I have started a personal project in order to see if I can make any money by producing content on the Internet. I’ve recently read a book, YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture, which got me to thinking about how much time I spend contributing content to online communities. Many web sites are making money by providing a platform for the average user to contribute content in the form of videos, photos, comments, writing (blogs and comments) and knowledge. They then monetize the content and get all the rewards from the work that was done by the users. We are serving as their unpaid labor. This is similar to how freelance writers are treated by the small press. The writers provide all the content in exchange for the privilege of being published in a widely read magazine. Only the publishers stand to make any money.
|YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture: Jean Burgess, Joshua Green, Henry Jenkins, John Hartley: Books
Well any fool can publish on the Internet. It is just as easy for me to register a domain name, find a web hosting company, and create the web site or web application to publish my work. Then I can monetize it as I please without sharing the revenue with the provider of the “platform”.
So I have started a webcomic, http://www.silhouettetheater.com/, to explore various methods of content monetization. I chose a webcomic as the form of content because it is easy to produce. It does not require very much writing. I just use the snarky remarks that I leave as comments on YouTube videos. I’ve been giving my wit away for free! It also does not require much artistic ability. I got the bright idea of using silhouettes. It is easy to create silhouettes in Photoshop and the lack of detail reduces the amount of drawing that is necessary. I’m using vector graphics as much as possible because I can then scale and rotate the images to create new poses.
Successful webcomics like http://xkcd.com/ are based on nothing more than stick figure drawings. Randall Munroe is making a living doing this based entirely upon his engineering humor. Then there is Dinosaur Comics which is just the same clip art every time with only the text changing. Alien Loves Predator is done by Photoshopping toys and photos. The bar seems to be set pretty low. However, I have seen some really well drawn and entertaining webcomics which are a labor of love. Many people are creating webcomics without making any money.
I’m determined to see if it is really possible to profit from my Internet participation. This project provides an excellent excuse to experiment with different ways to drive traffic to a site and various methods of monetizing content. Many of my clients have been interested in Search Engine Optimization and online marketing but they frequently are disappointed by the results. Therefore I have a professional interest in learning how to make a web site popular and profitable through the use of technology. As a web developer, I am expected to be an expert on what is essentially a publishing platform. Many of the old tricks like keyword selection, image alt text keyword stuffing, and meta tags no longer seem to be effective. Being successful in the attention economy clearly requires a more creative approach.
My first innovation has been to create a custom web page that is iPhone friendly. I’m using the ComicPress plugin for WordPress to manage my webcomic content because I’m familiar with WordPress and can design themes for it. However I did not find any webcomic applications for the iPhone that could be used to view my webcomic and I did not like how my web site appears in the Safari Mobile browser. My custom iPhone web page at http://www.silhouettetheater.com/m/#_cartoons displays a simple list of links to my comics. Each comic can then be viewed as a simple image which can be rotated to the landscape mode by tilting the iPhone or iTouch. That is exactly the kind of exploration and experimentation that this project is intended to foster. I’m sure I can use everything I learn in future projects for the benefit of anyone I’m working for.