One of the endless questions surrounding social media is: "How do I monetize?" Meaning: how does one person convince other people -- whether it's that person's actual audience, or advertisers eager to reach that person's audience -- to pay that person to do what he / she actually wants to do for a living?Common Cents
In most cases, a person simply seeks out a job that other people already publicly admit is worth being paid for. Garbage collectors, graphic designers and accountants are all worth paying for a job well done, or so we believe. So why not bloggers, podcasters and other social media creators?
The catch: people have long been used to paying garbage collectors, graphic designers and accountants. They're also used to paying for records, movies and live entertainment. And they'll sit through commercials on TV as long as they get their shows for free.
But no one is used to paying for web content, because the web has always been "free.""Free" Is in the Eye of the Beholder
In truth, we all know the web was never "free," so much as it was "subsidized." People were willing to spend their time and effort creating a network of information and entertainment, often for no financial gain, simply because they enjoyed it or saw value in the existence of such a network.
But no one can do that indefinitely, and people capable of producing professional quality work (or at least work that resonates with audiences of a size similar to those of the professionals) are not going to produce their work for free forever.Parking Is Like Sex...
... or so goes the Seinfeld joke: Why should we pay for something that, with a little effort, we can get for free?
But that logic applies to everything in life. Why pay for CDs when you can download them for free on filesharing sites? Why pay a landscaper traditional wages when you can employ day laborers for far less?
No one is exploiting web content creators (yet) by *not* paying for their work, since few web content creators are currently charging a reasonable fee -- or any rate, for that matter -- to engage with their work. In that regard, web content creators are exploiting themselves by not attempting to charge for their work in the first place.
Having grown up using the internet, the concept of charging for information that's always been free could be seen as the death of the very ideals that the internet was founded on.
Or it could be seen as a very necessary step in the maturation of thousands of prospective artists and business owners, to realize that what we do is worth getting paid for.If I Don't Like You, and YOU Don't Like You...
The bigger question -- WHO will pay for it -- can't be asked until each of us admits that what we're doing is worth something to someone, somewhere. Since most of us create content for free, we're used to it. We have the POV that even making a few hundred bucks a month is probably "more than we deserve," all things considered. After all, we know the cost involved in our work, and we've been willing to shoulder it ourselves for so long, it's become part of the process.
Wouldn't getting paid for what we do be equal to "selling out"?
How can we compare our work to the work of Hollywood, Madison Avenue, etc.?
What's our work actually *worth*?The Short Stick Economy
Advertisers are leaving print publications in droves, leading to magazines and newspapers cutting costs and closing doors. But that ad revenue isn't being reassigned to the web, because the web doesn't charge the same amount for ads that print publications do.
That's because the web still prices itself as an inferior product, across the board, compared to every other mass medium.
As a result, those of us who create content for the web have horrible benchmarks to judge ourselves against. We can't aspire to earn as much as content creators in other media because our own medium gives itself the short end of the stick at all times.
Asking a web content creator to evaluate the value of his / her work is an impossible task, because we're trained to think that:
A) What we're doing MUST be free to be online,
B) What we're doing is online, and therefore amateur, and
C) What we're doing is being created for a medium that has yet to create a sustainable economy in the creative sector.
Therefore, all aspirations to get paid are pipe dreams until each of those realities changes.
And guess what: the sustainable economy that will provide realistic benchmarks for individual financial success among web content creators CAN'T be created until we get past those first two roadblocks -- and those are roadblocks we set up for ourselves.Photo by Emdot
Labels: business, monetization, money, new media, social media