Kickstarting content creation

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Posted by: stak
Posted on: 2012-07-31 19:41:51

There was a buzz recently about Madfinger Games, who made their game free due to rampant piracy. This is something that keeps coming up - preventing something digital from being copied is pretty much impossible now. With 3D printing and catalogs of 3D designs, this "problem" is going to start applying to previously uncopyable physical objects too.

Since it's impossible to prevent digital copying, it becomes very hard to sell digital items without losing at least some sales to piracy. There are examples like Louis CK who have succeeded, but I think that in the long term, even their strategies (which mostly rely on the honour system) are bound to fail. Interactive items, like games with in-app purchases, will still be able to make money, but that's a tiny fraction of the market for digital content.

However, there is one strategy that works in this kind of environment - the kickstarter model. This is where creators get paid before they create the item, rather than after. With kickstarter, people who are interested in the item getting created donate some amount of money, and get something (which may or may not be a copy of the item) in return. The creators are then able to fund the creation of the item and sell it for additional profit.

I think this model will evolve slightly - basically the people who want the content being created will fund it, it will be created, and then it will be freely available to everybody. It doesn't matter if people make copies of it after it is created because the creator has already been fully compensated.

This model might make it hard to gain funding for novel/innovative ideas where it is not obvious that the item will be useful, because there might not be enough people willing to fund it. There are two solutions to this - one is for creators to simply start small and build up a reputation of building good/useful things. The other is to get an established well-known creator to "vouch" for them. (This is equivalent to you buying a book from a new author because your favourite author praised it.)

Are there any websites out there that do this now?

Posted by Fai at 2012-08-08 01:30:06
This seems very similar to the patron system of the Renaissance except with more crowd sourcing and distribution of wealth.
I don't think the honour system will necessarily fail. People who can afford it will pay for things they appreciate (voluntarily). For popular things, that's a good amount of money.
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Posted by stak at 2012-08-08 19:49:01
I agree that it seems like the patron system, I was thinking about that too when I wrote this.
And the honour system can work in some cases, but I think there's a fundamental imbalance in that system that can cause it to fail without warning, so it's not necessarily safe to rely on it.
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Posted by kats at 2012-09-22 13:13:15
.ti no yler ot efas ylirassecen ton s'ti os ,gninraw tuohtiw liaf ot ti esuac nac taht metsys taht ni ecnalabmi latnemadnuf a s'ereht kniht i tub ,sesac emos ne krow nac metsys ruonoh eht dnA .siht etorw i nehw oot taht tuoba gnikniht saw i ,metsys nortap eht ekil smees ti taht eerga I
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Posted by stak at 2012-09-22 15:22:06
Nice try, but this:
> kniht i tub ,sesac emos ne krow
should be this:
> kniht I tub ,sesac emos ni krow

Also whoever you are, you should find better things to do with your time :)
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Posted by Unspecialised at 2012-10-19 07:22:05
I know this is a super late reply, but I actually found a blog that did something similar. It still shares the same key ingredient: That dedicated following that's willing to pay.

The site is called Viralnomics. The guy plans to publish his own book, but as he writes it he publishes blog posts about its different chapters. He then discusses it with his followers, who are welcome to give feedback and contribute to the book.

I'm sure the majority of people will still pirate it, but he's banking on the idea that if you cultivate a relationship with your customers, it makes them more willing to buy.

Thinking about it. I believe Minecraft did this to some degree as well.
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