Friday’s XKCD started me thinking.
Here’s Randall Munroe, who’s established a pretty significant business providing content for free. He’s facing a tough family situation, so what does he do? He explains what’s going on to folks, providing as much detail as he’s comfortable with, thanks people for their support, and basically promises to keep on as best as he can.
Randall Munroe is a class act. Randall Munroe makes me want to buy stuff from his store. (And today’s XKCD is pretty funny. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for Wagner references.)
When Ryan North goes on vacation, or on his honeymoon, he recruits guest artists for his comic. And a lot of them are pretty darn good. Ryan North is a class act. Ryan North makes me want to buy stuff from his store.
The Penny Arcade guys would probably be embarrassed by someone describing them as a class act, but look at what they do when they need time, or are busy at a con; or heck, look at what they do during the holidays.
There’s another web comic I read. It used to run five days a week. Then it started drifting down to four days a week. Then the artist had some personal issues and posted reruns for a while. Then he came back. It started drifting down to three days a week. Then two. Then once a week while he worked on other projects. Right now, it was last updated over a week ago. Two weeks elapsed between that update and the previous one, and a little more than two weeks between updates before that.
“He does it for free! How dare you complain?” Well, maybe. But right now he’s running a fund drive. In addition, part of his business model is providing premium content as an adjunct to the free webcomic. When he goes radio silent for weeks on end, what motivation do I have to pay for premium content, or donate money? Or even to keep reading his webcomic?
I feel like I’m coming perilously close to crossing a line. I don’t think artists have an obligation to keep providing stuff for free, forever. I can understand people becoming overwhelmed. But there’s a good way to handle that; the Randall Munroe way.