This is exactly what so many people are afraid of with subscriptions. Let’s pause for a moment and look at some other examples of where people thought Apple’s App Store was going to be some sort of godawful den of iniquity (granted, with the initial onslaught of fart apps, that was a distinct possibility).
We’ve got this example about the 99 cent apps that people are so afraid of. Articulate and accurate, if I don’t say so, myself.
Then there’s some of this fear-mongering that hit the interwebs right after the opening of the app store.
Can we see a pattern here? Everyone panicked when apps were selling for $0.99, and now the dollar apps are the way to financial independence. Develop an amazing app, sell it for a dollar to a million people, and you’re set for the next few years. Sell it to five million, and you can buy a house. Subscriptions don’t need to be expensive, folks.
What will start to happen is a dramatic shift in how people actually start to read, how they get their media. The current model is, well, free. RSS dominated for a while, and Twitter started stealing some of RSS’ thunder. Some folks (like me) still like RSS, but I recognize that it’s not the only way of getting news out there. There’s a whole wide world of content that is waiting to be discovered and digested, and people who (up until now) had no way of feeling comfortable breaking into that world can suddenly have access to it in a very easily accessible manner.
Here’s the clincher. Ready?
Publishers are upset by their sudden restrictions. Just last month it was OK for all these subscription-based or -focused publishers to make all sorts of money off of their customers. There were no transportation fees, no raw material fees, none of that. Just what they paid their developers and writers, but they were already doing that. They had a low-overhead way of distributing their product to lots of people. There were, however, two problems with this model a) the previous subscription process was cumbersome at best and user-hostile, at worst; b) very few publications actually had subscriptions, and people were confused by them (Go to the site? Register? What happens when I’m on my iPad? Do I have to go through Safari?). Again, not optimal. Furthermore, there were (and are) lots of people who want to get paid for what they write, and carving out a place for oneself in the world of publishing demands a not-insignificant amount of research, hard work, and do-overs. The world of writing is a tough one to make it in, mostly because the signal-to-noise ratio is getting lower every day (as I wrote about in this post), and publishers want to make sure they’re paying for quality.
What if, however, it were easy to publish, build a subscriber base, and make a name for yourself? What if there was a system in place that exposed your work to millions of people who are already invested in a thriving digital ecosystem? People who are used to and demand curated, well-researched news sources? Perhaps people with a little more green in their wallets? Or perhaps people who are moving up in the world?
This model is not for the established and entrenched giants of publishing, who will attempt to nickel and dime their subscribers and who are too anachronistic to develop truly compelling and groundbreaking digital publications. This model is for the new media, for the folks who want to reach as many subscribers as they can with their good ideas; for the new media consumers, the folks who want those same good ideas but don’t want to load their minds down with ads about “weird belly fat tips” and think that maybe a dollar is a good price to pay for a month’s worth of strong-voiced columns. This is throwing open the gates to the publishing world and finally making it accessible to all the guys and gals with the good ideas but not enough time to eat or sleep and for SURE not look for an agent.
This is what disruption looks like.
so i read a couple things recently from cory doctorow. it sounds like he’s whining about a really great product that everyone likes just to whine about it. here are some of the choice bits.
“I was a comic-book kid, and I’m a comic-book grownup…”
“I can’t even count how many times I’ve gone spelunking in the used comic-bins at a great and musty store to find back issues that I’d missed, or sample new titles on the cheap.”
this means nothing to me. i was never a “comic-book kid” and have no intention to be. this app means that i can get comic books now, which is something i may never have done in the past. instead of being alone with just a handful of people, now you have the ability to connect with people who may have never gotten into comic books to begin with. this is important. your world has just gotten potentially way larger. if you still want to collect the physical manifestations of your childhood memories, do that. apple or marvel or whoever you’re whining about hasn’t taken that away from you. they’ve given other people something to do as well.
“And as a copyright holder and creator, I don’t want a single, Wal-Mart-like channel that controls access to my audience and dictates what is and is not acceptable material for me to create.”
it’s called THE INTERNET. look it up. it’s open, free, and you can make whatever you’d like for it. the funny thing is, you experience this same sort of lockdown every single day when you buy your groceries, purchase shoes, or even go online to shop for your iPad alternatives. apple has created a marketplace for products, and they get to pick what’s sold there.
let’s say you owned a store, cory. maybe a grocery store, maybe a shoe store. maybe it’s a website that sells computer accessories. now let’s say, cory, that i go to that store (real or virtual) and i want to buy some human organs. what’s that, cory? you don’t sell human organs at your store? WHAT?! this is an OUTRAGE. i cannot believe that you would open a store and then choose what gets sold there. you must be some kind of egomaniac dictator. fine then, i’m going to take my business ELSEWHERE.
and i can.
i can go through shady, black market channels and get me a whole box of spleens if i wanted.
the iPad, iPhone, etc. are no different. there is a store, and it sells things. if i want other things that the store doesn’t sell, there’s a market for that, too. i simply have to put a little more work into finding it.
just like you and your comics. i want to buy a comic and have it delivered to my hand. you want to go out and find a comic. more power to you.