Vision of a Fan Based Economy
Ira Rubenstein is the Executive Vice President of Marvel Comics' Global Digital Media Group. Dave Roman is associate editor of Nickelodeon Magazine and a cartoonist. Stuart Levy is the chief executive of Tokyopop.
This is a conversation they had at ICv2 Graphic Novel Conference:
Rubenstein: But Dave, I think there’s a difference. No one can write about Spider-Man or X-Men except for us.
Roman: I disagree.
Rubenstein: Those are our characters. How could someone else write another Spider-Man story?
Roman: Because fan fiction is becoming so powerful. I’ve seen the power of fan fiction. Working at Nickelodeon, there are people out there doing ‘Avatar’ comics that are soooooo much better…
Rubenstein: But that’s like saying YouTube is a real entertainment channel. It’s not.
Roman/Levy/like five people in the audience: It is (THE BEAT).
They just don't get it.
Caretakers of Legends
As I said in What makes a fan a fan, studios and publishers have to stop thinking of themselves as copyright holders and more as caretakers of the franchises we love. The good and the bad of the dialogue above is that Dave Roman and Stuart Levy seem to understand, but Ira Rubenstein still doesn't.
I have a feeling that many companies will go out of business before their leaders who do not understand the changes in the marketplace are replaced by people who do understand. If there is a future, then we have to change the economic model from the owner/consumer model to a new fan based model. Here are some of suggestions for a possible way forward.
Producers of media have to come to terms with the fact the days of closely controlled monopolies they once held over the franchises in their care are over, and that they have to open up to accept new methods of distribution and a new relationship with their fans.
National Borders are meaningless
The first lesson may be the hardest. We have believed for so long that National Borders were meant to limit trade. Where media is concerned this is a recipe for piracy.
With the advent of digital downloads, online streaming, and print on demand, it is easier than ever for any and every release to be global. Distribution models have to built that will allow for a studio/publisher to monetize their work in every country simultaneously.
Ads, Subscriptions, Purchases and Give-aways
Studios and Publishers have to realize that they will never again be able to rely on a single method to monetize their works. There are four main ways businesses make money on the net:
Ads: Not too many or it turns people off, but the opportunity to direct targeted ads to reader and viewers.
Subscriptions: Allow readers/viewers access to ad free versions of your content that they pay a regular recurring fee. There are two major subscription models:
All you can eat: Allow your subscribers to full access to your content library so long as they pay the subscription fee.
Ala carte: Allow your subscribers the right to own so many files a month based on subscription level.
Purchases: Allow your readers/viewer to purchase copies of your work.
Give-aways: Sometimes you have to give your work away to find an audience and make your money some other way. For example: give away the streaming, but sell the file.
Don't tie your work to one platform. Give your readers/viewers options.
Let us stream with ads or subscribe by the season or purchase outright. You offer every method, we chose the one we want.
Don't tie our purchases to a single player or device. If I want to watch my DVD on my AppleTV, let me. If I want to watch my digital files at a friend's house, let me. If I want to watch my iTunes purchases through Boxee, let me.
The more restrictions you place on your files, the more you encourage piracy. The more freedom you allow you readers/viewers, the more money you will make. You cannot expect to be respected by your reader/viewers, if you do not treat them with respect. If you treat them like pirates, don't be surprised when they act like pirates.
You have to understand that you do not own this media. If you allow your fans to have a sense of ownership over franchises under your care, they will feel a greater sense of responsibility for the future of the franchise.
Next time we will discuss the Fan Side of the new marketplace.