martes, 24 de abril de 2007

Free Distribution

The one problem I’ve had with the distribution of everything on the Internet has been: how does anyone make any money off of all this? I never pay for anything that I get off the internet. I also never pay attention to advertisements on websites so I don’t see how anyone is making money that way either. The thought came to me after reading a post by Chris Anderson entitled, Ebooks want to be free. What about audio books? Feb 4, 2007. Talking about his book, The Long Tail, being pirated, he says, “My publishers want to make money, and I like them so I usually do what it takes to keep them happy, but in truth I just want to be read/listened to by the largest number of people. Leave it to me to figure out how to convert that reputational currency into cash--just get me in front of the biggest audience and I'll do the rest. My agent doesn't want to hear this, but I'd rather take a smaller up-front advance or lower royalties in exchange for more liberty in distributing free versions, because I think I'll actually be better off in the end.” What does he mean when he says, “just get me in front of the biggest audience and I'll do the rest?” What is he going to do? Because up until now I have read his book, his blog and anything else I can find that he has done and I have yet to pay one red cent. As I looked more into this I discovered that there are some advantages to distributing your stuff for free like more publicity, word of mouth and making revenues in different ways. But from my point of view I would say making money by giving it away is still a long shot. The more stuff is given away for free on the internet, the more people avoid buying the real thing, expecting it to come out for free at some point on the internet anyway. Whenever I hear about anything that has come out I always search for it online first to see if it is out there for free somewhere. And if its not I’m patient enough until it is.
“Free ideas spread faster than expensive ones,” says Seth Godlin in his post called You should write an ebook March 28 2007. Explaining how his first ebook, Unleashing the Idea Virus came about, he says, “I brought it to my publisher and said, "I'd like you to publish this, but I want to give it away on the net." They passed. They used to think I was crazy, but now they were sure of it. So I decided to just give it away. The first few days, the book was downloaded 3,000 times. The next day, the number went up. And then up. Soon it was 100,000 and then a million. The best part of all is that I intentionally made the file small enough to email. Even without counting the folks who emailed it hundreds of times to co-workers, it's easily on more than 2,000,000 computers. I didn't ask anything in return. No centralized email tool. Here it is. Share it. Some will ask, "how much money did you make?" And I think a better question is, "how much did it cost you?" How much did it cost you to write the most popular ebook ever and to reach those millions of people and to do a promotion that drove an expensive hardcover to #5 on Amazon and #4 in Japan and led to translation deals in dozens of countries and plenty of speaking gigs? It cost nothing.” So with this story it looks like giving away your stuff for free serves as a marketing and publicity tool. Bands also use this technique by giving away their music for free and making the profit at the live shows.
Cory Doctorow wrote an article for entitled Giving It Away, where he explains in more detail how profit can be made from giving your books away on the internet. “Most people who download the book don't end up buying it, but they wouldn’t have bought it in any event, so I haven’t lost any sales, I’ve just won an audience. A tiny minority of downloaders treat the free e-book as a substitute for the printed book--those are the lost sales. But a much larger minority treat the e-book as an enticement to buy the printed book. They're gained sales. As long as gained sales outnumber lost sales, I'm ahead of the game.” Many people aren’t going to buy your stuff anyway so you might as well give it to them for free; people like me who are moochers who never buy anything until it is made for free.
The most important thing that an author can have is the peers of others recommending their book. Doctorow continues, “Nothing sells books like a personal recommendation--when I worked in a bookstore, the sweetest words we could hear were "My friend suggested I pick up...." The friend had made the sale for us, we just had to consummate it. In an age of online friendship, e-books trump dead trees for word of mouth.” That is a main advantage that free distribution provides-people are a lot more likely to buy something from a peers recommendation than from a companies.
“Having my books more widely read opens many other opportunities for me to earn a living from activities around my writing, such as the Fulbright Chair I got at USC this year, this high-paying article in Forbes, speaking engagements and other opportunities to teach, write and license my work for translation and adaptation. My fans' tireless evangelism for my work doesn't just sell books--it sells me.”
So up until now I may not have paid anything for all the entertainment that I get off of the internet, but I am a fan of some people that I wasn’t a fan of before the internet made it possible for me to discover them. Possibly in the future if they offer something like an event that can’t be ripped, pirated or distributed for free, perhaps then I will end up paying them something. But who knows when or if that ever that will happen.

domingo, 1 de abril de 2007

Who Cares About Privacy?

The lines between what is private and what isn’t are being blurred for individuals and companies alike. More young people are putting more personal information out in public on sites like Facebook and Myspace than any adult would ever think of and yet they are fine with it, along with their entirely different definition of privacy. Businesses also are being pushed to go naked for all to see. In the April issue of Wired magazine they have an article called The See-Through CEO, which says, “The Internet has inverted the social physics of information. Companies used to assume that details about their internal workings were valuable precisely because they were secret. If you were cagey about your plans, you had the upper hand; if you kept your next big idea to yourself, people couldn't steal it. Now, billion- dollar ideas come to CEOs who give them away; corporations that publicize their failings grow stronger. Power comes not from your Rolodex but from how many bloggers link to you - and everyone trembles before search engine rankings.” They told me in high school that the days of graduating from college and working for one company that will take care of you until you retire doesn’t exist anymore. To be successful you need to start marketing yourself like a business, having versatile skills and abilities to compete in an ever changing work field. Now the tables have turned as businesses start to market themselves more like people who post everything about themselves on sites like Facebook and Myspace. We are all living in public more and more everyday.
The other day me and my friend Matt signed up to live at an apartment complex together for the summer semester where there are six people per apartment. They sent us an email showing us the other roommates that we would be living with. Having random roommates assigned to live with you can be a little weird since you have no idea who they might turn out to be. So we decided to look them up on Facebook to see if they would be types that we would get along with. It was a little weird how easy it was to look up a stranger on Facebook and see everything about them willfully posted on the internet, including: where they’re from, their pictures, favorite movies, bands, friends, and what the last thing they posted on a friends page was. This got me thinking about why we willfully publish what would normally be private information on the internet for everyone to see. Maybe it is the side effect of everyone being obsessed with reality TV shows for so long that everyone wants to, and now thinks they can be a star. Whatever the explanation is it’s not going to change anytime soon.
In an article called, Say Everything, by Emily Nussbaum in New York Magazine, she says, “And after all, there is another way to look at this shift. Younger people, one could point out, are the only ones for whom it seems to have sunk in that the idea of a truly private life is already an illusion. Every street in New York has a surveillance camera. Each time you swipe your debit card at Duane Reade or use your MetroCard, that transaction is tracked. Your employer owns your e-mails. The NSA owns your phone calls. Your life is being lived in public whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.”
For a long time it seemed that people were very serious about having their lives be private. The Patriot Act and Spyware are two good examples. The Patriot Act was signed by President Bush on October 26, 2001 and was formed in response to the terrorist attacks against the United States. It dramatically expanded the authority of American law enforcers to investigate and prosecute the supporters of terrorism. People threw a fit about the Patriot Act because on March 9, 2007, the US Justice Department released an internal audit that found that the FBI had acted illegally in its use of the act to secretly obtain personal information about US citizens. Spyware is another example of the public’s fear of invasion of privacy. Spyware is computer software that collects personal information about users without their informed consent. The complaint about Spyware is that internet companies track your business on the internet so that they can modify their marketing tactics towards you to personalize them. People say these things are an invasion of privacy, but who cares about privacy anymore? Everyone wants to be spied on. Everyone is just loading up all their information about themselves anyway. There is so much information out there in the first place that I don’t have time to read it all. As far as I’m concerned Spyware can spy on me as much as it wants if it means figuring out what I’m most interested in so that it can sort out the crap that doesn’t concern me and give me all the recommended stuff that I will want to read.
Somehow it feels like all these networking sites are creating a false identity in everyone. I’m having a hard time figuring out what I think about it. It’s like everyone can now finally be a part of reality TV. The fact that people change their relationship status on Facebook for everyone to see as soon as they start going out with someone new is odd. As if they have a huge fan base that just can’t wait to see what their relationship status is. Too often pictures are taken at parties or events for the sake of making sure that everyone sees how cool you are on your Myspace page rather than serving as memories, like most pictures should. It’s dumb to do something just for the sake of taking a picture to make sure everyone knows about all the cool stuff you do. In essence, every young person in America has become, in the literal sense, a public figure. Everyone wants attention and wants to think that they have lots of fans but the truth is, as Dr. Phil puts it, “You would care a lot less about what people thought about you if you knew how little they did.”
No one is more confused about this whole thing that parents. They keep saying that this lack of privacy is dangerous because there are stalkers and perverts out there that can find you. But obviously kids don’t think so because it hasn’t deterred millions of them from doing it. In Say Everything once again, Emily Nussbaum says, “that’s pretty much the standard response I’ve gotten when I’ve spoken about this piece with anyone over 39: “But what about the perverts?” For teenagers, who have grown up laughing at porn pop-ups and the occasional instant message from a skeezy stranger, this is about as logical as the question “How can you move to New York? You’ll get mugged!”
The benefits are obvious for both the individual and the company. For the individual the public life is fun. It’s creative. It’s where their friends are. It’s theater, but it’s also community: In this linked, logged world, you have a place to think out loud and be listened to, to meet strangers and go deeper with friends. For the company, getting people to talk about them is good for business because recommendations from peers works 100 percent better than recommendations from the company itself. Chris Anderson says in a blog, In Praise of Radical Transparency, “The small cost of some competitor getting early wind of a new feature is more than outweighed by the good will generated among customers by candid insights into product development.” And Jeff Jarvis says in his post, Radical’ transparency, “The point is that what you really want to do is open the windows on either side of your house and let the people standing around talk directly to each other, with or without you. You do your job, still, creating some stuff that people want to gather around. But then you enable them to share more. And now you have a new role — helping them.”
So I guess it’s time to get used to having no privacy. Because the truth is, we’re living in frontier country right now. We can take guesses at the future, but it’s hard to gauge the effects of a drug while you’re still taking it. Will this lack of privacy get worse or will it die out? What are the long term side effects to companies and individuals posting everything about themselves for everyone to see? Who knows? But until then, lets get naked.