'Monetizing' 'content'


(Andy Wootton) #1

I spend quite a lot of time creating ‘content’ for the web and getting nothing in return except words. Whilst I value those words highly, they aren’t accepted at the Co-Op in payment for bread.

I understand that there are people who earn a living from this. How do they do it? I can think of selling advertising space on web sites and franchising content to media channels. Am I missing something?


(Daniel Hollands) #2

I’m sure there are people far better to aid you here than I, and I would like to state that I’ve never successfully used any of these methods to make any real money, but depending on how much traffic you get to your site, you could sign up for something like AdSense or Trade Doubler (who @Twisted used to work for) and let them display ads on your site.


(Matt Machell) #3

I’ve made money from selling words over the web. Not necessarily from words on the web…

Years ago, I used to write tutorials for Dreamweaver sites (yes, it was that long ago). People would rather pay $2 for a tutorial they knew was good than spend time looking for something not quite right. You pitched the paid content at just about how much a person might value an hour or sos lost income from Googling. I used to make about $100 for the writing then royalties, if I remember rightly. Haven’t done this in years though, so not sure if the model still holds.

Lots of places sell eBooks in one form or another. If your content is well thought of, you can make money selling ebooks at $10-20 a pop. I do this currently for my RPG writing over at RPGNow. There’s similar things with Amazon, Apple, Lulu and others. I know several people who make a side income from this, but it isn’t quit your job levels.

The hip kids are all creating Kickstarters, of course. To fund their content creation and give you unique bonus doohickies too. This can work well for eBooks, comics, real books etc. I’ve seen it work for website content. They thrive on the “I have a special relationship with the content creator” vibe.

The even hipper kids are using Patreon, which is micro-patronage. You promise to pay some small amount whenever a creator makes something cool. You get early access to that cool stuff, maybe some special bonuses. It’s basically a more distilled and ongoing take on what Kickstarter do. I back my friend Epidiah’s Swords & Sorcery zine, and several others. Its transparent though, so you can see how much my friend gets every time he delivers an issue. Browse around and you can get a feel for different people’s success with it on different content.

So yeah, there’s a few ways to make money from content (I mostly know words, I hear PledgeMusic is good for music etc).


(Andy Wootton) #4

Thanks. I’ve tried following the ‘book model’ but I’ve lost faith that what I’ve been thinking about is really a book or, if it is, that I can finish it quickly. I tried Leanpub.com which would work for a tech manual, where incomplete information is worth having but I realised that incremental delivery of an incomplete narrative is ‘kind of annoying’ and shows lack of respect to your potential readers. I also discovered some of the books I like took 10 years to write.


(Steve Jalim) #5

One doesn’t have to ship incremental releases on Leanpub, despite the ‘lean publishing’ vibe. I wrote my book in its entirety (in Markdown), then edited, then published it on Leanpub.


(Andy Wootton) #6

Yes, but I was doing it with the intention of generating an income while writing. I quickly realised it didn’t feel right.

It was also an experiment in agility and that worked because I failed quickly and thought of a different product that I think would work.


(Andy Wootton) #7

I’m not very happy with Leanpub.com today. I wanted to try creating a new book on a git service instead of Dropbox so I logged on to make the book.

They now charge $99 to create a book, before you earn ‘a dime’. The gig economy has gone pay-to-play.

I thought they were the good guys but I’m left wondering if J.K. Rowling could have afforded to publish her first book.


(Steve Jalim) #8

I thought Peter did a good job of explaining the shift - https://leanpub.com/pricing


(Andy Wootton) #9

Everything he said was true before when it was free. I wanted to create a book to give away to kids at code clubs. It would now cost me $99 to do that. I’ve put quite a bit of time into learning their sub-optimal workflow becausue I wanted to support their business model.

I’m a bit fed up with companies that pretend to believe in free culture until they get a big enough slice of a market to start setting their own rules.


(Daniel Hollands) #10

Although I’ve not spent any real time looking at them, alternatives do exist. GitBook springs to mind.


(Steve Jalim) #11

I think that’s a bit unfair. The Leanpub team have to make a sustainable business or, no matter all the well-intentioned support from users, that business could well fail and disappear:

From the page I referenced above:

Since we’re bootstrapped, work on the startup is fueled by revenue from either the startup itself or from us doing consulting work for clients. So, the timing of revenue matters.

For Leanpub, a successful book will earn a lot of money over its lifetime in our storefront. Almost all of this revenue is for its author(s), as it should be. But some of it (about 8%) is for us as well. However, we can only spend our portion of that revenue once we actually have earned it, and much of this is deferred for months or years.

By charging money when a book is created, we can spend that money on development or marketing as soon as its 45-day refund period elapses. This means we get our first $99 of revenue from a book months, or years, sooner than we do today. (Currently we don’t earn $99 from a book until it has been published and earned about $1200 in sales.)


(Richard Cunningham) #12

What they’ve done sounds perfectly reasonable to me. The alternatives would be to go VC funded, then eventually pivot/shutdown or to lock you into their platform and disable direct distribution options.


(Andy Wootton) #13

Their problem is that they built a tool-chain service which they said was free to use and have failed to capitalise on that favour, as a publishing platform. People are bad. Their business model was clearly wrong. I would happily have built my own tool chain but I compromised by using theirs to save myself some work. I didn’t need the service they have now decided to charge me for.

I have used their tools, for an easy life, with the intention of publishing on their platform and have been punished for believing in them. The Lean model didn’t even work for me because I discovered the emergent structure of my (main) book was too complex to deliver incrementally in a way that would provide a worthwhile reading experience. They built a platform ideal for partly-finished technical documentation and if it was any good and would sell at scale, it got published elsewhere.

Now, they sell access to tools, probably constructed mostly from Free software. I’m not feeling fair. I’m feeling unfaired at.


(Stuart Langridge) #14

As with all these things, https://blog.pinboard.in/2011/12/don_t_be_a_free_user/ is what I think’s the most relevant read here. (And your book is grandfathered in.)


(Steve Jalim) #15

This, from the post, hits the nail on the head, I think.

I love free software and could not have built my site without it. But free web services are not like free software. If your free software project suddenly gets popular, you gain resources: testers, developers and people willing to pitch in. If your free website takes off, you lose resources.


(Andy Wootton) #16

@Sil You may remember that I’ve been aware of the flaw in the FOSS model since the beginning, when we met back in Wolves LUG and you still believed in Free. I used to say I cared about Openness, not Freedom. Communism is a necessary requirement of the GNU model being sustainable, if it grew beyond hobbyists. I think RMS knew that. So far, all it has done is wreck software capitalism but they’re fighting back now with monopoly services.

I’ve mentioned 2 books. One is my main ‘occupation’, concerned with information metaphysics and the other is about software as magic and is intended for children. In my head they are developed under 3 different economic models (4 if you include Mrs. Woo’s, where I become a best-selling author and she can retire.) My main book is funded by a form of social capital. I supported Mrs. Woo to do an MSc, twice, so she owed me and now earns more because of the ‘investment’ I made. ‘The (very little) Wizard Book’ is something I wanted to give back to ‘the community’ for all the nice software it shared with me, and to improve the lot of humanity because I think the Information Revolution is real. I will mention that in my main book. You should buy it, if it ever comes out.

The non-magical artifacts of my efforts will go on sale to the highest bidder, in the conventional publishing market, if it still exists by then because free culture is in a mess and doesn’t pay people. If no-one wants it, I’ve learned a lot and will be better at my ‘proper job’, whatever that means. I may have to write my own tools which is one of the reasons I’m learning a Lisp. I will make clear at the time whether I’m selling, renting or giving away any software I write. Has anyone ever bought anything written in Lisp? :slight_smile:


(Richard Cunningham) #17

FOSS does, for the most part, still work, mostly because the users contribute back to it.

What doesn’t work in the long term is free SASS, especially if your product is for a niche area (such as publishing). Paying for SASS site like Pinboard allow small companies like that to exist, the alternative is only companies with big pockets do it and they end up like Google Reader (shutdown). A startup is the search for repeatable business model, so almost by definition they can’t be sure the original pricing structure will be sustainable. Free SASS products prevent ones with a sustainable business model from being built (Pinboard grew as delicious started to disappear).

Communism has nothing to with the GNU and open source, communism is about centralised control where you get told what you can do and there is no competition. Free software competes with non-free and indeed with other free software (Gnome/KDE, Firefox/Chrome/Webkit, PHP/Ruby/Python etc.).


(Andy Wootton) #18

Pick either one, so I know whether to argue ! :smiley:

“communism is about centralised control where you get told what you can do and there is no competition.”

That is the point of the GPL and the reason for the creation of the term ‘Open Source’ by people who wanted to make money by selling software. RMS regards giving in to their fight to establish the LGPL as the biggest mistake of his life. It allowed Free software to be exploited by those he sees as Free Software’s natural enemies. His plan was that ‘the collective’ would build a software commons in the shared ownership of The Community while the commercial companies competed with each other inefficiently, by not sharing their work. It’s the ‘nationalise the railways’ argument.

RMS thinks the ownership and sale of software is Evil and says so, sometimes using Marxist terminology, though I think he’s really more of an idealistic anarchist. The GPL was designed to use market forces to drive the cost of software “down to the cost of production” but I think he only thought about duplication really because he only ever wanted a Lisp machine. We were all supposed to write software for fun or have our labour funded by a job in a university or charity.

His political and environmental writing is very ‘interesting’. His ‘too big to fail’ solution might work but Trump seems unlikely to implement it.


(Richard Cunningham) #19

Free software is still fundamentally capitalist, it’s just an alternate business model. Many companies already give some things away and charge for other things. With the free software, it’s the software that’s free and something else is charge for like support.

No law has been changed that prevents competition or prevents proprietary software from being built. Microsoft Office still makes them loads of money despite LibreOffice existing, the same for Photoshop, MS Exchange, Oracle and million others. Some people choose open source solutions, some do not.


(Andy Wootton) #20

Free Software appears to me to systemically wipe out the chance to make a fortune from a good idea. It moves software to a model where only your skilled labour can be sold. Musician’s are ahead of us in the experiment. The people who still want to make a good living need marketing skills behind them more than ability. Talented musicians play to small discerning audiences.

Google know: “Psst, wanna buy a Chromebook and run only the software I tell you to?” Like Stalin but with better PR :smiley: