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Making the "Free" Business Model Work In a Tough Economy

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the learning-from-the-dot-com-days dept.

Businesses 188

Randy Savage writes "With venture capital on hold and advertising revenue down, the WSJ discusses where online business models might go. 'Over the past decade, we have built a country-sized economy online where the default price is zero — nothing, nada, zip. Digital goods — from music and video to Wikipedia — can be produced and distributed at virtually no marginal cost, and so, by the laws of economics, price has gone the same way, to $0.00. For the Google Generation, the Internet is the land of the free. '"

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yeah sure! (0, Offtopic)

Adolf Hitroll (562418) | more than 5 years ago | (#26694779)

"want fries with that?"
esr

Your official guide to the Jigaboo presidency (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26694827)

Congratulations on your purchase of a brand new nigger! If handled properly, your apeman will give years of valuable, if reluctant, service.

INSTALLING YOUR NIGGER.
You should install your nigger differently according to whether you have purchased the field or house model. Field niggers work best in a serial configuration, i.e. chained together. Chain your nigger to another nigger immediately after unpacking it, and don't even think about taking that chain off, ever. Many niggers start singing as soon as you put a chain on them. This habit can usually be thrashed out of them if nipped in the bud. House niggers work best as standalone units, but should be hobbled or hamstrung to prevent attempts at escape. At this stage, your nigger can also be given a name. Most owners use the same names over and over, since niggers become confused by too much data. Rufus, Rastus, Remus, Toby, Carslisle, Carlton, Hey-You!-Yes-you!, Yeller, Blackstar, and Sambo are all effective names for your new buck nigger. If your nigger is a ho, it should be called Latrelle, L'Tanya, or Jemima. Some owners call their nigger hoes Latrine for a joke. Pearl, Blossom, and Ivory are also righteous names for nigger hoes. These names go straight over your nigger's head, by the way.

CONFIGURING YOUR NIGGER
Owing to a design error, your nigger comes equipped with a tongue and vocal chords. Most niggers can master only a few basic human phrases with this apparatus - "muh dick" being the most popular. However, others make barking, yelping, yapping noises and appear to be in some pain, so you should probably call a vet and have him remove your nigger's tongue. Once de-tongued your nigger will be a lot happier - at least, you won't hear it complaining anywhere near as much. Niggers have nothing interesting to say, anyway. Many owners also castrate their niggers for health reasons (yours, mine, and that of women, not the nigger's). This is strongly recommended, and frankly, it's a mystery why this is not done on the boat

HOUSING YOUR NIGGER.
Your nigger can be accommodated in cages with stout iron bars. Make sure, however, that the bars are wide enough to push pieces of nigger food through. The rule of thumb is, four niggers per square yard of cage. So a fifteen foot by thirty foot nigger cage can accommodate two hundred niggers. You can site a nigger cage anywhere, even on soft ground. Don't worry about your nigger fashioning makeshift shovels out of odd pieces of wood and digging an escape tunnel under the bars of the cage. Niggers never invented the shovel before and they're not about to now. In any case, your nigger is certainly too lazy to attempt escape. As long as the free food holds out, your nigger is living better than it did in Africa, so it will stay put. Buck niggers and hoe niggers can be safely accommodated in the same cage, as bucks never attempt sex with black hoes.

FEEDING YOUR NIGGER.
Your Nigger likes fried chicken, corn bread, and watermelon. You should therefore give it none of these things because its lazy ass almost certainly doesn't deserve it. Instead, feed it on porridge with salt, and creek water. Your nigger will supplement its diet with whatever it finds in the fields, other niggers, etc. Experienced nigger owners sometimes push watermelon slices through the bars of the nigger cage at the end of the day as a treat, but only if all niggers have worked well and nothing has been stolen that day. Mike of the Old Ranch Plantation reports that this last one is a killer, since all niggers steal something almost every single day of their lives. He reports he doesn't have to spend much on free watermelon for his niggers as a result. You should never allow your nigger meal breaks while at work, since if it stops work for more than ten minutes it will need to be retrained. You would be surprised how long it takes to teach a nigger to pick cotton. You really would. Coffee beans? Don't ask. You have no idea.

MAKING YOUR NIGGER WORK.
Niggers are very, very averse to work of any kind. The nigger's most prominent anatomical feature, after all, its oversized buttocks, which have evolved to make it more comfortable for your nigger to sit around all day doing nothing for its entire life. Niggers are often good runners, too, to enable them to sprint quickly in the opposite direction if they see work heading their way. The solution to this is to *dupe* your nigger into working. After installation, encourage it towards the cotton field with blows of a wooden club, fence post, baseball bat, etc., and then tell it that all that cotton belongs to a white man, who won't be back until tomorrow. Your nigger will then frantically compete with the other field niggers to steal as much of that cotton as it can before the white man returns. At the end of the day, return your nigger to its cage and laugh at its stupidity, then repeat the same trick every day indefinitely. Your nigger comes equipped with the standard nigger IQ of 75 and a memory to match, so it will forget this trick overnight. Niggers can start work at around 5am. You should then return to bed and come back at around 10am. Your niggers can then work through until around 10pm or whenever the light fades.

ENTERTAINING YOUR NIGGER.
Your nigger enjoys play, like most animals, so you should play with it regularly. A happy smiling nigger works best. Games niggers enjoy include: 1) A good thrashing: every few days, take your nigger's pants down, hang it up by its heels, and have some of your other niggers thrash it with a club or whip. Your nigger will signal its intense enjoyment by shrieking and sobbing. 2) Lynch the nigger: niggers are cheap and there are millions more where yours came from. So every now and then, push the boat out a bit and lynch a nigger.

Lynchings are best done with a rope over the branch of a tree, and niggers just love to be lynched. It makes them feel special. Make your other niggers watch. They'll be so grateful, they'll work harder for a day or two (and then you can lynch another one). 3) Nigger dragging: Tie your nigger by one wrist to the tow bar on the back of suitable vehicle, then drive away at approximately 50mph. Your nigger's shrieks of enjoyment will be heard for miles. It will shriek until it falls apart. To prolong the fun for the nigger, do *NOT* drag him by his feet, as his head comes off too soon. This is painless for the nigger, but spoils the fun. Always wear a seatbelt and never exceed the speed limit. 4) Playing on the PNL: a variation on (2), except you can lynch your nigger out in the fields, thus saving work time. Niggers enjoy this game best if the PNL is operated by a man in a tall white hood. 5) Hunt the nigger: a variation of Hunt the Slipper, but played outdoors, with Dobermans. WARNING: do not let your Dobermans bite a nigger, as they are highly toxic.

DISPOSAL OF DEAD NIGGERS.
Niggers die on average at around 40, which some might say is 40 years too late, but there you go. Most people prefer their niggers dead, in fact. When yours dies, report the license number of the car that did the drive-by shooting of your nigger. The police will collect the nigger and dispose of it for you.

COMMON PROBLEMS WITH NIGGERS - MY NIGGER IS VERY AGGRESIVE
Have it put down, for god's sake. Who needs an uppity nigger? What are we, short of niggers or something?

MY NIGGER KEEPS RAPING WHITE WOMEN
They all do this. Shorten your nigger's chain so it can't reach any white women, and arm heavily any white women who might go near it.

WILL MY NIGGER ATTACK ME?
Not unless it outnumbers you 20 to 1, and even then, it's not likely. If niggers successfully overthrew their owners, they'd have to sort out their own food. This is probably why nigger uprisings were nonexistent (until some fool gave them rights).

MY NIGGER BITCHES ABOUT ITS "RIGHTS" AND "RACISM".
Yeah, well, it would. Tell it to shut the fuck up.

MY NIGGER'S HIDE IS A FUNNY COLOR. - WHAT IS THE CORRECT SHADE FOR A NIGGER?
A nigger's skin is actually more or less transparent. That brown color you can see is the shit your nigger is full of. This is why some models of nigger are sold as "The Shitskin".

MY NIGGER ACTS LIKE A NIGGER, BUT IS WHITE.
What you have there is a "wigger". Rough crowd. WOW!

IS THAT LIKE AN ALBINO? ARE THEY RARE?
They're as common as dog shit and about as valuable. In fact, one of them was President between 1992 and 2000. Put your wigger in a cage with a few hundred genuine niggers and you'll soon find it stops acting like a nigger. However, leave it in the cage and let the niggers dispose of it. The best thing for any wigger is a dose of TNB.

MY NIGGER SMELLS REALLY BAD
And you were expecting what?

SHOULD I STORE MY DEAD NIGGER?
When you came in here, did you see a sign that said "Dead nigger storage"? .That's because there ain't no goddamn sign.

glad I took you teh first psot... (0, Offtopic)

Adolf Hitroll (562418) | more than 5 years ago | (#26694867)

BU [goatse.cz] GGER!

Volume (5, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#26694875)

The business model is very simple: Give the product away and make it up in volume!

Joking aside, there has never been a better time for free products. As the strength of McDonalds and Walmart demonstrates, consumers are looking for the cheapest prices to help reduce their costs. Even consumers who are financially okay at the moment are reducing costs to prepare for any eventuality.

If you look at the market, you see a lot of giveaways that used to be unthinkable. McDonalds is doing "free latte mondays" to draw business away from Starbucks while Denny's is giving away a free Grand Slam breakfast [dennys.com] to each visitor tomorrow in an attempt to push coupon books out to customers. (Thus encouraging them to think about the large and inexpensive breakfast they can get there.)

The key is that these businesses have solid revenue models that their giveaways promote. Web-based businesses are in a slightly tighter pickel. With advertising budgets getting slashed across the board, ad-supported websites are feeling the same pinch as print and broadcast media. Now is the time to find alternative revenue streams such as premium content to back their free services. Things like selling larger downloadable versions of free web games or state tax filings [taxact.com] to go with free Federal filings.

These are potentially sustainable models in the Internet age. They preserve the free service concept and allow consumers to evaluate the product(s). Customers then have a difficult time not paying for Premium features or content with real value. The "real value" is the key, of course. Which is something the internet has been missing with its premium features. (Video Game DLC is particularly bad in this area.)

Re:Volume (2, Interesting)

A. B3ttik (1344591) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695373)

It's articles like this that make me want to go out and start signing up for "Premium" accounts. I don't mind pulling my own weight if I use something often enough, and it would make me feel like I'm doing my part to thwart the encroaching apocalypse.

But now here's a question: where the hell is an average net user like me going to even use a "Premium" account? I can't even think of one that I'd use for free, much less want to pay for. Like most college students, I use forums and Facebook and Google and Wikipedia and Amazon. Like most gamers, I use Steam almost exclusively. None of my forums require or even offer paid membership, nor does Facebook. Steam's services are free, Slashdot is free, Wikipedia is free.

Just about the only thing I can think of is signing up for a Premium Fileplanet account... but I download so little content these days (and I'm not a pirate _at all_) that I -know- it wouldn't be worth it. I'd barely use it.

I guess I'm just going to shrug my shoulders and make a donation to Wikipedia.

Re:Volume (4, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695477)

None of my forums require or even offer paid membership, nor does Facebook. Steam's services are free, Slashdot is free, Wikipedia is free.

I think you're missing the point. I can't speak to Facebook, but Steam makes their money off of the games hosted. When you purchase a game through Steam, you indirectly support it. Slashdot has a subscription service if you're interested. The key advantage is being able to see stories before they go live. (Which lets you compose your thoughts and post them in a well-formed manner before the comments are open.) Wikipedia is not a for-profit organization. You can make a donation if you like as that is the only way to support their services.

Re:Volume (2, Interesting)

MooUK (905450) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696551)

I believe what he was saying is that he'd be perfectly happy to pay extra for a premium account, but none of those relevant to him actually offer anything that matters to him. Personally, I mostly *read* slashdot, not comment on it, so a paid account is worthless to me. A lot of places offer ad-removal as a paid benefit - but ABP and appropriate filter lists make that irrelevant for free.

There is a difference between being willing to pay for something that gives you something for the money, and being willing to give money without receiving anything in return. I'm not saying it's necessarily a good difference, but it's still a difference.

Re:Volume (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26696933)

Anonymous coward?

Re:Volume (2, Interesting)

gnick (1211984) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695505)

I can't even think of one that I'd use for free, much less want to pay for. Like most college students, I use forums and Facebook and Google and Wikipedia and Amazon.

Amazon's premium service [amazon.com] , although expensive ($70/year IIRC), is wonderfully addictive. It eliminates the $25 minimum for free shipping and upgrades you to "free" 2-day shipping. If nothing else, it's worth signing up for their free (1-month) trial if you ever run into something you need quickly and are too cheap to upgrade your shipping option.

Also, they allow you to invite (I think) up to 4 "household members" to share your membership. I do not know how they define "household member", but they haven't objected so far to me sharing a membership with my dad.

Just my $.02 - Donating to Wikipedia still seems more useful.

Re:Volume (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695577)

I think the 'household member' works by letting other Amazon accounts use your Prime shipping as long as the delivery address is your home address. I don't think they can ship to other addresses like the Prime account holder can.

Re:Volume (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26696097)

I don't think they can ship to other addresses like the Prime account holder can.

I can personally testify that that's not the case (other addresses = allowed). Not sure if that violates the TOS or not.

Re:Volume (1)

DeskLazer (699263) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696205)

the only sad part is that it doesn't apply to EVERYTHING. weight restriction items [say, a drumkit for example?] do not qualify for the 2nd day free shipping IIRC. my one co-worker has it and I was thinking about getting him to get it for me with free shipping, then we found that out. it's nice for other items though I guess.

Re:Volume (5, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695567)

If you look at the market, you see a lot of giveaways that used to be unthinkable. McDonalds is doing "free latte mondays" to draw business away from Starbucks while Denny's is giving away a free Grand Slam breakfast [dennys.com] to each visitor tomorrow in an attempt to push coupon books out to customers. (Thus encouraging them to think about the large and inexpensive breakfast they can get there.)

The key is that these businesses have solid revenue models that their giveaways promote. Web-based businesses are in a slightly tighter pickel. With advertising budgets getting slashed across the board, ad-supported websites are feeling the same pinch as print and broadcast media. Now is the time to find alternative revenue streams such as premium content to back their free services. Things like selling larger downloadable versions of free web games or state tax filings [taxact.com] to go with free Federal filings.

I think there's a difference between McDonalds giving away free hamburgers and Wikipedia. The summary makes a good point "an be produced and distributed at virtually no marginal cost, and so, by the laws of economics, price has gone the same way, to $0.00." but misses the totality of it. What the net does is remove intermediaries, the middle-men. If I write a book the cost of production is my own time, plus my editor's time. If I want to make $50k a year off of that, I need to sell some ungodly millions of dollars worth of that book because I'm paying for printing, warehousing, distribution, space on bookshelves, not to mention all of the inflated salaries and bonuses sucked up by the bloatworms in this whole process.

I'll move far less copies selling direct but I don't have to sell as many to earn a living. Will it be a tough gig? Hell, yeah, but it wasn't exactly easy to be a professional musician or writer back in the 60's, either.

I think what will really help move digital product is a greater feeling of connection with the creators. I wouldn't see the need to give any more money to the rapper running around with multi-million dollar contract, assuming I liked rap, but I'd want to support the little guy who's just starting out, I want to see more work from him.

The patronage model seems too altruistic to work in the real world but we're seeing signs that it really is possible.

Re:Volume (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696255)

I've always seen Wikipedia as the internet's equivalent to NPR.

Re:Volume (5, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696341)

The key is VOLUME and DIVERSITY.

I self publish several DVD's and Coffee Table books. My books and DVD's sell very slowly, each book or DVD sells maybe 1 copy a month. But I have 4 DVD's and 8 books out there. so I am shipping 12 items a month all the time. as I add in the next 2 DVD's that I have finished and the next book I will sell 15 items a month all the time month after month.

Unlike Traditional marketing and distribution I get about $20.00 per DVD sold and $10.00 per book sold. When I used to sell through a publisher I got $1.00 to $2.00 per book or DVD sold.

I can sell 10X less and make the same money. Plus I dont have to spend Thousands to woo publishers to carry my product, I can tell the publishers to suck it and do it myself. My profits are 10X from when I had a formal publisher and agent. I control costs, I control every aspect about my product and I reap the profits.

Do I sit in my villa drinking martinis all day? no. I order supplies, support the website and webstore, and place book and DVD replication orders. I "WORK" 1 hour a day doing that. The rest of the time I do my day job and then do my photography and Videography. I made enough money off it to upgrade my cameras and other gear yearly plus each year the profits increase as I add 2 DVD's and 2 Books to the pile of items that sell every month without fail.

New DVD's get a surge of 200 sales initially, and they taper off to the 1 a month unless I get a mention in a trade magazine, then they spike again.

I had an article about one of my products in Creative COW a year ago and my sales spiked hard, same as when I get a mention off a popular blog or podcast.

If I marketed myself and my product better , sales would be far more brisk.

Re:Volume (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 5 years ago | (#26697175)

Just to play the other side, the point of traditional marketing and distribution is the promise to surpass that 'break even point' in volume. If they reduce your take by 10x, then they need to produce more than 10x in increased sales for the same effort on your part. If they can't do that, then you're wasting money, and should renegotiate the contract. The intangible 'effort' part of the equation is tricky though.

Re:Volume (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26697533)

You must have a second job. I can't think of anyone that could survive on $160/month, unless they're collecting welfare.

If that's the case, then I calmly ask you to get off yer arse and get a job instead of having us pay for you to make stuff that only 12 people a year want.

Re:Volume (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26697651)

He explicitly mentions his day job, you fucking idiot.

Re:Volume (2, Insightful)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695741)

Even the RIAA is getting into the act by reducing the amount of their claims.

Nobody rides for free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26695937)

Nothing is truly "free". An office using Teh Lunix still requires support staff, same thing with something like Open Office. Likewise, both require user retraining, which is such a huge expense as to be prohibitive.

Also, how can Wikipedia be claimed as "free" when they JUST had a huge fundraiser?

I guess the "free" has moved on to become "Free as in Leeching".

Re:Volume (4, Interesting)

iamthelaw (784705) | more than 5 years ago | (#26697111)

A friend pointed out to me once that one way to think of this whole thing, to make it make a little more sense, is to put the business model on its side.

A company like Google, for example -- most people would say that you and I, as searchers, are Google's customers. Instead, let's say that Google's "customers" are the advertisers, and their "product" is users (or, more concretely, the users' attention). By delivering "products" to "customers", they make money.

So a site that makes no money -- an early-stage dot-com that doesn't advertise yet, what are they doing? They're building up a warehouse of product, in the hope that once they have enough products, they can sell them to customers at a good price.

Probably have to subscribe to slashdot after all. (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26694883)

Let's face it, at some point, Cmdr Taco is going to find that magic combination of additional powers and price that gets us all to subscribe, and all that free will evaporate. I mean, if Slashdot had Karma coupons that we could all trade, we'd all be suckered in.

Re:Probably have to subscribe to slashdot after al (2, Interesting)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695039)

A good place to start would be for Slashdot to charge for a plaintext(or ODF?) version of a user's comment history, on a per-download basis.

Maybe they could adjust the price of them according to per K of M of data. I would gladly pay 3 bucks a hit to use that feature.

Re:Probably have to subscribe to slashdot after al (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26695067)

Not me, I don't care about Karma.

Posting anonymously to protect my Karma.

Re:Probably have to subscribe to slashdot after al (3, Funny)

0racle (667029) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695659)

if Slashdot had Karma coupons that we could all trade, we'd all be suckered in.

You can't sell that! Karma can only be portioned out by the cosmos. -Homer

Re:Probably have to subscribe to slashdot after al (1)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696945)

I knew I shouldn't have posted in this thread! I knew it! I knew I'd want to use a mod point!

Re:Probably have to subscribe to slashdot after al (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26697051)

You must be thinking of the Catholic Church.

Fix that (4, Insightful)

FriendlyLurker (50431) | more than 5 years ago | (#26694913)

from TFA:
> It's a consumer's paradise: The Web has become the biggest store in history...

Telecom companies implementing tiered service models, destroying Net Neutrality will fix that temporary glitch. While they are at it, lets hand-out to them some public bail out tax^H^H^H printed money for the privilege.

The point? (5, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26694917)

There is no "free" business model.

There are forms of benefit that don't come from giving objects in exchange for money.

Re:The point? (1, Interesting)

Oktober Sunset (838224) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695847)

Except slavery of course. Oh, Abraham, why did you have to spoil it? :P

micropayments (5, Interesting)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 5 years ago | (#26694927)

This is exactly why the net needs a viable model for micropayments. And yes, I know, the abundance fan's response is that "money is obsolete, we don't need it any more"... People still want SOMETHING for their work, and while there have been all sorts of proposals, ranging from whuffie to all sorts of other trust metrics, micropayments would work just as well and would allow a tie-in to the remains of the real world economy.

Re:micropayments (4, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695179)

The short story on micropayments: The first one that tries to use it, dies. Why is wikipedia beating the crap out of britannica? Because if you want a general link you can post to that everyone can use, it must be an open site. How often does slashdot link to paid subscription articles? Never. I rememer there were a few NYT articles in the past that required free subscription, and it was always plenty bitching. I'm not sure what is or was competing with YouTube but the premise is simple, if you want to share a video you post it there and everyone can see. The result is that anyone that tries have their google rankings go to hell and toil away in obscurity. This will not work unless there's a really, really broad coalition that makes sure that the vast majority of the Internet population has a micropayment account. I put the odds of that happening at slightly below me winning the lottery three times in a row.

Re:micropayments (2, Insightful)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695543)

Yes, and no. The determining factor is really the ease of adoption. Make it dead simple for someone to turn a quarter sitting in their pocket into 250 tenth-cent micropayments, and a single click for a payment to be made, and people will use it.

Re:micropayments (2, Insightful)

DustCollector (903185) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696903)

With micropayments, won't people feel nickeled and dimed (or fractions thereof)?

I wouldn't want to pay fractions of a penny to read a blog post. But if the writer is any good and authors a book, I might buy the book. In the case of Joel Spolsky, I did exactly that.

Similarly, I wouldn't want to pay fractions of a penny each time I used a web app. But I have purchased shareware / donationware.

Re:micropayments (3, Interesting)

YourExperiment (1081089) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695787)

You're rather stating the obvious there. Of course the only way micropayments can work is if someone invents a micropayment account system good enough that people adopt it.

Quite why nobody has done so is a mystery to me. It's hardly rocket science. It just takes a system exactly like PayPal (preferably not run by a bunch of assholes), except that every payment is charged at a set percentage, with no ridiculously large minimum fee or per-transaction fee. That way, it enables providers to charge the tiny sums of money which are necessary for consumers to embrace such a scheme (hence micropayment, see?)

I can't see anyone objecting to paying a cent to see their favourite web comic, and I can't see many web comic authors objecting to getting (say) an income of $100 a day from their 10,000 regular readers.

Since this whole idea was proposed years ago by someone a lot smarter than me, can anyone explain to me why it hasn't happened?

Re:micropayments (3, Interesting)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695925)

I can't see anyone objecting to paying a cent to see their favourite web comic, and I can't see many web comic authors objecting to getting (say) an income of $100 a day from their 10,000 regular readers.

Since this whole idea was proposed years ago by someone a lot smarter than me, can anyone explain to me why it hasn't happened?

A cent for Penny Arcade? No, I wouldn't care. However, that is one site among countless ones that I visit every day. I have tons of sites that I visit like clockwork each day, and tons more that I visit on a whim (it's called web surfing for a reason). Start to add all that up and those pennies turn into real money.

And besides that fact: the simple fact of the matter is that if you make it so that there's a meter to run up, people will do less of something. The Internet has been driven to the point where it is because people, much like TV, can log in and goof off for as long as they feel like with no financial consequences to answer to. The internet in this country NEVER took off until AOL and the like pulled the plug on charging per hour of access and went to an "unlimited" model (which effectively was unlimited when everyone was on dial up.

Put the meter back in and people will start to care about what sites they visit, as it will be running up a bill again. Am I going to jump onto google and just look for something interesting for the hell of it? Nah. Times are tough and I don't need to be wasting anymore money right now. Fewer people looking for stuff, means fewer people finding stuff, which means the slow segregation and stagnation of the Internet.

How well do you think MySpace would have fared if they charged you a penny for adding a friend for example? Note, not how would they fare RIGHT NOW, but when the site first launched, how would it have done? My bets is it would have about as much relevance at this point as Flooz if it had.

Re:micropayments (2, Insightful)

YourExperiment (1081089) | more than 5 years ago | (#26697299)

How well do you think MySpace would have fared if they charged you a penny for adding a friend for example?

Interesting example. I think they would have fared rather well. Currently, random strangers add you as a friend you all the time, and it's typical to have friends numbering in the hundreds or thousands. This is both annoying and pointless, and it's part of the reason for the mass migration from MySpace to 'proper' social networking sites like Facebook. Charging for the privilege might have slowed this phenomenon somewhat!

I take your wider point, however. It's a difficult thing to get right. On the one hand, I'd hate for the whole internet to become a pay zone, like many companies seemed to be aiming for in the bad old days. On the other hand, I think it'd be wonderful if small, independent artists, musicians and authors had a way of accepting small payments for their work.

I'm biased here of course, being both a musician and an indie game designer myself. I rarely make any money out of what I do, and I have no desire to be signed to a major label or publishing house in order to do so. I wouldn't want to drive people away from my music by insisting they pay a ridiculous fee to listen. But I'd love it if there was a way to ask for just a few pennies in exchange for what I do, such that if enough people liked it I could think about devoting more time to doing what I love.

Re:micropayments (3, Informative)

digitalgiblet (530309) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696143)

The model that has evolved for webcomics typically balances on the following legs:

1) Ads (Adsense, Project Wonderful, etc.)
2) Books, T-Shirts, buttons, stickers, etc.
3) Comics Conventions (to boost sales of said merch)
4) Original art
*
*
Profit!

There are over 10,000 webcomics that simply don't make any money and a few that make a respectable living for the artist.

The key here is that the artist is also an entrepreneur and not above selling trinkets. He (or she) only needs to cover his (or her) cost of living.

I have a webcomic that is a few months old and have been researching and studying these models. I am in the 10,000+ group and would like to move into the other, smaller group some day.

I won't post a link here because a) people will call me bad names for self-promotion, b) it is designed for children, not the Slashdot demographic and c) my servers don't need that kind of a workout.

Just for the record I would very much like to get $100/day, but have far less than 10,000 readers.

The usual metric is 1,000 True Fans (based on a blog you can google... not mine, but again, I don't want to melt anybody's servers). If you can get a 1,000 true fans to buy $100 worth of stuff a year, you can pretty much quit your day job and still cover luxuries like health care insurance...

Re:micropayments (3, Funny)

luker0 (1033322) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696641)

b) it is designed for children, not the Slashdot demographic

You don't read slashdot much do you then :)

Re:micropayments (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696349)

But micro payments may work as a form of "micro patronage" (which I think is the wave of the future).

It worked for Penny-Arcade during burst 1.0, so I expect it is somewhat viable.

Since artistic content is essentially free to redistribute, and readily available via P2P, any purchase at all is a form of patronage (yeah yeah, we like an album ect, but what I really here most often is "support the artist".

If I could pay a site I liked $.50 and they got $.48 cents of it, we are on our way. Currently the $.50 gets the site something like $.30, makes it a far less viable option.

There are probably plenty of sites in that range, though it isn't totally scalable (I doubt enough from users of Google could be done for example).

Re:micropayments (1)

pileated (53605) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695605)

I happen to think you're right. This is particularly true if you focus on the producers of a product rather than the consumers. My particular perspective on this is newspapers which are slowly going out of business, for a number of reasons but one of which is that they're giving away their expensive content for free online. But newspapers are not alone. There are many good businesses that are going out of business due to free online replacements. I think most people knew that this party could not last (see Peggy Noonan in Saturday's WSJ on the GoldmansachsHead Disease, where the party never ends). I don't care what the hype says, nothing is free, including the internet.

But micropayments, at least in theory, offer a compromise: payment for the producer and low price for the consumer.

Re:micropayments (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 5 years ago | (#26697075)

"My particular perspective on this is newspapers which are slowly going out of business, for a number of reasons but one of which is that they're giving away their expensive content for free online."

Newspapers just don't get this new-fangled 'Internet' thing; the majority give away the things people buy them for -- access to the latest news stories -- for free, but then charge for access to old stories, which means that they rapidly cut themselves off from the rest of the Internet, as no-one can link to those old stories without expecting people who follow that link to pay for them.

If they had any sense, they'd charge for new stories (or ensure they gained enough advertising revenue from readers to cover their costs), and leave the archives open to access.

Re:micropayments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26696391)

Yes, people want something for their work, but money is just a medium of exchange. I work, my boss gives me a universal coupon in the form of money that I can take anywhere and exchange for goods.

We can do it without the coupons if we can control our impulse to hoard.

Earth to businesses (4, Interesting)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#26694949)

Yes, free can beat not free. Can't argue with that.

You have to realise, however, that sometimes it's not the fact that it's free, it's the fact that's it's available at all.

Pirates don't care about international borders, different launch dates for different countries, how old the content is, etc, etc.

If you want to sell your content, don't build artificial borders that prevents us from buying it.

As an example: how long has the iTunes store been running? Why can't the labels tear sell their content to everyone on the planet? It's your own mess of contracts and licenses, figure it out for yourselves and leave us out of it.

Re:Earth to businesses (0, Redundant)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695343)

"Pirates don't care about international borders, different launch dates for different countries, how old the content is, etc, etc."

It's precisely because they -do- care about that that creates the problem with piracy.

I know people outside the US that pirate for 2 main reasons:

1) Their country's version costs more than double what it would cost for me to buy it and ship it to them as a gift

2) Their country's version comes out 3-12 months after the US version

I think that was probably the point you were trying to make, but that isn't what you wrote.

As for why it still happens: Every country has different laws. That means different lawyers and different approval processes. In addition, as the EU stuff usually hits the entire EU at once, all those countries have to wait on the slowest one, while the US and JP releases don't have to wait on any other country. So they come out first in the easy locations, and the EU waits on their slowest members.

Re:Earth to businesses (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696539)

Do not forget that every country has its own regulations. What is permitted in a movie in the US can often be utterly forbidden in Japan or France.

Just try showing a US-made movie about the skinhead movement in Germany. Just try.

Airline movies are probably the most heavily edited because they need to be able to be shown in nearly every market. So they have to comply with all of the restrictions in all locations all at once.

Failure to adhere to all of the necessary regulations gets you tossed out of most countries and your imports seized at the border.

Re:Earth to businesses (1)

skerit (1182237) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695857)

Exactly! We don't want any of that "this content is not available in your region" crap. Delayed distribution used to be a geographical obstacle, now that we have finally found a way to get rid of it they're doing their best to implement it.

Wait (5, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#26694969)

Didn't I hear this once before, when the dotcom era ended and all the "free" businesses had to start making money? Realisticly all the "techy" parts like servers and bandwidth should keep getting cheaper, so that helps. And in a hostile market, marketing goes first as it's an "expense", then you lose your customers, then the marketing budget comes back. When else are you going to fight for your customers than when they're scarce? The alledged death of ad revenue is heavily overhyped.

Re:Wait (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26695059)

And in a hostile market, marketing goes first as it's an "expense"

I disagree. Marketing leads to sales. You can have the best product in the world, but if no one knows about it, you're not making money.

And as we all know, good marketing can even lead to people buying CRAPPY products.

Re:Wait (2, Informative)

hobbit (5915) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695827)

Did you even read the rest of the sentence you quoted?

Re:Wait (1)

damaki (997243) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696085)

Some marketing leads to sales. The remainder leads to bigger prices because it is expensive to market a product.

Re:Wait (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696233)

Well, that certainly explains the success of the ipod in comparison to other personal media players.

Re:Wait (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696587)

I disagree. Marketing leads to sales.

Raw materials, salaries, energy and rent also lead to sales. That doesn't mean they aren't expenses.

Re:"Let's Kill Marketing" (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 5 years ago | (#26697165)

Look up the history of Moxie. (Wikipedia doesn't go into enough detail). They tried killing marketing and killed sales.

Free reduces infrastructure costs (4, Insightful)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695003)

The real appeal of free software is in reducing infrastructure costs. Just like roads, they don't normally generate money themselves, but they make it easier for businesses to interact and generate wealth!

free? (4, Insightful)

thermian (1267986) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695033)

So, all those datacentres buying hardware and using electricity, are they free too?

Sooner or later there is a cost, and free services have one big problem for long term survivability, where's the profit?

A great free service may be fun, might even be useful, but sooner or later down the chain someone needs to be paid.

Or are all web developers working for no pay these days?

Re:free? (5, Insightful)

ternarybit (1363339) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695283)

not free, just zero obligatory cost to user. Google isn't truly free because you get AdSense on the right of every search, which are paid for by advertisers. Wikipedia is free but gets millions in donations from many sources.

Nothing of use is truly free to produce, (see parent) but since the cost of disseminating digital services divides to almost nothing per client, only a few of those customers need to support the provider to keep everyone in "free" service.

When I can try a fully-functional product/service before investing a dime, I am much more likely to pay/donate than if I am required to pay even nominal cost upfront. That is why I've spent much more on FOSS in the last 10 years than I have commercial software.

Re: Zero Obligatory Cost ... Music!! (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 5 years ago | (#26697191)

"We declare we shall download whatever we like, and upon our whims, buy a CD or some iTunes tracks now and then - if we feel like it".

Re:free? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26697667)

couldn't agree with you more. Like when I get my stock picks from http://www.yourmovestocks.com I am paying them and my service provider and people are paying for me to be getting these stock picks because the site wants more revenue. It's really a viscous cycle. Ask, google, yahoo all do the same type of stuff. We only see what the highest bidder wants us to see. And its funny how google hides its algorithm for top pages. I'm sure it has nothing to do with which pages will bring them in the most money. Or does it?

Re:free? (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 5 years ago | (#26697167)

So, all those datacentres buying hardware and using electricity, are they free too?

Sooner or later there is a cost, and free services have one big problem for long term survivability, where's the profit?

A great free service may be fun, might even be useful, but sooner or later down the chain someone needs to be paid.

Or are all web developers working for no pay these days?

You hit the nail on the head. Unless the fixed costs are covered, and there are also marginal costs (Bandwidth, power,etc.) that must be paid as well so if it really prices at zero ultimately no one will produce those products because the will lose money.

Of course, what really happens is the costs are shifted to their cash sources - Google gets ads, FOSS gets donated time and money, etc. That's not a new idea - TV and Radio did that for years - and still does it to a lesser extent with the growth of pay premium services.

eporducts

What a crazy idea! (2, Funny)

kjart (941720) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695093)

FTA:

So Web startups are having to do the unthinkable: come up with a business model that brings in real money while they're still young.

Re:What a crazy idea! (1)

3.5 stripes (578410) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695289)

I thought that sort of thing went away with the venture capital?

Re:What a crazy idea! (2, Insightful)

Firehed (942385) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695859)

VCs want a revenue model before you start. That has never changed. That quote is merely suggesting that if you've got a damn good idea, you'll need to figure out a good way to monetize it before you bankrupt yourself. It said "young", not "in the womb".

Re:What a crazy idea! (1)

I cant believe its n (1103137) | more than 5 years ago | (#26697593)

Insightful (and funny) talk by David Heinemeier Hansson [37signals.com] entitled "The secret to making money online".

Fuck Wall Street (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26695187)

There is more to interaction between individuals in society other than exchanging sheets of paper with numbers on them. If the people who pull the strings print out more numbers for themselves than the rest of the nation, then the system eventually collapses, much like any other corrupt enterprise. That's what's happening now.

Be prepared to learn how to trade your talents and goods with people without exchanging bits of paper. The dollar could soon be as hard to get as it is worthless. Seriously.

Bullshit (3, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695229)

can be produced and distributed at virtually no marginal cost

Debian Linux would have cost at least $1.9B [clemsonlinux.org] to produce in a private environment. $1.9B may be smaller than what Microsoft spends on Windows, but it is a hell of a lot more money than "marginal cost."

Let's also not forget the fact that there are few, if any, desktop OSS apps that are as robust as, say, the Adobe suite of products or Microsoft Office.

It does OSS no service by giving people the impression that it is cheap and easy to produce. In fact, that is downright self-destructive because such an impression will make people behave even more like cheapskates. "What do you mean I should buy a supported license? I don't need to help pay for no stinkin R&D!! This stuff is supposed to be free? Why am I paying you anyway?!"

Re:Bullshit (4, Insightful)

SSpade (549608) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695535)

You don't know what "marginal cost" means, do you?

It means the cost to create one extra item of something, once you're already making a bunch of them. In the case of software it's the distribution cost.

That tends to be extremely low for any software product (which is why we seldom get manuals in the box now, as they add a lot to the marginal cost) and is close to zero for online distribution. Even if you're paying through the nose for bandwidth your incremental cost for a CD size .iso is a few pennies. If you use something like bittorrent, to leach off your users bandwidth (I'm looking at you, Blizzard), your incremental cost is likely an order of magnitude or two less than that.

Re:Bullshit (1, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695891)

You don't know what "marginal cost" means, do you?

He does, it's a parser ambiguity.

can be (produced and distributed) at virtually no marginal cost = stamp the CD, ship it
can be produced and (distributed at virtually no marginal cost) = developer produces code

Re:Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26696199)

"marginal cost" is an economic term, not a quantitative term. It does not mean "very little," rather it is the incremental cost of "selling" one more copy.

That is essentially zero (efficient distribution) compared to the development cost you mentioned of $1.9B. Price theory says that you make marginal revenue equal to marginal cost to maximize profit, in this case zero.

Read the article with that definition in mind.

http://tinyurl.com/clhb9u

Re:Bullshit (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696681)

"marginal cost" is an economic term, not a quantitative term.

Can you calculate it? Yes. Then how is it not quantitative?

Tanstaafl you say? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26695235)

I chuckle every time the FOSS community says, emphatically, "Tanstaafl!". (Or in this case, tags the post with it)... ...while, at the same time, presenting FOSS as though it has zero cost. Only a moran would use M$ software! Linux is free!

I love FOSS. It's great to have "free" resources available and it's great that people spend the time to work on it. It may be free to download, but using it is not zero cost. Tanstaafl.

We don't need no stinkin' money (3, Insightful)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695359)

People in software development are the only ones I can think of who promote the idea that they should be paid less (e.g. this story) and that most of their colleagues suck (e.g. thedailywtf).

Re:We don't need no stinkin' money (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696129)

Well, to be fair, at least with respect to the second point, the problem is that there's little barrier of entry to becoming a "software developer". All you need to do is hang out a shingle, and voila, you're good to go. Unfortunately, that means the industry is truly awash with clueless hacks...

Re:We don't need no stinkin' money (2, Insightful)

wytcld (179112) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696717)

To be truly fair, compare industries with high barriers of entry, like medicine and law. YMMV, but I've worked with plenty of clueless hacks from both those professions. Or take public school teachers, in most states requiring special degrees and certification, yet by-and-large clueless hacks. Private schools, without special degree and certification requirements, and often with lower pay, get far better teachers. Why is that? Could it be because the social environment is far more important to satisfaction than pay or certification? Might that extend to the present question?

As for the "most of our colleagues suck" among software developers, part of the problem is it's such a vast field that most any of us is ignorant of important stuff that most any other of us is familiar with. It's a strange case where the grass looks greener in our own yards.

Re:We don't need no stinkin' money (1)

tthomas48 (180798) | more than 5 years ago | (#26697145)

This is a tangent, but private schools don't get better teachers. They get better students which makes shitty teachers less obvious. If we took a city and made all of its schools private, and somehow made sure all the kids in the school district should attend, I'm quite sure they'd end up looking exactly the same as our current public schools.

Re:We don't need no stinkin' money (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 5 years ago | (#26697097)

Well, I see that about 90% of want ads for software developers require a CS or Engineering degree and significant experience in a laundry list of buzzwords. I see that as a significant barrier to entry for "clueless hacks".

Re:We don't need no stinkin' money (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26696699)

I'm not even slighly related to software development - and yet, most of my colleagues suck.

What does this tell us? (1)

drdoot (1467353) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695479)

Websites that provide something of real value for free either have a really smart beachhead strategy, or havn't yet figured out how to monetize what they do have.

Also, anyone in business will tell you that money/price is hardly ever a deciding factor on whether someone will pay for a product. When you go applying this to existing websites it's clear that giving things away only represents a small portion of the overall market. An example is plentyoffish vs match.com - it's all in the value!

Re:What does this tell us? (1)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 5 years ago | (#26697255)

Also, anyone in business will tell you that money/price is hardly ever a deciding factor on whether someone will pay for a product.

This has got to be the stupidest thing I've heard in months. It is ALWAYS a factor of whether I pay for a product. Psychologists say that most people [sciencedaily.com] weigh the pain of losing money with the pleasure of having a new product in order to decide whether or not they'll buy it. No wonder an entire economy can crash in a matter of months -- it's got too many idiots, disconnected with reality, pulling the strings. When I need to choose between listening to a new music artist or feeding the family for a day, I choose feeding the family. If it were a choice of listening to a new music artist where I just have to skip dessert to break even, I might consider buying the CD.

Economics in the Information Age (2, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695499)

We live in the information age. Information is easy to duplicate, to transport, to store, to look up. Information is cheaper than dirt. The old business models based on scarcity or rarity or production difficulty that work well for physical goods just do not work for selling information.

An information source will attract consumers. The better the source, the more people are attracted to it. Just look at Slashdot. Slashdot attracts so many readers that when it links to an article, it can bring that article's server to it's knees. Also, the more/better the information on your site, the more you will attract even more information. It's a positive feedback loop. Placing any sort of restrictions on the information (copyright limits, DRM, country boundaries, release dates, etc) breaks the positive feedback system, and drives people to other sources.

So, the question is, how do you get these consumers to "let off dollars" as the saying goes. As much as I hate to say it, the answer is advertising. People have been watching movies and shows for free for decades on ad based television channels. People have been listening to free music for even longer, on ad based radio. They will do the same thing for ad based internet sites.

The trick is that your ads must not get in the way of the consumer getting to the information that they want. If you break that popularity feedback loop, you'll drive consumers away. It has to be subtle enough to not interfere.

Google is a good example of how to do it. Quality information, and on the right hand side subtle, non interfering (and I might add, relevant) ads.

Re:Economics in the Information Age (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26695979)

So you eat information? And you live in it? And wear it? And you drive around in it? And you are typing on it right now? Whoever told you that the only thing worth anything is information was selling you a scam. Right now the US is consuming massive amounts of raw materials and finished products. Not one bit of that is information.

Let me bust the greatest lie on the web: There is NOTHING free on this planet. Someone, somewhere, for some reason, paid for what you get. And in the long run you are going to pay for everything you get one way or another. Get used to it. Capitalism might suck but it is better than every other option out there.

Re:Economics in the Information Age (1)

deraj123 (1225722) | more than 5 years ago | (#26697619)

You either neglected to read the GP's post, or completely failed to comprehend it.

At no point did he say that information was the only thing worth anything. He is, specifically, talking about the economics surrounding information. And he clearly makes the point that it costs money to produce, and so it must provide profit at some point. He also makes the point that direct charges for information break the process that has made the "information age" possible.

Re:Economics in the Information Age (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696239)

Advertising, and especially Google, is why 50% or more of all search results are bogus pages that just contain ads today. And you are suggesting we need more advertising?

Re:Economics in the Information Age (3, Insightful)

Phoenixhawk (1188721) | more than 5 years ago | (#26697127)

Just about anyone 30+ can remember using Lycos, Alta vista, Yahoo, or Excite long before Google, and can remember typing in a single word, and having what you want in the first 10 results.

So yea basically before there were ad pages that contain nothing but keywords that were registered with the search engines.

but as camperdave said "The trick is that your ads must not get in the way of the consumer getting to the information that they want. If you break that popularity feedback loop, you'll drive consumers away. It has to be subtle enough to not interfere."

This is very much the reason google is nearing the end of its life cycle, and reason behind the need and great importance for them to hook you on email, web apps, etc.... Just as Yahoo and others did before. History really does repeat itself.

Re:Economics in the Information Age (2, Interesting)

Average (648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696593)

The problem with reliance on advertising is how badly it really works.

Businesses always suspected they were wasting a lot of money on advertising. But, it was a black box. Designed, by the admen, to be hard to judge whether it was effective or not.

But, in the early internet, the advertisers went straight to the geeks, with little 'Madison Avenue' in between. The geeks said, "sure, we can give you click-through and dwell-time and all the numbers you want". And the businesses got the numbers and said "holy Jeesh, internet advertising sucks in cost-effectiveness". All ads sucked, we just measure it better online.

Re:Economics in the Information Age (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26697081)

Well, said.

You phrasing of the importance of the 'popularity feedback loop' is spot on.

Chris Anderson!!! (1)

Khazunga (176423) | more than 5 years ago | (#26695569)

This is an article by Chris Anderson, and the summary futzes it up and says nothing about the author. This isn't like reading some schmuck [dvorak.org] . Chris Anderson , editor of Wired, author of "The Long Tail" and the "Free" Wired article.

Now, go RTFA [wsj.com] ...

Re:Chris Anderson!!! perhaps, but not eye-opening (1)

mileshigh (963980) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696061)

Don't bother to RTFA, everybody here already knows everything in that article.

Music production is free? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26695825)

Music production is free? That's news to me. As a musician, I've been going the cheaper route of recording and producing my own music. My total investment so far exceeds $40,000 in equipment and software. Then there's the countless years of practicing and honing my ability and knowledge, money spent on lessons, etc.

Total I've made so far in the "new economy", where everyone thinks it should be free because they want to stick it to "the man" (read: record executives)? $4.48.

Re:Music production is free? (1)

clare-ents (153285) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696339)

In that case I suggest you give up the music career and do something more profitable instead like working in walmart.

Of course if you'd rather play and earn $4.48 instead it's a win-win, I get cheap music, you get a better job than walmart.

Here's a hint, in general you don't get paid to do things you enjoy. As they say in yorkshire, 'Where there's muck there's brass'.

Re:Music production is free? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26696739)

My point wasn't how much I've made, it's that while the distribution is so cheap as to be negligible these days, the creation is far from cost-free. Many world-class musicians have resorted to doing movie and TV soundtracks and the like, becuase the people that end up being entertained (you) don't want to pay the people entertaining them. They somehow have this idea they are just entitled to it.

Do I enjoy making music? Absolutley. Do I have a full time, salaried job that's sucking the life out of me because you think I can afford a 10000/1 payout ratio? Yup. I make a damn good living. I'd work 10x as hard at entertaining people if they'd fricking pay me for it, though. I'm not lucky enough to live in an area with a viable culture scene, so I resort to the internet... and that falls flat when I run into people with your mindset.

A little essay on the topic... (1)

thbb (200684) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696001)

Software is meant to be free! [baudel.name]

Assuming a competitive, market-based economy, any software of sufficiently broad usage is bound to become free, as its marginal production cost is null. The free software movement is not much more than the social expression of this basic economical fact. Software distinguishes itself from other works of the mind, such as music, in that its originality is by no means a part of its value or utility. As a consequence, the software industry is bound to live on the margins generated by software innovation and specialization

So what (1, Offtopic)

The Cisco Kid (31490) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696049)

Free Software isn't *intended* to be a "business model" for corporations to get filthy rich selling copies of information that they produce for a nickel each.

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html [gnu.org]

Slashdot is free? (1)

Sybert42 (1309493) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696101)

I've had all pages ad-free for awhile.

The perfect business model for free software (2, Interesting)

V!NCENT (1105021) | more than 5 years ago | (#26696637)

Create something with a large codebase that other people want to use in their own free software application or game, like a very nice raytracing engine for example.

Now here's the catch; nobody likes to learn a large codebase because it takes a lot of time. Especialy free software developpers because they usualy don't have a lot of time on their hands as they are doing projects in their spare time. So here's what you do to get money; sell detailed documentation and maps of the code of your project. ThÃt would be your product, not the source code.

If you make sure your code is not ugly and unreadable then you'll probably sell a lot of documentation. People that create free software would probably not hasitate at all as they buy OpenGL, C, C++ and ruby books as well.

Your product is completely ethical in terms of free software. It is not nessecary for a developper to buy your documentation, but they will probably do it out of respect and because they just want to save time. In essence, you are selling someone time. Isn't that just the greatest thing?

diydrones.com (2, Interesting)

heroine (1220) | more than 5 years ago | (#26697237)

Check out diydrones.com. He sells a super cheap circuit board that interoperates with stuff most of his customers already have. What's another $30 when you've already invested $300? He gives away the source code & plans, but puts a ton of effort in publicity doing odd projects like the blimp autopilot, posting frequent firmware updates, & growing a social network around the product.

When did "production" become cost-free? (5, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 5 years ago | (#26697277)

The geek is never honest when he conflates production and distribution.

The P2P rip doesn't generate the $150 million dollars needed to produce "Monsters vs. Aliens" or the $40 million needed for the low budget "Serenity."

If the geek wants to see more films that appeal to him he has to find a realistic solution to the problem of how to pay for them.

Otherwise production simply ends or shifts to more profitable markets. "High School Musical" and a "Hotel for Dogs."

The basic fallacy (2, Insightful)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 5 years ago | (#26697433)

Is that MC is 0. It isn't, though it may be small. It also doesn't cover fixed costs at all. If I spend $1,000,000 writing the next killer app and give it away for the cost of distribution, it's pretty easy to see I'm out the original $1,000,000. If I give it away for literally free, I'm out the original $1,000,000 and I've picked up the cost of distribution, too.

Prices drop to MC in the face of (perfect) competition, yes, but before that happens consumers are paying more than cost, and willingly so because the product is worth more to them than they pay for it. If you don't have credible evidence customers will do that, you don't invest in developing the product.

The only reason free software works is massive charity on the part of developers and project managers who get non-monetary benefits out of being involved in the project, or in some cases, corporate sponsorship.

Note, too, that business segments which involve perfect competition are not generally places you want to be. You are a commodity. Everybody, top to bottom, gets squeezed.

ATLAS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26697815)

HAS JUST SHRUGGED

      This plays into my point-

  "Be prepared to learn how to trade your talents and goods with people without exchanging bits of paper. The dollar could soon be as hard to get as it is worthless. Seriously."

      Now, explain to me how the last bastion of american industry, digital commerce, has benefitted from this new and free economic model and how this has nothing to do with our current economic downturn at all not even in the slightest

      Now chew on this, we send dollars to china for hard goods they produce and what do they do, pirate american digital property and in some cases they even pirate hard goods.

    Of course the Slashtard has no problem with Chinas digital piracy since his mantra is code want to be free and they are not even considering chinas general piracy problem beyond digital goods.

With all of this in mind and just using China as an example of a global trend where american dollars flow out but dont return because what we primarily produce is pirated

Conclusion, be prepared to work for free you fucking dopes and not only will Atlas Shrug in that instance but he's gonna kick you in the teeth

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