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Micropatronage · Thursday July 16, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

In NOT AN UPGRADE — AN UPHEAVAL Clay Shirky begins to warm to the idea of micropatronage – the radical idea that an author’s most interested readers might pay them to write and publish their writings.

If the journalist has already been paid for their writing, who needs to pay the manufacturer and distributor of copies of their writings? Does the public really need to continue paying the publisher a hundred times the revenue that they’d pay the journalist?

If the publisher truly does add 99% of the value of a published copy, then with a free market in copies, there’s no copyright monopoly to prevent the publisher producing a copy of the author’s work (at $0.0001), adding their value ($0.0099), and then selling it at $0.01 a copy.

I have a sneaking suspicion the publisher adds very little. We’ll find out what happens when the audience commissions the artist directly.

  • Micropatronage = Disintermediation

It’s about time.

Traditional (Copyright+Publisher)

1,000,000 readers pay a publisher $1 for a journal comprising articles from 100 journalists. Each journalist gets $100 for their article. The publisher takes $990,000 from which they cover their modest costs.

Micropatronage (Copyleft/Abolition+Disintermediation)

Each blogger has 1,000 keen readers paying them a penny for each blog item they publish. That nets them $100 every ten blog items (for argument’s sake qualitatively equivalent to a single journal article).

An online journal, being free to copy the work of 1,000 bloggers (copyleft) and republish them, erects a paywall charging punters $1 to download a PDF containing 1,000 of the best blog items. Now each blogger has already been paid $10 for each item by their keen readership. The $10,000 it would normally have cost the journal to pay their writers has already been paid. They now get their writing free. The journal can also make and distribute copies at a fraction of a penny. So the $1 is now closer to 99.99% added value.

If the publisher sells a million copies they take $999,900 with negligible costs. Laughing all the way to the bank eh? That is, of course, assuming the market for copies hasn’t ended…

If it has ended there will still be a market for selectors. I suggest the selector is going to enjoy micropatronage as much as each writer. Thus the online journal (sans paywall) will actually get a penny from each of their 10,000 keen readers for each issue ($100). That journal may even state that it gives a 50% commission to each blogger it publishes – after all, it needs to encourage the production of good writing in order to be able to select it.

Steve R. said 3595 days ago :

One of the vexing questions with content revolves around the word “value”. Of particular concern is the role of the distributor as “adding” value to a creators work. Before the rise of the internet, it appeared obvious because the distributor could prepare the product for market and then market the product to a large audience. With the rise of the internet content creators can fully prepare the product and reach potential buyers directly. So who needs a publisher anymore?

What I am leading up to is the concept that we need to be clearer concerning how a publisher actually adds value to a product. I would assert that the distribution of a product by a publisher does NOT add value to the product. However, if publisher is involved in preparing graphics, editing, designing the layout of the product, then one can assert that the publisher/distributor is adding some value.

However, it should be realized that all these value adding activities can actually be performed by the person creating the product. For example the content creator can hire his/her own free lance design team or their own free lance editors.

Seems that I am getting wordy. My overall point – the limited role of the publisher/distributor, in marketing a product, does NOT add value.

Crosbie Fitch said 3594 days ago :

The price of a copy is higher than its cost either because its manufacturer has added value, has a monopoly, or is remedying a market inefficiency. I am admittedly being a little sardonic in suggesting a publisher’s 99% cut is mostly made up of added value rather than monopoly.

If the publisher is adding value then the loss of monopoly won’t hurt their bottom line. Indeed, without copyright, authors and audiences will continue to commission and patronise the publisher to obtain their valuable services. Thus the publisher’s extreme enthusiasm for copyright betrays a tacit admission that they add very little value.



 

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