I posted this on Google+ originally, but figured I'd reach more interested parties here, and maybe be able to generate a bit of discussion. I usually try to step back and wait a while to see the results of new programs like this before I comment on them, but I just wanted to get these things off my chest.
This is about DA's new Premium Content Platform
; read about it at the link if you like before reading my (way too long) rant.
So, DeviantART has just introduced their "Premium Content Platform", a new system by which artists can set their own prices for digital downloads of their works. On the face of it this sounds like a great idea, as artists can reach the core of their DA fanbase and easily distribute things like high resolution files of artwork, .pdfs, resource packs, comic anthologies, and all sorts of awesome things in one easy go for a little profit. Artists get to sell their things and potentially make some money, and their watchers and fans can support their favourite artists and get some great stuff in return.
However, once more DeviantART throws a really frustrating wrench into the whole system by making it required to use their Points system to buy this content. Points, in my opinion, are ridiculous as hell. They're a form of digital currency used only on DA, and need to be purchased with real money, much like XBox Live Points, or Wii Points. I think $1 USD equals 80 Points on DA. They're supposed to make it easier for users to pay for things like commissions and support their favourite artists, but the Points can only then be used on site for things like Prints and DA merchandise, so it's not really helping the artists eat or pay the rent or anything like that. Not to mention the added step of having to transform your hard earned dollars into Points before you can buy anything will scare off a lot of potential customers.
Granted, with this new "Premium Content Platform" (I'd shorten it to PCP but that seems a little too silly), they're offering the ability to transform the Points you make from these download sales into USD using systems like Paypal, but it still seems like a stupid, unnecessary step. Oh, and did I mention you have to wait 14 days between someone buying your content and you being able to receive your money? Seems strange to me. (Or perhaps less strange if you can still use your points within that time period; perhaps they're hoping people will break down and spend their hard-earned points on-site rather than waiting the two weeks to exchange them.)
Also a little ridiculous is the fact that DA keeps 20% of the sale, and only gives 80% of it to the artist. Now, this might not seem like a big deal when it comes to small, micro transactions; 80 cents to the dollar doesn't seem like too big a sacrifice for being able to sell things directly to your DA watchers; but when it's all added up in thousands and tens of thousands of these transactions DA is out to make an absolute MINT on a system it already provides its users for free, every day. The ability to download high resolution files, .pdfs, .zips/.rars, or what have you from deviations has existed for years and years. It's one of the reasons for DA's initial success; providing skins and mods in .zip files to the skinning and modding community is what put DA on the map. It's not like they have to create some grand infrastructure to support this feature, nor should they be worried about needing to provide bandwidth and physical space for these files; they already do it for free. All they're providing is a (convoluted) toll box to get to that content. And charging 20% to provide that is a bit ridiculous.
(For comparison, companies like Apple and Amazon charge 30% for every ebook sale on their devices, iBookstore and NOOK respectively, which is in itself a rather exorbitant sum, but can be slightly understood or argued that when you factor in the massive retail back end and digital distributing platform they need to maintain, not to mention software updates and things for their hardware devices, the commission starts to make a bit of sense. DA already has their system in place, has had it for years, and isn't really providing anything more than a gate-keeping service.)
I don't have the research to back up this claim, but I know sites like Etsy charge something like 5% per sale, and they make a killing (though of course without the bandwidth charges for delivering digital content). 20% seems like a massive gouge for what DA is offering. I wish I had more information on what similar digital distribution sites charge, but I'm really not all that familiar with the systems. I think Lulu.com now charges 10% commission for selling ebooks, but they also do a lot of distribution to iBookstore and NOOK and other platforms, so it seems a little more justified.
Still, I'm sure people will go for it, mainly for the ease of being able to sell things directly to the DA masses, even with the ridiculous use of Points, the 20% price gouge, and the 14 day waiting period before you can access your funds. And I'm sure I'm ranting about this for nothing, and I'm sure some popular artists (and DA) will make a mint selling things this way. It just feels, to me, that once again DA is taking advantage of its user base, and becoming a little too confidant in how much it's entitled to profiting from their success and talent.
I've been on DA a long time; 9 years, to be precise, and I've watched it change from a rather grassroots, community oriented art and resource sharing site to a rather monolithic corporate entity. The original creators of the site don't have any say in how it's run anymore, and the tone of the place has completely changed. While that has to happen, to some degree, when a site like this gets to be so big, it still bothers me that I've gone from feeling like I'm part of a community that is happy to have me there, to being just another ant in its giant colony of endless trickling profits. And yes, I may be rather hypocritical for criticizing them and yet still using the site like I always have, but you try to get your artwork noticed and delivered to a large audience on the internet today; it's a lot harder than it sounds, and as much as I hate to admit it, DA is rather necessary for me to maintain what little audience I have. And since I've been a user for so long and have given them lots of money in subscription payments, I think I'm entitled to a bit of criticism for their methods.TL;DR: DA's new "Premium Content Platform" is not really as great as it sounds to me, forcing users to use their Points system to make transactions, forcing a 14 day waiting period before you can claim your earnings, and then turning around and charging 20% commission for the privilege. It seems to me more that they feel entitled to profiting from the success and talent of their user base rather than providing a system for supporting the artists they host.Disclaimer: I am in no way an expert on the economy of the internet, or on DA's business model. I am speaking based on my own observations and experience after being a member for 9 years, not from any researched or knowledgeable platform. Take my criticism with a grain of salt; it's just my opinion.