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Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

After one week, Jon Rosenberg declares Goats' Bitpass experiment a failure.


Except that BitPass actually had a negative effect on our other lines of merchandise. We sold less stuff and made less money, even though we had more traffic coming in to the site. Hell, when PA linked to us last June we had our best month ever. Despite a larger regular audience and a link from that same site we are on track to sell approximately 3/10 as much this month over the year before.

The Goats' Bitpass experiment consisted of offering two minicomics for a quarter each using the Bitpass micropayment system. The experiment was the result of challenge made by Scott Mccloud two years ago. The experiment began just as the war of words that has been going on following the release of the trailer for the Adventures into Digital Comics documentary was winding down.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

OH NO!

Quick! Run out and burn everything written by Scott McCloud! FOR HE HAS FAILED US!!!

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

Well yes William G that'd be one reaction :)

How about this as another reaction - as a compare and contrast let's see Scott McCloud do a real merchandize effort and see if he can see significant revenue potential from that? I mean does Scott even sell a t-shirt with his icon/face on it? Assuming he has the copyright to that I would think that alone would be a potentially well-selling piece of merchandise on his website. How many fans of Scott's work would buy that? There are a lot of people who have worked well with the Dumbrella and Goats folks on making merchandize and can handle most of the process for Scott.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

Xavier, that's actually a brilliant idea. It's what we need - experimental data so that this tiresome debate actually becomes reality-based. We need to prove our ideas with science!
I'm enough of a fan of Scott McCloud's work that I'd buy some Understanding/Reinventing Comics-related tat, and help, uhm, prove his enemies right.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

THESE ARE THE END TIMES!!

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

My own view watching all of this is that "more money = more good comics". At the end of the day I don't see much value in what method(s) "win" so much as something works.

It does strike me that McCloud could actually make some real money from merchandise - he's fairly well known, has lots of fans and I can already think of several iconic images from his work that would be very appealing, even beyond his hard core fanbase.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

pclips's picture

No, just Reinventing Comics. The great false prophecy of our time.

As a non-artist I'm willing to buy anything McCloud says about the art side of things. I enjoyed Understanding Comics. I enjoy the experimental stuff he does, when it can hold my short attention span.

But as a businessman, I've been calling bullshit on micropayments from shortly after the outset. It's not a model, it's a paradigm. It's one of those great "if only everybody did this" ideas that have too little bearing on the real world to merit the attention they're paid.

But hats off to Jon for doing this experiment, for tilting it as far in the favor of BitPass as he could, for providing real data points, and for his thoughtful commentary. Micropayments now belongs with flying cars and disposable paper pants in the History of the Future exhibit.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

I don't think asking McCloud to start selling junk through his website would prove anything. We already know that many people are willing to buy junk over the internet. Furthermore, I don't think the Goats guy's "experiment" proves anything except that the audience he's attracted with free comics is not willing to make the switch.

One misconception some people have is the notion that there is one uniform audience out there that has an evenly-distributed willingness to buy junk and/or pay for webcomics. In fact, there are different audiences with sharply contrasting values. Some audiences have an insatiable appetite for the most vacuous forms of cheap entertainment; more power to 'em. Other audiences seek out quality and are willing to pay for it. And there are a million variations in between.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

Except for that micro payments were just one small part of a book called "Reinventing Comics" and not "Scott McCloud's Guide To Making Money On The Web".

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

cayetano garza's picture

give me a break. jon puts his minicomics up for one week and already deems it a failure?! jesus. that's just stupid. it definitely won't make him rich, but i doubt anyone's made a fortune off bitpass anyway. i'd hardly call it a "failure", though.

year of the rat

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

cayetano garza's picture

hrm. last part of my ranty post got ommited, apparently.

i say leave it up for a year and see where it goes. a week of sales doesn't really prove anything. maybe he IS selling less than he did last year, but i mean... he might be at that point regardless of the bitpass thing, you know?

year of the rat

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

Rob, I agree there are paradigms at work here, the "free comics" paradigm, the "quality comics" paradigm, and perhaps some others. But why in particular do you believe that micropayments won't work? Are you talking just about comics, or about other consumer items?

I read an interesting writeup from a fellow who was arguing that the consumer effort involved in micropayments was inevitably too great to make them attractive. But personally, in using micropayments, I've encountered very little effort beyond the initial setup (which is about the equivalent of Paypal). I think the main problems with micropayments are that there aren't many comics that use them, and the comics behind the wall aren't always attractive enough to prompt the consumer to make the jump.

To that point, the "challenge" I'd like to lay before Scott McCloud is to finish The Right Number. It's a really great work, but it's incomplete nature makes it a less than sterling experiment in micropayments.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

Although the word paradigm entered our vocabulary as a sinonym of example, a more elaborate definition was given by Thomas Kuhn as a group of theories, experiments and abstractions with conformity between then that generate models, and those models guide the scientific developments of the solutions whose problems they first pointed.

If that is so, then using the words paradigm and failure in the same sentence is more plausible if by failure you're referring to the use of the paradigm and not the paradigm itself. I think that may be the case here.

To jump from a merchandising model to micropayments would require a change of mindset from the readers that I'm afraid would take just a wee little while longer than a week.

Micropay == Access to archives for really really cheap price

[url=http://scottmccloud.com/comics/icst/index.html]Here[/url] it's described as a method to gain access to the archives of a comic for $0.25.

There are three (basic) types of comic readers (for the sake of this discussion):
1) Those that will pay for nothing
2) Those that will pay for merchandise
3) Those that will pay for access to a comic strip.

Rosenberg obviously has a lot of 1 and 2, but not too much of 3. There are, however, comics out there that have access to 3 in larger quantities. Those would do well to consider BitPass, to see if they lower the price to their archives, if they'll get more customers.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

Cat, I'm disappointed at you. I would have thought that after last week's kerfluffle you would be championing good manners on the internet instead of going around calling people stupid. Especially since it doesn't seem like you've read the post at all.

I fully admit (in my post, incidentally) that other factors could potentially be causing our decrease in merchandise, but given the overall increase in traffic levels and the links from similar large websites that we got at the same time last year, I'm at a loss as to what those factors might be. $50 in income in a week is the single worst product premiere we've ever had. On that basis alone I'd call it a failure, and I don't need a year to know it.

Tell me, Cat, if the BitPass stuff is potentially hurting our established, extremely profitable revenue model, do you really think it would be smart to keep it up for another year? Should I sacrifice my income to satisfy your curiosity?

For what it is worth, we have made 20 times what we made from the entire week of BitPass sales in the last 24 hours after the experiment ended due to merchandise sales.

I have tried every business model known to the webcomics world. I have seen their performance first-hand, been open to any way to make our venture a success. Can you say the same? Have you done your homework? It seems that the only stupid people around here are the ones that hold tight to their beliefs despite having no evidence to the contrary.

Cat, I feel for you, really, I do. I know how difficult it can be to make a living at this sort of thing. I am not your enemy. I'm only doing this to try and help open some eyes.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

Junk is in the eye of the beholder I guess. I don't think the merchandise I specifically referred to is "junk". If Scott McCloud wants to spend more time making comics for the web like The Right Number the practical answer is to figure out how he can make the most revenue to support making those comics not to insist on doing it only one way (i.e. Bitpass). I think that's the discussion at hand whether you feel Jon Rosenberg's experience means anything beyond himself.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Re: Micropay == Access to archives for really really cheap price

There are, however, comics out there that have access to 3 [Those that will pay for access to a comic strip.] in larger quantities. Those would do well to consider BitPass, to see if they lower the price to their archives, if they'll get more customers.

I'd really be interested in seeing any examples that show BitPass is a good approach to webcomics as a business. Actually... I'd like to hear some numbers from a pay-for-content webcomic thats generating more than just Lemonade Stand money for the artist.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

Erik Melander's picture

"Should I sacrifice my income to satisfy your curiosity? "
Well, since this experiment is a result of a challenge between you and McCloud, I guess it is between the two (three) of you to determine if one week is enough to honour that challenge. I cant imagine that he would hold you to it if you felt that it would cost you money though, but I very much would like to have seen the experiment go on a bit longer, a month perhaps, since hard data on micropayment attempts are scarce and it would help clarify some of the speculations made by you and others on the impact of it on other sales.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

It seems that the only stupid people around here are the ones that hold tight to their beliefs despite having no evidence to the contrary.

Wow, upon reading this sentence again I realize it makes little to no sense. I must have been on something when I wrote it.

It should read:

It seems that the only stupid people around here are the ones that hold tight to their beliefs despite having no evidence to support them.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

GiantPanda, Scott has been offering his BitPass comics for a year or two now; I think he has the extended data you are looking for. I think he should release those numbers to the public so we can all discuss this from a rational, scientific perspective.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

If you had a massive readership like those guys have, wherein they can sell t-shirts and the like hand over fist-- then you'd call the experiment a failure too.

Micropayments ARE a lame idea. No one pays a dime for ANYTHING anymore. And cartoonists are selling themselves short even attempting to do so.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

So much for the sensitive hippy guy who doesn't like meanness on the web. Everyone wants to be a playah now.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

cayetano garza's picture

jon, i must have been on something when i wrote my ENTIRE POST. sorry to come off snippy-like. you've never been anything but nice to me in person and i have to admit i came off a bit rude. sorry about that.

mainly, it just seems like the whole thing is kinda silly to begin with because if you're already making money doing other things on your site why would adding a bitpass comic or two hurt your sales? that doesn't make any sense to me. it's like saying that your table at the con is doing really well until you decided to put some other merch on your table and ppl were so horrified that they decided to stop coming to the table to buy anything. the minute you take the stuff off the table, they're coming back in droves! does that analogy make any sense?

it seems like the only real purpose of your experiment was to help drive another nail in the "everyone else is right, scott mccloud is wrong... look at this, everybody" coffin. at least, that was my perception and that's why i came off the way i did. especially when you make a big post announcing that you're "going to do this and it's mccloud's idea" and a week later "it doesn't work, people!" implying that the charlatan mccloud is misleading folks and ruining cartoonists wellbeing with his misanthropic ideas.

making money on the internet seems to me like an "offer as many things as you can... somebody will want to buy something" kind of situation, but since i've been unable to mirror the success of all these self proclaimed entrepreneurs that are doing so well at comics on the internet, i guess i SHOULD do my homework instead of clinging ignorantly to ideas that aren't getting me anywhere...

year of the rat

Re: Micropay == Access to archives for really really cheap price

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

How do you come up with "3 types of comic readers"? I think that's open to debate (and in need of more facts).

I don't see any evidence that comics readers fall into 3 neat groups like that. In fact I take Rosenberg's point to be that a % of a readership will buy something. That could be 25 cents for a comic or a lot more for a t-shirt.

This debate btw is no different than that impacting other media industries like music, books, newpapers, etc - it's just warped by the much smaller size of comics and some of the dysfunctional practices of the current print market. Every media business model is struggling with coming up with sustainable business models for the long term.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Re: Micropay == Access to archives for really really cheap price

Joey Manley's picture

AmericanElf.com is getting close to $1000/month in net revenue, and now that the site is running on the webcomicsnation.com codebase, and James is collecting the money himself (as opposed to having the money come through me as a middleman), he gets to keep everything that PayPal doesn't keep. I'd say that's more than lemonade-stand money. But, you know, maybe there are some really popular lemonade stands out there. And American Elf isn't a micropayment site, it's a subscription site. And the free bandwidth and hosting James gets from me (in exchange for the webcomicsnation.com link on his homepage) makes this a unique situation. So, anyway, whatever. *yawn*

Joey
www.moderntales.com

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

Cat, don't sweat it. I address your questions in the post; I'll reproduce it below for convenience:

I have a theory that people buy things from webcomics because it is a way to more fully participate in the larger gestalt of the story and community. In our society, making a purchase is tantamount to having a cultural experience. This is why souvenirs exist. This is what the experience-based economy relies on. From what I have seen over the last 8 years of experimenting with these sorts of things, people do not generally worry about how much things cost as long as 1) it is under $20 (one 'Yuppie Food Stamp') and 2) it is reasonably priced compared to other similar objects that could be procured elsewhere.

The real hurdle is not the cost, but the difficulty in convincing you to initiate the transaction. This is one of the reasons why BitPass fails -- it does not usually lower the hurdle enough to overcome people's resistance to spending money. But when it does 'succeed', when people want to participate so badly that they are willing to fund an account with $3 to purchase $0.25 worth of product, it provides the user with a commercial experience at an extremely low price point. Instead of spending $18 on a t-shirt, they are spending a quarter. Not every BitPass user would have bought something from our store, but some of them would have, and it only would have taken 3 $18 t-shirts sold to surpass the earnings from one week of BitPass content.

If it's not clear, I'd be happy to explain it further to you in person at San Diego. It's possible I'm misguided, but I have no one else's data to draw conclusions from.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

pclips's picture

No, I said paradigm, and I meant paradigm.

These are the paradigms I see:

One is the established paradigm based on the technology of the printing press. Simple definition: Content is property and consumers must pay to access every bit of it or they are "stealing" it. How it works: Content is created by an individual or company, which owns the rights to copy it and sell the copies. Consumers of the content pay per copy.

Two is the paradigm of free content, based on the technology of the web. Simple definition: Content is free to all, but individuals who find special meaning in it are expected to support it, lest it vanish. How it works: Content is created by an individual or company, which owns BUT SELECTIVELY EXERCISES the right to copy it and makes most or all content available for free, even at a cost to them. The consumer of free information uses most free content without paying. However, the small percentage of content with the most personal value to them, they support.

Three is McCloud's paradigm, based on the technology of the web, using micropayments. Simple definition: Content is cheap but not free. To access it, consumers must pay a fee which is finanicially insignificant to them but meaningful to the creator in the aggregate. How it works: Content is created by an individual or company, which owns the rights to copy it but publishes exclusively on the web. Consumers of the content pay a fee equal to a tiny fraction of what they would pay for a physical print copy. All or nearly all of the content requires the fee, though sample content may be provided as an enticement.

Four is the subscription paradigm, based on the technology of the web, using subscriber fees. Simple definition: Access to content is sold to consumers in large amounts, by pooling the work of multiple creators. Cost is cheap relative to print, but consumers must pay. How it works: Access to high-value content from many owners is purchased for roughly the cost of one print copy. Owners share revenue with the editor/owner of the collective, who adds value through the process of selecting participants. Most subscription comics offer current pages or strips for free, but access to the archives is charged for.

Paradigm One was necessary when every copy you distributed cost a significant amount of investment. Any number of models have been successfully created within it, including all traditional comics, book publishing, the movie industry, the record industry, etc.

Paradigms Two, Three, and Four are all responses to the fact that publishing and distribution on the web costs only a tiny sliver of what it once did. Three, Four, and One all assume that the owner of the content can and should protect it as property.

Two stands alone, recognizing both the unfeasibility and the undesirability of restricting access to content. In Two, it is the brand that is being managed for its value, not the work. The only functional models that support webcomics creators in lieu of a full-time job, that I am aware of, are based in Paradigm Two. The strength of the brand is so great that consumers of the free content will volunteer monetary contributions. They will pay to access additional content. They will buy items of physical value, such as a T-Shirt identifying them with the brand.

And this is the most critical part. They will buy the exact same content they accessed for free in the form of a physical book. Why? 1) Because they know that the content in the book is worth owning before they buy it. 2) They can show or give the book to non-web consumers as a way of sharing the value they see in the content. 3) They know the book to be a physical, ownable, permanent object they can have for years, and read again even if the webcomic goes away. 4) The future of webcomics is bright, and early books may have collector item value.

Paradigms Three and Four could theoretically work with very high readership numbers, but that's precisely their problem. By making readers pay up front, they grossly limit the total potential readership. Most subscription and micropayment models sacrifice the future worth of their brand(s) by adopting a quid-pro-quo payment model. They ignore the fact that even Paradigm One models require brand management to succeed. Disney (*I spit on the ground*) spends how many hundreds of millions of dollars establishing, promoting, and protecting its brand? As a percentage of revenue, I would suggest it is a lot more than Modern Tales or Graphic Smash does.

I now firmly believe that only models based within Paradigm Two can succeed in providing a webcomic creator a living. Only by making nearly all of your content free can you build the size of fanbase you need to support a business. Most webcomics will not be able to reach that level anyway, but just about all of them will do better with free content models than with subscription or micropayment models.

I think that's the thrust of what the Penny Arcade guys are saying, and I agree with it. They could have been a lot less pissy about the way they said it, but that's a totally different subject. I'm just as tired as they are of McCloud being hailed for a fundamentally unworkable idea. The last thing this wrong idea needs is a movie to promote it.

Zabel, I read that Clay Shirky article too. But he only hit the point obliquely. It's not the consumer resistance to paying a nickel to see a page that kills the BitPass model. A fan of the work will pay that, and more. It's the resistance to paying a nickel to see the content in the first place which prevents the creation of enough fans to support the work. The work can't explode in popularity, and it languishes out on The Long Tail.

Finally, I didn't touch on the role of advertising, because it deserves a whole different rant. Suffice it to say, it more or less fits equally within all working models. This is why you have ads in newspapers and before movies, the same as there are ads on Sluggy and Ctrl+Alt+Del and in almost every other model that generates livable levels of revenue, even public broadcasting. (No company would contribute if they didn't get their "this program was made possible by a grant from Exxon" bug.)

Re: Micropay == Access to archives for really really cheap price

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

To be honest Joey I don't think 25 cents for a one-shot purchase is the same thing as a 1.95 (or so) continuing subscription price. And the way James promotes it is more of a "be one of my patrons" rather then pay per comics or anything.

Which is something to think about since it appears James is doing okay with it.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

A few interesting posts from the thread on the Goats forums:

One interestingly enough from Kurt Huang, the founder of Bitpass.

The other from a Super Premium subscriber to Goats noting that the comics for sale via Bitpass were already given to the SP subscribers. Jon Rosenberg responds later with why he thinks that is not relevant to his results.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

>>Other audiences seek out quality and are willing to pay for it. And there are a million variations in between.

I don't know of any successful micropayment system. I'm not just talking about comics, either. Any micropayment system.

Do any exist?

Re: Micropay == Access to archives for really really cheap price

Joey Manley's picture

Yes, even though they're often lumped together as "paymodel," subscriptions and micropayments are very different animals.

On the larger topics at hand -- Modern Tales' business model was designed to succeed under the conditions at play when we launched in March, 2002: bandwidth prices were at the highest level they've ever been, and advertising was in the toilet. We did succeed under those conditions, wildly. We avoided high bandwidth bills by locking down most of the material, and we avoided the advertising slump by not even having advertising in play at all on our sites. Those conditions no longer apply, and I'd be truly stupid to stick solely to the model single-mindedly without taking that into account. I'm not truly stupid.

Ideological fervor in the name of business models is silly, whether your fervor is in the "everything should always be free" side of things or the "people should pay for my work" side of things. We are not running *business models* here, we are running *businesses,* and should do whatever works, whenever it works. I happen to believe that some models work better for some comics, and others work better for others. I also happen to believe that the ideal situation is one where a number of business models can be put into play for any individual artist -- when one starts to flag (advertising, say), the other can grow (subscriptions, say) -- and the other way around.

But don't take this the wrong way. Modern Tales is Modern Tales. We'll never get rid of our core subscription product. But we are likely to bolt on some more free, advertising-supported series to the sites in the near future, now that it's easy to acquire paid advertising, and bandwidth prices are so low. I have to get the WCN launch out of the way before that happens, though. My thinking on the revenue model for our advertising-supported content is this: there will be two ad slots on the page. One ad-slot, which is site-wide, is mine, for which I keep all the money, and the other is series-specific, and is the artist's, for which he/she keeps all the money. And the ad-supported stuff wouldn't have to be exlusive to MT.

More details later. Someday.

But I haven't hashed all this out thoroughly yet. Like I said, I've got to get finished climbing the two-year-mountain that is the WCN launch.

Joey
www.moderntales.com

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

Erik Melander's picture

That would indeed be great, since Bitpass has been around for a while now it should be possible to make some early assessments if only the data was available. Of course, the more people who could supply data the better. The reason why the Goats experiment is so interesting is that its a large strip comic primarily relying on the merchandising/free comic bussiness model that tried it.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

pclips's picture

cayetano wrote:

>mainly, it just seems like the whole thing is kinda silly to begin with
>because if you're already making money doing other things on your site why
>would adding a bitpass comic or two hurt your sales?

I can answer that one.

The only business model proven to support a creator of web-only content (versions of it are currently supporting around a dozen) is essentially this:

"I give you everything for free, and if you like it, you 'support' me so I can continue."

Goats has built X number of fans loyal enough to give it their monetary support. Those fans are the lifeblood of the comic, financially.

If you say to those fans: "support" means buying a $15 t-shirt, they will. If you say: "support" means paying a few cents to see a bonus comic, they will.

But, having supported your comic by one means, they're going to feel like they've done their part. So you'd better define "support" as something that adds up to what you need to get by.

This is why PBS defines a "membership" level contribution. They know they have to ask for $40 a year, because if they asked for $20 a year, they'd get roughly the same contributions by number and half the revenue.

In other words, Jon is trading t-shirt sales for BitPass views, and it's costing him money. He's under no obligation to keep giving up revenue to prove the point further. As he pointed out, if it didn't work when absolutely every factor was skewed in BitPass' favor, it ain't gonna work any better 6 months from now.

And in any event, the experiment runs completely counter to the whole idea of micropayments. It was supposed to be "everyone pays to see every page, but the cost is so tiny that it doesn't matter to the consumer." That's the (I'm out of synonyms for "impractical") idea that's supposed to "reinvent" comics.

This experiment was no more than a novel way to pay for premium content on a free site, which Goats already offers by selling memberships (I am a member). If the experiment proved anything, it's that subscriptions/donations work better for selling extra web content than micropayments do, which was actually something I had wondered about. Question answered.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

cayetano garza's picture

i think micropayments are viable... eventually... but i don't think (and i don't think scott thinks...) it's the "end all, be all" solution, just the only one at present. maybe the mistake on scott's part came in touting it so vehemently in the first place. but it doesn't discredit him in the least bit. he, like all of us, is entitled to his opinion.

if apple/themusicindustry can make money selling songs for .99 a pop or whatever it is on itunes, then i think eventually cartoonists can sell comics that way, too.

maybe that's still considered pie in the sky, flying car talk, but maybe it's just ahead of its time.

year of the rat

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

cayetano garza's picture

i'm still unconvinced. seems like the same thing to me. donations, subscriptions, or tshirt/merch sales: you're still selling "product" to a "consumer". you can sugar coat it but it still comes down to making money, even if you want to pretend you're not under the auspices of "donations" and "merchandise sales" and "club memberships".

i don't see why a cartoonist can't have tshirt sales, donations, subscriptions, and any other wonky ass plush figure whatchamacalit to try and make his/her living at the same time.

my subscribers are "supporting" me just as much as someone buying someone's new tshirt. if i had the capital to invest in making tshirts and other ephemera, you can bet i'd have done it by now. but i don't. i have to rely on cafepress or other crappy outlets where there's no cost to me up front.

i want to point out here that i'm a poor example of any of the theories anyone's come up with about success/non-success on the web simply because i've never been stable financially or in my life to make any kind of real living at this in 10+ years. i've had a lot of upheavals emotionally and financially and comics just kinda rode along with me but i wasn't able to really put the time and effort into it to make it my #1 priority because things were crazy around me. now that i'm settled down, in a house, and with a kid on the way things are really coming to a point of "do or die". my wife and i are working as freelance designers to pay our bills, but some part of me still believes that if i put time into my comics and update regularly i'll be successful at this. i've tried several times before, but as they say "don't quit your day job" and more often than not i did anyway and things started to suffer and the comics started to stutter and finally flicker out.

sorry to ramble...

year of the rat

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

Business works that way. That's where the whole .95 or .99 comes into play.
People might know that 9.95 IS 10 dollars, but their immediate thought procoess goes, "That's less than 10 dollars! This is great, I can save money because it's so cheap!"

People who buy things highly prefer to know how much they're saving over how much they're spending. Bundled deals, discounts, etc. are all wonderful to the consumer's ear. It makes them think that they're the winner.

So when you throw something dirt cheap into play, people will immediately say "I can afford this!" And might look at the other products thinking "This is ridiculously high. Screw it. Someone else will get it if they wanted it so much."

That's why it's bad for artists to undersell their artwork. If a person will say stuff like "I'll take a dollar for this wonderful drawing I did!" or "I'll draw this wonderful drawing for you FOR FREE!" That consumer might go to another table (let's say this is at a con) and see another artist selling an original copy for $90 dollars and go "What is wrong with you?" The person who is selling their work for $1 is going to get the sell compared to the $90 one.

This, I think, applies to bitpass on goats. They're offering quality work for normal prices, and then go "Wait! But with a STINKING QUARTER you can get an ENTIRE BOOK!"
"Well! I was going to get a shirt, but I already have a shirt! But an ORIGINAL BOOK!? OKAY!!!" - consumer

And thus, business was hindered.

... But what do I know!

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

Joey Manley's picture

Or they might say, "Why should I waste a dollar on this crap artist who can't even charge good prices for his/her work -- that $90 artist over there must be really, really good."

This is a well-known consumer behavior. "That fifty cent taco must be made with rat-meat! I'll take the $2.95 taco, thanks anyway!" I think it even has a name in marketing circles, but I don't remember, and it's been a long time since college.

But this has little to nothing to do with the topic at hand.

Joey
www.moderntales.com

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

I don't have Ipod. How does it work?

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

I mean, "iTunes"

har

You know, this is a pretty lively bit of webcomics dogma getting tossed around for something that started out as an artistic face-saving effort from Penny Arcade Inc.

Now, if I could be directed to where I can buy this "Scott McCloud's Guide To Making Money On The Web" book some of you t-shirt salesmen have been talking about, I'd appreciate it.

Re: har

cayetano garza's picture

LMFAO

yeah, i thought i had copies of all his books, but apparently i missed one...

year of the rat

Re: har

Now, if I could be directed to where I can buy this "Scott McCloud's Guide To Making Money On The Web" book some of you t-shirt salesmen have been talking about, I'd appreciate it.

Maybe they're referring to these?

Coins of the Realm: Part 1

Coins of the Realm: Part 2

Scott's not a fortune-teller, and at the time he wrote this I thought Micropayments seemed like a good idea as well. They still could be a good idea, if for example PayPal was to begin offering that service.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

I disagree because my statement has happened and I've seen it happen.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

Other micropayment models could have failed for different reasons.

For one, why would people a quarter for an mp3 if they can just open their p2p clients of choice and get it for free.

I read what happened to Stephen Hawking was similar. He gave up on offering downloads of his book because people were sharing it instead of paying for each chapter.

One thought just crossed my mind, regarding this Scott McCloud merch talk:

"Dude, is that a nightie you wearing?"

"You're obviously not familiar with the concept of infinite canvas T-Shirts."

Re: har

Uncle Ghastly's picture

The problem is paypal's conservative agenda would make it even worse if they got involved since the like to act like editors for anyone who uses their system dictating what content they can and can't publish on their sites if they want to use the paypal service.

Re: har

To sum up:

"I think this can work eventually, and here's why..."

THE CHARLATAN!!! HE'S TRICKED US ALL!

Re: har

Will, we get it, OK? You don't like the way the Penny Arcade guys talked about Scott McCloud, his ideas and his supporters. You've made it very clear. Seriously. You don't need to make bitter little jabs at the issue up every single time someone starts a thread somewhere that discusses the validity of micropayments.

I'd like to think we can discuss the system's effectiveness without having to make some kind of comment on the overall career of Scott McCloud. I'd also like to think that we can critique the system without being insultingly labelled as mindless line-towing PA zombies.

It looks like Jon really strove to make his report on his "experiment" with bitpass as open and fair as he possibly could. That the participation results were not only bad but THAT bad is plenty interesting and I'm glad he shared it with us. But he hardly tried to twist the failure into some kind of McCloud-bashfest. There was absolutely no call for the insults and bitter comments that you've been slinging around on this thread.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

I think you mean Stephen HawKing.

Anyway, they might have failed for different reasons. Point taken. But if it's true, as Joe Zabel originally said, that Jon Rosenberg's experiment proved nothing because there are audiences that are willing to pay for good content, then shouldn't someone be able to point to an example?

I'm not trying to be pointed and glib - for all I know, there are examples. I'd like to know.

I do know of times where similar strategies have been proposed, but I don't know of any successful ones.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

Hawking, Schmiking. Serves me right for typing while the boss is not around.

To be honest, I haven't heard of success stories either. I was never too hot on the bitpass "paradigm". But I respect it for the alternative it proposes. Gabe and Tycho singled out Scott McCloud as a liar and charlatan, but wouldn't they be lying just as much if they said any comic can have the Penny Arcade success by following the same model they employ?

This is more of a question than a statement, mind you.

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

I better replace my question for:

"Would any comic creator be able to make a living with his comic by following the same model they employ?"

Re: Rosenberg Says Bitpass Experiment A Failure

Both happen.

If the goods are perceived as equivalent, of course people choose the cheaper.

However, price can influence perception for a class of goods the consumer is unfamiliar with.