) or you'll be back with the glue sack yet again.

Then you have to consider the inherent advantages and disadvantages of micropayments. At the very least, forcing people to pay for your site won't make it MORE popular (people never move somewhere else because it has higher taxes). Conservatively you'd probably lose 5-10% readership off the bat just from people who won't pay for your site out of principle. Assuming micropayments become popular, you can expect many sites do be using them. How many privately run websites do you visit per month? Let's be conservative and say 20 total. At $.25 per month per site, that alone is 5 bucks a month, $60 a year. That's equivalent to about 2 or 3 magazine subscriptions. At that price, people tend to get a little more leary about new sites. And, we would hope that there would be MORE independant sites in the future, not less. But, as we can see the total number of independant sites (that use micropayments as their primary source of income) is limited by the total amount of money the average person can (or will) spend.

Moreover, there ARE alternatives. Soliciting donations is not a bad idea. However, in general you need to have enough readers so that the average fraction of "givers" results in enough donations to make the site profitable. At present even the most profitable sites have trouble doing this. I think the average donation to Penny-Arcade is about $8, with less than 1% of readers making a donation. If you do the math, that comes out to only a few pennies per reader per month. Perhaps Penny-Arcade (and other sites) should have a huge experiment where they really beg every reader to donate 50 cents or 25 cents (with banners, popups, casual mentionings of eating rat meat due to lack of food and wearing a trash bag for a coat in the news posts) for a solid month to test the validity of micropayments. OK, back to alternatives. One of the best is merchandise. People not only get to know that they're supporting the site, but they get something in return. Here's a question, would it be better for a site to reduce it's popularity (by a small fraction) by switching to direct micropayments, or for it to try to increase it's popularity so that they sell more merchandise? The advertising for web comics is pretty pitiful at present, most of the popularity of a site comes solely from word of mouth.

Most artists make their money from a variety of means. Most comics make money from compilation books and licensing in addition to their direct syndication payments. Most musicians make their money from concerts and merchandise, not CDs. Perhaps micropayments will be an important revenue stream for web comics, but I can guarantee you that they will not be the only one (maybe not even the major one) and they will not come without some serious baggage and problems.



P.S. Is it safe to have HTML enabled?.... (muhahahahahahahaha)


-- Wedge
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2001 12:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wedge- You've made many excellent points, and some of these specifically will have to be addressed by any future micropayment system and some of them will have to be addressed within any online payment system-- micro or not.

The only thing in your post I find to be questionable is when you ask:
Quote:
Is it right to make your site more accessible to the rich than to the poor? Is it right to prevent people in some countries from reaching your site?

And I'm not sure that this question should be lumped into the problem of being able to charge for online content. There is a common false assumption about the internet that everything on it is provided for free and should be continue to be provided so as one of our basic rights. The problem is that the internet is often misconstrued as a Thing when in reality it is a Communication Medium. It is not a public space where anyone may freely pass through. It is a method for the exchange of ideas. If I have something to say and I feel that you must pay me before I say it to you, then that is my right, just as it is your right to decide that paying for the (dubious) honor of listening to me does not interest you.

Enough of that!

One last thing-- You closed your otherwise thoughtful post with:
Quote:
P.S. Is it safe to have HTML enabled?.... (muhahahahahahahaha)


Which I think undermines much of what you had to say. *sigh* I am attempting to keep this conversation open to as many people as possible by allowing both Anonymous postings and HTML in all posts. Please don't abuse this conversation.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2001 12:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I never said I wanted everything on the internet to be free. I just said that it's something that needs to be thought about. Each person has to decide for themselves exactly how accessable their website will be. There is absolutely NO question that micropayments decrease accessability. The point is not "micropayments = bad", the point is that the advantages and disadvantages NEED to be weighed. And for some I suspect the disadvantages might outweigh the advantages.


As for the HTML comment, it's just something people should be aware of. If I wanted to wreck this board it'd be wrecked, since it's not, you can infer the rest. I don't quite see how html "opens up the conversation" personally. Anywho, the comment was obviously humorous in nature, it'd be much more funny if you knew me.


-- Wedge
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damonk13
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2001 2:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

well, personally, just the fact that you're named (intentionally?) after my favorite Star Wars chracter of all time, I figure you've got to be cool!

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Max Leibman
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2001 8:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quothe Wedge:
Each person has to decide for themselves exactly how accessable their website will be. There is absolutely NO question that micropayments decrease accessability. The point is not "micropayments = bad", the point is that the advantages and disadvantages NEED to be weighed. And for some I suspect the disadvantages might outweigh the advantages.


That's an excellent point, Wedge. But on the other hand, we have to remember that for many, MANY people, micropayments will be a step up. Most comics aren't going to be worth even a penny to 99.99...% of the populace. Many will.

More importantly, many of those that do have value are now running into bandwidth problems -- the sites aren't making enough money on the current systems to sustain the costs of serving the pages every day. Scott Kurtz of PvP wrote a controversial essay on that very subject. People came out of the woodwork to disagree with him loudly and publicly, but it is an indisputable fact that popularity is killing webcomics. Not many, so far, but it's happening. For these people, a new payment system may be a necessity -- the lower accessibility problem bothers me, as well, but ultimately, it might not be a choice for some creators.

The point about this is that, Yes, we need to weigh both the positives and the negatives, and Yes, micropayments won't be a good fit for all sites. But they would be a better fit for many than the current systems in place today -- at least, we think so. We won't have solid proof until somebody makes a viable system work...

Also, the accessibility of the site and the comic need not be affected by micropayments, if those micros are only charged for premium versions of the comic of services. Some ideas of how this could be done appear elsewhere on this board, and, of course, there's an edition of Scott McCloud's I Can't Stop Thinking! that offers several more.

-Max Leibman

[ This Message was edited by: Max Leibman on 2001-06-27 08:49 ]

Also edited to fix some links-- Greg

[ This Message was edited by: Greg Stephens on 2001-06-27 10:18 ]
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2001 11:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As to that, see post #1. I think that sums it up fairly nicely. The point is that micropayments are not some sort of panacea. They have definite limitations and disadvantages and, I think, for many people they will be the wrong solution.

One wonders though how a small site where the artist is on that cusp between just getting started and going all in (i.e. not having a real (TM) job that pays the rent) would be able to support itself. On the one hand in order to really provide enough content of high enough quality to lure readers to pay for it the artist really almost needs to dedicate their effort to it full time, which may not leave much, if any, time or energy for the back-up job. At the same time they need to greatly expand their readership as well as their subscribership. Obviously the artist needs to have enough material up for free to allow the readership to grow. But on top of that they need yet more and better content to get subscribers. I'd estimate you'd need to rake in at least $1,000 a month (assuming a single artist) just to support the bare minimum (i.e. cheap hosting, crappy apartment, meals consisting of ramen and mac-and-cheese). That works out to 4,000 dedicated, subscribing fans at the $0.25 per month rate. What kind of fraction of all the "readers" could we reasonably assume would opt-in for the subscription? 80%? Half? Less? Let's hope it's high. Let's be insanely optimistic and assume 2/3. That works out to about 6,000 total readers needed. How many strips have 6,000 readers? Is this in any way a reasonable readership level for a new site to build up over a few months? Sounds somewhat questionable to me. And, of course, you still have the same old problem. The artist needs to put enough material out to allow their site to grow. But, they also need to keep enough material / quality locked away to maintain the subscription fraction at a level high enough to keep them stocked in bandwidth and ramen. I have no doubt that for beginner comics micropayments will provide a valuable source of income. Nevertheless, it will not eliminate the struggles and the need for additional income streams.


And yes, originally I got the name from Star Wars. Wedge Antilles kicks some major ass!


-- Wedge
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2001 11:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another quick point.

It is interesting to note that cheap bandwidth ("100 mbit fiber to the curb" or such-like) would do more to alleviate the ills of web comics, especially those just starting out, than micropayments ever could.

It is also interesting to note that we may get that before we get workable micropayments.
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Greg Stephens
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2001 6:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And the Penny-Arcade reply to Scott's reply (after Scott & Tycho's phone conversation) is here: http://www.penny-arcade.com/news.php3?date=2001-06-27

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Edit- I think that winds up this topic. I'm going to close it. Any further thoughts on Micropayments can be dropped in that thread

[ This Message was edited by: Greg Stephens on 2001-06-27 19:02 ]
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