Friday, April 16, 2010

Digital Value.

Photo By borman818
I have noticed that I along with a lot of people have a weird attitude towards value based on how “physical” things are. 
I came to this conclusion as I was standing in line to buy coffee whilst browsing the app store on my iPhone. I pay $3.50 for coffee everyday. I was browsing for apps (I am debating learning to cook) and was looking at the free and paid ones. Most of them clock in at around $3 bucks though some are up to $10 *le gasp* so I hit the button for the free list. I got to the front of the line and ordered my coffee and handed over my $3.50 and the cognitive dissonance of my actions hit me. 
I am willing to pay $3.50 every day for coffee. Each and everyday I hand over $3.50 and get coffee. I don’t hand over $3.50 and get coffee everyday for ever more with updates if the technology improves! Its not a perfect metaphor but you see my point. 
If I buy an App I will get the app for whatever the cost (My Trip View Ap cost me $2.49) and  the updates are (generally) free! I get that function everyday for whatever the one off cost was! Access everyday for that one off cost! But I am loath to pay that cost! loath to pay the cost for an “intangible” object as it were. I can’t hold taste or taste it the same way I can my coffee but does that diminish its worth? 
We are hardwired to the concept that when we hand over our money we should get something concrete in return. An object or failing that a service. I pay $79 a month for my phone plan. That includes a certain amount of calls, text, and data. I can’t touch any of that but its a service that I am used to having access to.  The older I get the more I pay for and rely on this service. So obviously the fact I can’t touch or taste something doesn’t diminish its worth.. So why the auto reaction to not paying for digital content?
The apps in the Itunes store take a lot of skill and knowledge to build, hours, days if not weeks and months go into making them and the updates. The apps have complicated background stuff going on in the backend that I don’t see that. I see the shiny touch screen buttons and a smoothly functioning app that sits there doing what I tell it! Which really should be worth at least as much as a cup of coffee, If not more! 
Then I started looking at other digital property and content. What came to mind was Blogs and Web comics. We have seen the phenomena of free content grow wildly over the last 5-10 years. Bloggers and Web comics artists put enormous amounts of work into the content that is put out there on the internet for free. 
Writing a single blog post takes ages, topic like this requires research, Posts with photos require editing, time and effort to put together, posts like link love and Love and lust haves take me upwards of HOURS to put together! All of this is done out of interest and love not for monetary gain from my blog. 
I remember a Blogger put ads on her site a couple of years ago and her readers went crazy, telling her she had sold out, yelling and jumping up and down in entitled rage. Like 5 year olds having a synchronized tantrum. How dare she try and get something back for all her hard work! It was ugly, nasty and those who understood the decision which required a site redesign defended her as best we could but in the end the readership was fractured and the community that had been built up around this blog was damaged a great deal. All over a bloggers desire to recoup her server hosting costs! 


Our generation (and those older) feel entitled to all the information of the ages for free, and then not just any information but new and exciting content everyday free! GIMME GIMME GIMME! We absorb it at an incredible rate! TV is free (with ads) unless you pay for cable (and even cable has ads now) We want to be entertained all the time, and our needs are great! The more we get the higher our expectations get! 
Not only do we feel entitled but when our exceptions are not met we are comfortable demanding, bitching and moaning. I have seen people comment on peoples blogs and ask where new posts are (not in a concerned “haven’t heard from you in a while” way) Seen people post snarky “blogger missing” threads on forums, Threaten to stop reading and following over ads (the putting of them up, the content of them or the placement etc) 
I am guilty of wanting free content. I love freeware, I love blogs, youtube is awesome, and will try out that free app first but I have also bought apps to get rid of ads (convenience and the annoyance of ads wins out over my cheapness!) So when things are not free I get that pull. I am reluctant to pay for something that someone has undoubtedly worked hard on!
The realization that digital content such as applications and blogs have as much value as real life counterparts is something that I am gradually accustoming myself to but I think the more that the internet becomes a factor in business and more blogs appear that create quality content, webcomics of the incredible standard and businesses move online we are going to have to get used to the idea that digital content doesn’t mean free and that if we want people to value our own content we need to start valuing others! 


What do you guys think? Do you pay for digital content? Does having your own blog/webcomic/being a developer change your view of how much digital content is worth? is digital content worth the same or less than physical content (i.e books and magazines?) Let me know in the comments! 


Love and Obsessions


Miss Addict

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