Monday, September 30, 2013

Getting Paid

Sorry if I beat on this drum once again, but why are so many talented people still spending so little time thinking about how they're actually going to get paid for their content?  There are yet even fewer conventional wisdom answers, than just a few short years ago (you should be reading Ted Hope to get up to speed, if you aren't already). And even some of the newer revenue models, say YouTube, have been shown to do I say it politely.....heavily in the interest of YouTube and less in your longterm interests (this article is essential reading if you're thinking about building a channel on YouTube).

I have a foot in the more technology oriented content world, app development, interactive content, transmedia, call it what you will.  I can do some iOS coding,  am actually pretty good at UX design, and have published my own content, as well as helped others with their projects.  I'm also currently developing an interactive project which incorporates live video.  I spend a lot of time thinking about the quickly changing economics of the app economy.  One thing which has changed very quickly, in the world of apps, is how content creators get paid.  Pay for an app up front?  Fuggedaboutit.  It's the kiss of death for your content.  No one wants to pay for apps in a marketplace where there are a million plus apps.  Even heavy-hitters like Marco Arment (co-founded Tumblr, founded Instapaper) publicly state that trying to get people to pay for content up-front is a losing proposition.

We're 45% of the way to our Kickstarter goal for materials

Currently in the iTunes App Store, between 60-70% of all app income is from in-app purchases.  In a few short years, developers have gone from making millions from $.99 apps to having to come up with a completely new way of thinking about generating revenue.  Yes, there are still a few blockbusters from established brands but they are far and few, most developers are lucky to get a couple hundred downloads......starting to notice a pattern?

I find many traditional media makers are still in the "if you build it, he will come" mode (albeit with some Kickstarter, community building twists).   Really hardworking, creative folks generating lots of content on no-budgets and hoping to get traction somehow.  Ironically, the very act of generating a lot of no-budget content undermines the very system of which they're hoping to become part.  So, if in the relatively new world of apps, where even quality $.99 content can't find its way, why are more traditional media makers still thinking that they can get paid up front?  This slow-motion implosion has been happening since even before the iPhone existed, it's not like we haven't had time to think about it.  Facebook likes are vapor, celebrities are high-jacking Kickstarter, where is it all headed? 

I need to find an analysis of the conventional wisdom of money-making in the new music industry which I recently read.  It did an effective job of tearing apart the fiction that streaming, touring, selling merchandise and CD's off of a table, and building community with home concerts was making it easier for indie musicians to make a sustainable living.  In the end, what we're seeing is a even more highly stratified music industry with the Lady Gaga's, et al. making a lot of cash and the musical "middle class" disappearing.  Should filmmakers be running down all of these paths without really thinking about this previous experience?  I do know people who have bootstrapped their films by touring around the world for a year, or more, with them.  Really good films. But how many people realistically can do this?  How much is your content really worth, per minute, in the streaming content world?  I can't pretend to have answers, but let's take a moment, stand back, and reassess the questions we need to be asking.

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