To start off with, I’d like to let you know that this is essentially a continuation of the Micropayment discussion from the Workshop Mailbag posted last week. I’ve also recently posted on my comic’s site that I am pushing a large amount of my content off of the free site area and I’m working on developing a micropayment option – although I don’t want to consider it a “micropayment”.
I’ll explain, but first I’d like to point out that I believe that just because micropayments haven’t worked in the past, doesn’t mean they won’t work in the future. It’s a little bit of “before it could be done, it couldn’t be done“. I don’t subscribe to the theory that if the big guys don’t do it – it must not be worth it. Kickstarter has been around for a while and recently it’s been on fire with the comics community. That means for a while the big guys weren’t using it – and it still worked fine without their participation.
It goes without saying – these views are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the other Webcomic Alliance members or contributors.
Sometimes technology outpaces our needs. For instance, if Apple introduced the iPad in 1995, it might not have been as successful. For most people, it would be just too big a leap considering not many people had their lives integrated into the Internet or were familiar with the usability of the iOS.
As I mentioned in the last article, consumer perception on “paying for content” is changing. It’s not their fault we can’t get them to pay for comics. It’s our fault we haven’t found a solution to make it easy for them to buy our comics. Let me change that. It’s our fault we haven’t made it mind-numbingly easy to buy our comics. Do you know what you could buy in a supermarket or convenience store for a dollar? People drop a dollar on candy at the checkout stand. Why? For starters, it’s an impulse purchase, but it’s also easy to grab it and drop it in with whatever else your buying. It’s thoughtless, painless and easy – and specifically placed there for that purpose.
It’s our fault we haven’t found a solution to make it easy for them to buy our comics. Let me change that. It’s our fault we haven’t made it mind-numbingly easy to buy our comics.
That’s the main reason I have high hopes for Apple’s NewsStand. It looks to do everything that would allow consumers that thoughtless, painless and easy means to buy comics.
Aside from what I’ve already mentioned, I think another problem with micropayments is the stigma associated with the term. The micropayment model I’m working on for my website will be donation driven. It’s basically another term for micropayment, but I’d rather people feel like they are contributing by donating than just paying for another product.
So that leads me to another issue where we may do poor job justifying micropayments. It’s not enough just to slap a PayPal donation button on the site. I feel that by being honest and giving your audience the opportunity to contribute, they can take a vested interest in your comic succeeding and buy in emotionally. But…additionally, your readers are investing in you and you need to be careful not to lay it on too thick or take advantage of their generosity. That specifically is targeted at artists who rely on the “if I can’t get financial support, I can’t afford to keep the comic going“. While that may be an unfortunate, true and an honest statement – most people don’t want to feel like they have to support you.
And there’s more.
It’s up to us to paint a vividly clear picture. We shouldn’t rely on the readers to simply connect the dots because we’ve gone ahead and set them up. Everyone’s perception is unique and they experience things differently. So overall, I think it’s also about perceived value – if you can effectively create the perception that your readers are getting real value for your content – I believe people will be likely to pay for comics.
Of course the caveat being that we create a thoughtless, painless and easy way to do it.
Ken Drab (me) has a small brain but a savant-like interest in branding, marketing and design. He better, that’s what he gets paid to do in real life. In make believe – he’s a Comic Artist.