For one thing, the comment section is full of extremely angry readers and writers, with a hell of a lot of anger directed at Colleen for no good reason. Seriously, lets look at the situation without a lot of snark: Colleen Doran writes an opinion piece about how hard it is to make a living as an artist in this day and age with everyone wanting free content, and gets hit with asshole comments like this:
You may have lost business to the internet, but that's only because, as I was coming of age, there was so much more interesting content being generated for free, by folks who made it for free, on the Internet than in your paper and ink, overpriced pamphlet.as if Colleen was the one who was doleing out assignments and pricing and packaging the stuff herself over at Marvel. Perhaps that particular author should have been checking out her own work, A Distant Soil instead of assuming that the only comic out there was the latest X-Men crossover.
Saying that if she's having a hard time making a living is her own fault is like the rich telling the poor to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and get going. Perhaps less than 1% of the webcomics out there are making money, making enough money to support themselves, and yet everyone holds them up as the ideal for surviving as artists. Listen people, making art is hard and time consuming, and the reality is that very few people are going to pull the discretionary income necessary to keep themselves going.
Certainly I would have thought that people like Colleen and Terry Moore would have been the poster children for making this work, given a strong fanbase and name recognition, but perhaps not. Perhaps there simply isn't enough time in the world for them to actually spend hours creating art and then marketing themselves on the internet.
I'd love to have an actual ratio of artists vs. consumers in the world. I'd love to know what would happen if all the webcomics people just quit producing for a week or two, would people get as twitchy as if their daily newspaper page with comics suddennly went blank? Or if no new comics showed up in the store for a month? Would people be angry, or would they simply click to yet another site? And what about having all the television shows go to repeats? Remember how it was when Lost would go to reruns? I thought that you'd have riots like the streets of Detroit.
I'd love to know how twitchy people would get when all their favorite stuff to consume would go away. And then all the artists could lean back and say, "Sorry, you'll need to pay me so that i can get back to work." Expect that people don't like strikers, do they? The same people are angry that ARTISTS THAT ACTUALLY PRODUCE MATERIAL THEY LIKE want money, and if those people STOPPED PRODUCING, then the people would get... even angrier? How the hell does that work? Colleen is nailed to the cross with the phrase "Creator Entitlement" as if everyone on that board doesn't work for a living. What if we impaled their crass comments on wanting a paycheck as "Employed Entitlement". Fools, wanting to be paid for working in an office, filing paperwork, answering phones, doing anything. Such Entitlement, wanting a "paycheck". Go home and tell your wife or husband that they're withholding your pay that they really would just "like it for free".
It only enhances the odd relationship that people have with artists and the things that they produce. We assume that the art just comes out: That actors like to act and make movies, musicians write our favorite songs over breakfast and that comics are made by people who just doodle. The best ones look so easy that we assume it just exists, poof!, out of thin air.
If we go back 15 years ago, AOL, the huge heavyweight on the block, went and bought TimeWarner because it understood that content was king. The internet user has an insatiable, vampiric desire to consume content at a higher rate than ever before. Feeding that beast is becoming Uroboros, the eternal snake eating its own tail to consume and conquer the hunger, but with a greater global economy, that hunger shows no sign of abating. The best point in the Techdirt anger are the truest: that Colleen is one of the few that needs to figure out, or have someone else figure out, how to leverage some money out of that fan base. The should be able to do it better than most, and it may take a person that sees the micropayments and other, more inventive ways to market her on the digital ecosystem so that fans of hers will come and spend.