Why You Should Start Paying For Stuff on the Internet


The development of the internet has been a wonderful thing. My career as an Illustrator wouldn’t be what it is now without it.

Illustrators, designers, artists, musicians, everyone can get their creations out to an audience in more ways than I can count and everyday a new avenue opens. As creators we have a desire for validation in the form of blog comments, retweets, “likes” and +1’s.

We build audiences that will hopefully be willing to support us monetarily in the future by purchasing some form of our work, either digitally or physically.

We often put out free content as a way to grow these audiences and it works.

Unfortunately, there is a large segment of our audiences that will take all the free content you can produce and disappear as soon as they run into content that they are asked to pay for.

This is a completely understandable reaction. We are all guilty of gobbling up free content but thinking twice (or three times) before we would pay for that same content.

Changing this will take time, but I do believe it will happen. As more and more content moves to primarily web- or device-based delivery we will see more and more instances of required payment.

We have the power to speed up this process for the better. Start paying for content.

How can we complain about the lack of monetization of our own content if we aren’t willing to pay for similar content somewhere else? I’m not just talking about the issue of artists selling to artists. Do you visit newspaper websites and read content for free? Do you read industry journals or blogs for free? Do you listen to public radio? If you think about what went in to providing that content it starts to seem a bit ridiculous to complain about being asked to support it.

I’m not suggesting that we should have to pay for everything, but I am suggesting that we start financially supporting the things we place value on. Otherwise, prepare to see every extra inch of your favorite websites crammed with advertising.

You may not always be in a position to donate to podcasts you enjoy or to buy books and prints from artists you love, but please be open to doing so when you are in that position.

Artists, journalists, public radio hosts, cartoonists, etc… we all put a lot of time, energy and passion into what we do and most of us do it because we couldn’t imagine not doing it.

So if your favorite cartoonist starts a subscription based web comic or your favorite illustrator is selling desktop wallpapers for a small donation, please think hard about how much they’ve put into it before balking at spending a few dollars on their work.

Thank you.

**Illustration courtesy of my participating in 30 Days of Comics


6 thoughts on “Why You Should Start Paying For Stuff on the Internet

  1. I do this, when I find value in the offering. Take FreakAngels for example (I came to your post via a retweet by @spoonbard .

    I read the free pages online every week. Then, because I thought it was amazingly good, I purchased each physical volume as it came out with actual money.

    Unfortunately, most of the content put out for free is worth what you pay for it (imo).

    While I agree that there are some who will take what they can and leave the rest, I think there are more people that you’re giving credit to who will pay for the things in which they find value.

    • Thanks for sharing your comments Christy.

      I agree with you on both counts. You definitely get what you pay for in a lot of instances but I think there is also a huge trove of free, quality stuff out there in most industries. Especially if you look at web comics.

      And yes, there certainly are a lot of people who are willing to pay for things they find value in. The numbers probably change a lot depending on what industry you’re talking about, but they are there. I just want to encourage people to make sure they are doing it in all aspects of their life, if they aren’t already, and for us to find subtle ways to encourage other people to do the same.

      Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it should be free and that is something that our current culture is teaching us.

      I’m so glad you were able to support FreakAngels and thanks again for reading my post.

  2. Pingback: Why You Should Start Paying For Stuff on the Internet – Part 2 | Denver Illustrator Michelle Kondrich

  3. Early days, and we’re all just testing the waters. I see problems with the model you describe (giving it away for free, then charging) in that we set up the expectation that the item is free, and build an audience comfortable with that. Then we ask them to pay…

    Maybe we have to try another way. Maybe we have to have things to sell from the get-go, and offer just the first few things for free, so they can get a taste of what our art is like, and whether they want to buy more. I find I do this a lot on Comixology, where “issue 1” is free, and I only go on and purchase subsequent issues of stories that are really good.

    It’s something I hope we all can try in the months to come.

    • Hey Paul,

      I agree with you completely. I think we either need to give away just a small sample, like you’ve said or have some content that’s free and some that you charge for, but they are different products in some way. For instance, if I’ve got a web comic on my site that I’m posting for free, I can offer ebooks of the web comic and other products with content you haven’t given away. I think giving the first issue of something for free is a pretty good model.

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