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July 10, 2012
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DA's new Premium Content Platform

Journal Entry: Tue Jul 10, 2012, 2:23 PM
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.

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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.

  • Mood: Questionable
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:iconravenwolf89:
Ravenwolf89 Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I dont like how this sounds at all either :/ I havent had any luck selling commissions for real life money as is and with the economy the way it is I dont see how this can help. Less known artists that dont make much in the first place and need that money to pay bills arent going to get much out of this. Especially when they have deadlines and due dates for bills... having to wait 14 days and then if you want a check you have to wait for it to come in the mail.... then you'd have to run off to the bank to get it deposited, THEN write your checks for your bills. That's pretty ridiculous if you ask me! I dont even like the whole paypal part either. I have one but I've never used it plus I dont have a bank account either right now. So if I were to want to use this I'd be one of those people that have to wait for a check and get it cashed or deposited into my bf's bank account before we could use the money. That would be fine if we didnt have to wait 14 days. Plus the whole points system is stupid in my opinion. Especially because they are requiring that you buy the content with points which means instead of the money going to straight to the artist like it does now, there is now another step which doesnt need to be there. This is great for people who just want to buy points and then spend them at their leisure but it's not so great from the artist end of things.
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:iconrheall:
rheall Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2012  Student General Artist
Yeah, I was complaining about the points system a lot too, when a friend of mine pointed out that the reason companies like Microsoft and Nintendo have points systems is because of practical reasons; when they're dealing with so many countries with so many currencies and exchange rates, points makes it much easier to deal with them all equally in their own digital marketplace. Apparently there are also good tax reasons for selling things with points systems rather than constantly charging in native currencies. I don't know any of the specifics, but at least there's a bit of a point (forgive the pun) to it, even if I do still think it's rather silly.

It's not even so much that they're using the point system at all, it's that they're ONLY using the point system. DA still uses a monetary system to accept payments for their prints, subscriptions and merchandise, in addition to points. Why they limit these digital downloads only the points makes absolutely no sense to me. The only thing I can come up with is that they need the buffer between points and real money for security reasons, in case of fraud or what have you. It's hard when you're dealing with intangible products like digital files to make sure everyone's getting what they were promised. Dealing with real money is a big deal, and people get into a lot of trouble over it.

And yeah, I'm sure it'll help a lot of very popular artists see a steady trickle of earnings from selling their artbook .pdfs or something on DA, but for the majority of people I don't see it helping them at all. I mean, lots of people already get angry at artists for trying to charge for commissions instead of doing them for free; imagine if someone spends countless hours working their butt off on a comic (like I just did) and then wanted to charge a couple bucks for people to download the full .pdf and somebody gets angry because "Look at all the comics out there that are free on the internet, how dare you try to charge for it, you're not even that popular" or something similar. It's the usual artist vs. consumer crap, but now I imagine we'll see a lot more of that unhappiness in small scale all over the place.

Like I said, I'm all about artists charging and being charged for their work, and I fully support it, and I've been trying to make some money from my art too; I'm just not sure if DA is the right place for it, and I also don't think DA is going about it quite right. (Sorry for my long, rambly reply!)
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:iconravenwolf89:
Ravenwolf89 Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I dont mind lengthy replies :] lol. Dont worry ^^ But yeah..

I completely agree and understand what you are saying. I'm sure it'll work for those who can use it and will probably help generate sales etc. but for other people it's just going to be annoying XD

Oh and I hadnt actually thought about that for the points system. That actually makes a lot of sense ^^ But yeah... The main issue I see is that not all the money is going to the artists. And I dont think 20% is fair since it's digital. It's not like DA is making the prints and mailing them out. And I dont think they even charge that much through the print sales do they? That's what I dont get... why should they get to keep 20%? Why not 5 or 10%?
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:iconrheall:
rheall Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2012  Student General Artist
Argh, sorry, that should be "Lulu", not "Etsy". Lulu gives you 90% of your earnings. Whoops!
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:iconrheall:
rheall Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2012  Student General Artist
I'm sure they have a good reason, they're just not letting us in on it, which I suppose is their prerogative! :) I guess artists who want to sell their stuff will have to figure out which will be more important to them; being able to sell directly to their watchers, thus boosting the number of sales, or earning more than 80% with another digital distributor (like Etsy, who gives them 90% for digital ebook sales, which really does add up over time), boosting their earnings for each sale.

All in all my criticisms are pretty fiddly, but yeah, it seems a little less of a "hey, let's help the artists earn some money" Kind of thing and skewed a little bit more on the "hey, we can charge 20% of every sale and get away with it" side of things. But that's what companies do!
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:iconravenwolf89:
Ravenwolf89 Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Yeah I suppose so :] But In the end I dont see a lot of people using it. Probably just the small percent of more famous artists on here will use it. And maybe a small percent of other members but I dont see the majority using this at all. I know it's a little popular with stock artists right now tho. But that I can see as a definite plus for them. They can sell packs of their exclusive stock directly now instead but at the same time I'm not sure how well that's going to go over.
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:iconhazel23:
Hazel23 Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Those are all really good points, and I'd like to thank you for providing a coherant description--I found the official announcement rather confusing, and wasn't entirely sure how it would work with changing points into money.

I'm probably not going to ustilize this feature to sell things, so I can't really comment on that, but I'm very worried that DA's enourmous and invaluable stock and resources category is going to take a hit. If people decide to start charging for stock and resources that have been free up until now, or if many stock artists begin charging, I'm worried the pool of quality free stock is going to decrease dramatically and users who cannot afford to pay are going to lose access to it.
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:iconrheall:
rheall Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2012  Student General Artist
That's one of my worries too, that now people are going to go a little trigger happy with trying to get away with charging for anything they can. There are so many amazingly talented stock artists and resource artists making and providing awesome things for us to use every day, for free, here on DeviantART. On the other hand, I also believe that stock is valuable, and that stock artists deserve to be paid for their work just as much as any other artist out there, so it's hard for me to reconcile this opinion. But stock on DA has always been free (at least officially), and that's a big reason why I use DA's resources. It's no fun to be searching Google for stock images and find I have to purchase licenses for everything I find. Having a free stock resource is invaluable for a lot of artists, especially starting artists and low income artists, and yeah, it'll suck a bit when that precedent starts to change.

I just hope they'll give us search filters to be able to filter out content that costs money, especially in the Resources and Stock categories. It would be very depressing to be searching for stock, see the thumbnail of an image that would be perfect, and then find out you have to pay 200 points or whatever to use it.

But hey, I could also be whining. :) Perhaps this is the wave of the future and I just don't know it?
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