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Does Kottke’s Tip Experiment Apply to Artistic Endeavors?

Jason Kottke reports on his experiment with tipjars to support his blogging habit:

And finally, the answer to the $64,000 question: is this a sustainable business model for independent media on the Web? The short answer is probably no, with a few caveats. I did make enough to support myself for a year, but I’m already worried about next year (if I decide to ask for contributions again at that point) because there’s going to be the inevitable drop-off in year-over-year contributions. I think several people who contributed this time around did so as an experiment or as “back payment” for the previous 6-7 years of content and may not be so likely to contribute next time. And some are going to decide it’s not worth it to them to keep up their “subscription”.

I’ve written before about the sustainability of online tipjars. Glancing over it again, I see that most of my remarks are generic to tipping in general and not necessary to artistic creations.

My response: there are qualititative difference between blogging/journalism and artistic creation. Posts by bloggers have topical value, but news get stale fairly quickly. Artistic creations tend to retain their value over time, although at the beginning it is hard to convince anyone that it has any value. For every commercial blogger or fiction writer or singer, there is one giving away his or her content away for free. Relatively speaking, I have a feeling there are way more journalists blogging about the same social phenomena. In contrast, people making literary or artistic statements tend to have unique perspectives that won’t be duplicated anywhere else.

The other distinction that runs in favor of journalists is that artistic works have a narrow appeal and often attract interest and enthusiasm according to personal tastes; bloggers on the other hand have more widespread appeal and stand a better chance of attracting a wider audience. This can be good and bad. When I find a great artist online, I feel a special bond with him or her that I simply won’t have with a commenter or journalist.

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