Friday, June 03, 2016

The Cost of Content

Content Costs Something To Make

I've written about this topic, on an extremely personal level, quite a few times.  Every time I talk about it on Twitter, or write about it here, it seems there are new people who are surprised that creating content for you to enjoy costs me money.  There are new people who admit they'd never thought about how the content they enjoy was made, so this is a topic that bears repeated exploration.  I wish more creators would write about it, so we could get a variety of voices and solutions involved, but unfortunately, making a living from your content is something creators can be cagey about.

After all, we assume in this country that if something is good, if something is worthwhile, or worthy of our time, the creator MUST be getting compensation from somewhere, if not from us, right?

While there are grants for art projects, and there are companies that pay employees to update the company blog, Instagram, or YouTube, many content creators on the internet are doing so on their own dime.

The Very Basic Formula

Time+Experiences+Resources (consumables)+Assets (how the content is provided to you)

So a YouTube tutorial about using Frisket with your alcohol markers would look like:

Time spent drawing the image (20 min)+time spent inking the image (15 min)+time spent setting up the recording space (10 min)+time spent recording (3 hours) + years of experience using alcohol markers so I know how to get the look I want the first time (6 years) + physical alcohol markers+physical alcohol ink+correct paper+graphite+frisket+ink from pen+eraser+camcorder+SD card+ computer+editing software+ time spent editing+experience with editing+access to music/resources+access to YouTube through internet connection

This formula doesn't take into consideration the 6 years of higher education in fine art and comics, the two degrees I hold, the years of practical experience spent drawing comics, painting, or rendering with markers, or the 7 years I've spent reviewing art supplies, presenting panels, and talking to people about the craft of making art and comics.  This formula also doesn't take into consideration the electricity I need to run the lights I use to see my work, the cost of food and running water I need to stay alive, or the work I may have to turn down in order to make time to produce the content you access for free.  The content I produce would not be possible without these sacrifices.

So this content, which I shared online to benefit others free of charge to them, has actually cost me a lot to make.  This is true for all web content- webcomics, wikis, AMAs, blog tutorials, reviews, all web content costs the creator.

How Creators Recoup This Cost

Some creators help defray this cost, and even make a career out of content creation through sponsorships- a company pays them to make content on demand for a specific purpose.  Other creators help defray operating costs by accepting products sent gratis from the company- they are legally required to disclose this, but many do not.  For this blog, I have decided to place ads in the sidebar, utilize affiliate links with a couple of the suppliers I purchase from often (Amazon and Dick Blick).  I also started a YouTube channel to expand the audience, and to recoup some of the operating costs through ad revenue.  YouTube only pays creators if 30 seconds of a video ad is watched, or if overlay/card ads are clicked, so if you enjoy a creator's content, and would like to help support the creation of more, please try to watch 30 seconds of each ad whenever feasible.  Finally, I launched a Patreon, because I wanted to give my readers a say in the content I create.   The Patreon has allowed backers to unlock additional content like tutorials and livestreams, and has given me the funds necessary to commission other creators to write content for the blog.  I currently do not have any sponsorships to help cover the costs of running this blog, but I have information for those interested here.

Without financial support from Amazon Associates, YouTube ad revenue, and Patreon, I would have had to massively scale back the amount of work I do on the blog, and probably would not have been able to launch the YouTube channel.  I'm still not paying my bills with this, but at least I'm not running myself into the red creating content for others to enjoy.

My monthly breakdown:

Since the majority indicated that you do not attend conventions, I am omitting that as a source of funding for/from this blog or the YouTube channel.  I am also discounting sales from my shop because at this time, they are negligible.

Amazon Associates- < $15, Patreon- $47, YouTube- $25

Total revenue from blog and YouTube:  $87 per month

This is $1,044 per year, if those estimates remained steady- they vary month to month, but the Patreon has steadily grown since it's launch two months ago.  Regardless,  $1044 is not a living wage.  $1044 is not fair compensation for all the work that goes into this blog, or into the YouTube.  This blog sees 1.4k hits per day, on a bad day.  On a good day, 1.8k hits.  That's about 715,400 pairs of eyeballs on my blog every year.  Even if many of those eyeballs belong to loyal readers, that's still a lot of eyeballs, and not a whole lot of income for the amount of time and resources that go into updating.

Fortunately, that $1044 is not the entirety of my income.  Conventions, especially MTAC and Mechacon, have improved over the years to the point where I can set a little money aside for a rainy day.  Of course, at conventions, I really work for that money- I am customer service, production, and inventory all in one.  I am busy cranking out commissions, selling copies of 7" Kara Volume 1, and pushing Sassy Buttons (all of which are available in my online shop, for those of you who don't attend conventions, but still enjoy my work).  Every year, I try to participate in a couple for-profit anthologies, and my take from the project often depends on how well the Kickstarter itself does.  This year, I'm finally wrapping up Gizmo Grandma, so I should see some income from those illustrations as well.  Outside of convention recaps written for this blog and How To Be a Con Artist, those sources of income don't have much to do with the blog or the YouTube, and have more to do with my work as a professional illustrator.

Like so many artist blogs, this blog was created with a couple purposes in mind- to sell my work (commissions and comics) and to attract industry attention.  Over the years, the focus has shifted a bit (ok, a lot) towards art education and information, but my passion for comics (and making a living through my comics) hasn't changed.  This year, I'm using my passion for comics in general, and my own comic in particular to fuel much of the content for the blog and YouTube- comic craft tutorials are a focus as I work on finishing Chapter 6 from Volume 2 of 7" Kara.

I'm sure the numbers I shared with you guys, while kinda pitiful and sad, aren't unique to this blog.  Although other comic artists, fine artists, and art supply reviewers might be reticent to share their numbers, I have a creeping suspicion that those who don't enjoy some of the benefits of sponsorship might have difficulty breaking even on supplies, or difficulty justifying the time spent creating content.

If you enjoy something, have learned something, were inspired by something, or have otherwise benefited from the existence of a thing, please keep the creator's needs in mind.  Please do not divorce the creation from the creator.

Ways you can help contribute to creators whose content you enjoy:

  • Use affiliate links provided when making purchases
  • Click ads that are relevant to your interests
  • Turn off ad blockers, or add your favorite creator-owned sites to a pass list
  • Watch at least 30 seconds of ads that run on YouTube- don't just skip the ad, the creator sees no money from that
  • Purchase regularly from the creator's shop
  • Contribute to their donation/tip jar if there's one up
  • Back their Patreon

How You Can Contribute Here

My Comic
My Shop
My Digital Shop
My Patreon
My YouTube

The biggest source of support you can provide is purchasing a physical copy of 7" Kara, Volume 1 from my online shop. At $15 per book (the book costs me $8 each to order from my printer, and you get a free wooden charm in the bargain), this doesn't have a large financial impact, but the emotional impact is huge- I live to make quality illustrated books that can be enjoyed by all ages.  Even if you don't personally enjoy comics, please consider ordering a copy of 7" Kara for someone you love, especially if you enjoy my art or enjoy this blog.  Giving my work a fair chance is the biggest favor you, as a reader, can do for me.