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Grow Up?!

By - November 20, 2007

Indeed, grow up. But how? Why assume the only way to get paid is to charge directly? Why not assume a creator can be paid by inviting in companies who are willing to pay the freight so an audience or community can have the experience in the first place? And how can one claim that an honest marketer, who wants to underwrite an extraordinary voice, is somehow not helping to create the experience, a patron of sorts, by its economic support allowing a creator to connect with his or her audience?

It’s immature, indeed, to assume there is only one way to get a creator paid. I can’t agree more with what Jaron writes in this Times Op Ed: “We could design information systems so that people can pay for content — so that anyone has the chance of becoming a widely read author and yet can also be paid. Information could be universally accessible but on an affordable instead of an absolutely free basis.”

Darn right we can. And if I, or we, choose to make our content affordable by letting the right sponsors pay for it, sponsors who respect, value, and wish to support that content, how on earth is that model somehow presumably corrupt?

We’re not all the way there yet, and many mistakes remain to be made. But there is no one correct model. I’ve argued previously that we must take the friction out of paying directly for content. And there are really only a few players who can do that. Amazon is trying now with Kindle. But honestly, there are really only three players who have what you really need to make such a model happen. Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft. What do they have?

Come on, you know the answer…..search.

And even were Yahoo or Google to execute what I suggested back some 3300 or so posts ago, it will never obviate the idea of free content and communities sponsored by commercial interests. Why? Because we are all involved in commercial pursuits – it’s part of our culture. Having a conversation with those pursuits in ways that feed all parties, well, that’s what a (healthy) economy is all about.

Welcome to the conversation economy, Jaron!

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  • Alexander van Elsas

    Hi John, perfectly right on search. But honestly, current web 2.0 free (but ad-based) business models do not work (except for search!) as they enforce walled gardens and network value monetization (think Facebook or similar services here)instead of focus on user value. I would prefer a user value business model. Always works best in the end. That is why the search business model works so well. And that is alw why people like Jason are now complaining about not being paid of their content. I said it before, every generation needs a new revolution:
    http://vanelsas.wordpress.com/2007/11/09/every-generation-needs-a-new-revolution/

  • JG

    And if I, or we, choose to make our content affordable by letting the right sponsors pay for it, sponsors who respect, value, and wish to support that content, how on earth is that model somehow presumably corrupt?

    What you are proposing is not new. It was Renaissance Europe’s model for ensuring that new artist works would continue to be created. Rich patrons, typically nobility, would fund artists completely, to free them from having to deal with the business end of things and be able to concentrate fully on their art.

    And the system did work. Artists from Michaelangelo to Beethoven were all patron-funded, “sponsor” funded. And no one can disagree that the art produced under this patronage was anything short of amazing.

    At the same time, Michaelangelo was reported to have said “One cannot live under pressure from patrons, let alone paint.” If I remember my history correctly, I think Michaelangelo felt, throughout his life, an unhappiness with having to produce works of art that pleased his patrons, rather than pleased himself. And we’re kidding ourselves if we don’t think that the desires of sponsors and the desires of artists are sometimes at odds with each other.

    So I don’t know if you want to call a patronage (sponsorship) system “corrupt” or not. But it definitely exerts a pressure on the art that gets produced. We as a society get what we pay for, I guess.

  • JG

    One more thing: As great as the works of art produced under patronage were in Renaissance Europe, there is also something to be said for breaking free of that model.

    Someone again correct me if I remember my history wrong, but during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), weren’t a large number of Czech nobility (Czech art patrons) killed? If I remember correctly, the result of this is that there were a large number of artists, formerly employed by their patrons, members of their patrons’ courts, that were set free, both financially and artistically. On the finance side, money was no longer guaranteed, so many ended up quite poor, living in the Novy Svet district of Prague. However, on the artistic side, they were also free to create art that was not subject to their sponsors’ tastes and desires.

    It is, I believe, where we get the word “bohemian”, as these were the original poor, starving, yet artistically free, Bohemian (western Czech Republic = Bohemia) artists.

    So there is something to be said for breaking free of the sponsorship model, too. Yes, as John says above, there is not just one way to get a creator paid. But more and more, especially with the success of models like AdSense, it seems like everything in the Web sphere is slipping back into the patronage model. And losing the freshness and interestingness of more bohemian artistic vision.

  • http://market-survey.info nmw

    It is not necessary to buy one-size-fits-all solutions. If the patron stinks, then leave. I see no reason why wine connoisseurs have to be grouped together with soccer fans — or why either of these need to be always connected to a community of real estate agents. Why do people act as if there are only a handful of communities that “rule” in each & every case? Nonsense!

    The only case where supply and demand (for information) cannot meet online is when there is absolutely no demand or absolutely no supply. In the “next worst” case scenario, the creator of content is responsible for both supply and demand.

    In all other cases, market participants will be able to seek each other out quite simply — as in the case of the expectant mother who might type in “pregnancy.com” (and as in the case of J&J by “providing” information that is deemed relevant to that community [i.e., on that "information exchange"] — presumably this content is provided [or "exchanged"] in order to build a valuable relationship [i.e. of value to both participants in the transaction]).

    So although I would agree that there is a certain “equilibrium” which such information markets gravitate towards, I would disagree that mixing up apples and orange county might lead to effective (let alone efficient) results.

  • Brian Hayashi

    I love search.

    But I think the real answer is a different ‘S’…syndication. There are so many platforms and so many content models, I believe that the successful authors will be the ones that successfully navigate the jigsaw puzzle of media properties and platforms, using “free” to create buzz on one platform, goes on a book tour and provides signed copies (thinking of retail as its own platform), “sponsorship” on yet another, and sells the collection (plus their own, private annotations) on a DVD or somesuch.

    Friction is unavoidable, but by reducing friction in a channel, it disproportionately increases that channel’s ability to bear commerce. This has always been the case. When stores only accepted cash, most people could only buy as much as they had the cash on hand to spend. The advent of checking accounts was a godsend, as it allowed the common person, for the first time, to make larger purchases.

    “Search” is wonderful, and I’ve made a career of it for two decades now, but at the end of the day our healthy economy is going to be based on authors’ ability to bear risk, and how systems evolve that assist in that process.

    Happy Holidays!!