The majority of people who have read my webcomics series, Odd Jobs, have not compensated me in any way. Many have, but quite a few websurfers dip in, enjoy my work and then flit off to their next fix – whatever that might be.
I mention this not to make anyone feel guilty (although if you are feeling guilty, please click here), but to point out the predominant philosophy still permeating the web is that “information wants to be free,” and therefore it’s useless to try and get people to pay for things.
The flaw in that, of course, is the title of this post: Information is not alive. It cannot want anything. When someone says information wants to be free what they’re really saying is that they don’t want the hassle of paying for something on the internet.
You know what? That’s fine. Anything I want someone to pay for I’ll either put behind a subscription wall or take it off the internet and make people pay for it. Meantime I’ll use the internet to connect to potential customers while understanding that the internet is just what is here now, that there will be other ways to deliver information in the future.
The reason I’m writing about this is because of the news from Diamond distributing that everyone in the comics industry is talking about. The changes mean small publishers of comic books (the monthly pamphlets) are going to have a far more difficult time getting comic book stores to know about their products and for those stores to order them.
But I’m not just thinking about that, but also about the challenge in making money from the internet. Kevin Drum talks about a study that showed how narrow people’s focus is becoming, where google and wikipedia are becoming dominate sources for people’s information. We’re seeing that with news, where big websites rule and it’s almost impossible to drag advertising revenue from those sites and onto local news sites.
Small comics publishers are the latest group that’s finding they need an internet strategy, at least until things change again.
What I described above is my strategy right now. Create the content and have it ready for that time of change, when the way for people like me to make money through digital delivery happens.
I think the Kindle is a step in that direction – something like that but able to handle technical manuals with diagrams, newspapers with photos, graphics and advertisements and – of course – comics. Stuff that people will pay for in the same way they pay for music now, in some kind of format that allows everyone to deliver their product to those devices. Like mp3 does for music.
Something will happen, but in the meantime if you want to make money, just remember: People on the internet want stuff to be free. So if you want to earn money from something, chances are putting it on the internet for free isn’t the way to do it.
And buy my book, dammit.