Vision of a Fan Based Economy

Ira Rubenstein is the Executive Vice President of Marvel Comics' Global Digital Media Group.  Dave Roman is associate editor of Nickelodeon Magazine and a cartoonist.  Stuart Levy is the chief executive of Tokyopop.

This is a conversation they had at ICv2 Graphic Novel Conference:

Rubenstein: But Dave, I think there’s a difference. No one can write about Spider-Man or X-Men except for us.

Roman: I disagree.

Levy: Totally.

Rubenstein: Those are our characters. How could someone else write another Spider-Man story?

Roman: Because fan fiction is becoming so powerful. I’ve seen the power of fan fiction. Working at Nickelodeon, there are people out there doing ‘Avatar’ comics that are soooooo much better…

Rubenstein: But that’s like saying YouTube is a real entertainment channel. It’s not.

Roman/Levy/like five people in the audience: It is (THE BEAT).

They just don't get it.

Caretakers of Legends

As I said in What makes a fan a fan, studios and publishers have to stop thinking of themselves as copyright holders and more as caretakers of the franchises we love.  The good and the bad of the dialogue above is that Dave Roman and Stuart Levy seem to understand, but Ira Rubenstein still doesn't.

I have a feeling that many companies will go out of business before their leaders who do not understand the changes in the marketplace are replaced by people who do understand.  If there is a future, then we have to change the economic model from the owner/consumer model to a new fan based model.  Here are some of suggestions for a possible way forward.

Studio/Publisher Side

Producers of media have to come to terms with the fact the days of closely controlled monopolies they once held over the franchises in their care are over, and that they have to open up to accept new methods of distribution and a new relationship with their fans.

National Borders are meaningless

The first lesson may be the hardest.  We have believed for so long that National Borders were meant to limit trade.  Where media is concerned this is a recipe for piracy.

With the advent of digital downloads, online streaming, and print on demand, it is easier than ever for any and every release to be global.  Distribution models have to built that will allow for a studio/publisher to monetize their work in every country simultaneously.

Ads, Subscriptions, Purchases and Give-aways

Studios and Publishers have to realize that they will never again be able to rely on a single method to monetize their works.  There are four main ways businesses make money on the net:

  1. Ads: Not too many or it turns people off, but the opportunity to direct targeted ads to reader and viewers.
  1. Subscriptions: Allow readers/viewers access to ad free versions of your content that they pay a regular recurring fee.  There are two major subscription models:
      1. All you can eat:  Allow your subscribers to full access to your content library so long as they pay the subscription fee.
      2. Ala carte:  Allow your subscribers the right to own so many files a month based on subscription level.
      3. Purchases:  Allow your readers/viewer to purchase copies of your work.
      4. Give-aways:  Sometimes you have to give your work away to find an audience and make your money some other way.  For example: give away the streaming, but sell the file.

      Platform Independence

      Don't tie your work to one platform.  Give your readers/viewers options.

      Let us stream with ads or subscribe by the season or purchase outright.  You offer every method, we chose the one we want.

      Don't tie our purchases to a single player or device.  If I want to watch my DVD on my AppleTV, let me.  If I want to watch my digital files at a friend's house, let me.  If I want to watch my iTunes purchases through Boxee, let me.

      The more restrictions you place on your files, the more you encourage piracy.  The more freedom you allow you readers/viewers, the more money you will make.  You cannot expect to be respected by your reader/viewers, if you do not treat them with respect.  If you treat them like pirates, don't be surprised when they act like pirates.

      Our Media

      You have to understand that you do not own this media.  If you allow your fans to have a sense of ownership over franchises under your care, they will feel a greater sense of responsibility for the future of the franchise.

      Next time we will discuss the Fan Side of the new marketplace.

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      Avatar: From Ice to Kyoshi

      Avatar book 1 Soon we will know if Aang will defeat the Fire Lord or fall, so I felt that I should make it the first series I would examine in depth. Since it first premiered on February 21, 2005 on Nickelodeon, Avatar: The Last Airbender has been the the only true fantasy show on television.  An original fantasy series that does not fall victim to any of the well worn cliches of fantasy fiction or animated television, the show is a brilliant mix of humor and drama with deep character back stories that bring the setting and the characters alive in an entertaining and enriching way.

      avatarbook1disc1 The series begins with sister and brother  Katara and Sokka out in a boat fishing.  Katara looses her temper and shatters an iceberg to find a frozen pearl containing the Avatar.

      The symbolism of the chosen one rising from the ocean encased in a blue gem is reminiscent of origin of many of the great gods and heroes of mythology.  Aang, who is a trickster hero, is immediately  a source of humor and concern.

      The various bender nations are living examples of the elements they are connected to.  The air nomads ride their whims like the air follows the wind.  The water tribes all trust their feeling, while the fire nation are driven by their passions.

      Magic is integral  to the setting, and is not only introduced well, but also dictates the technology and manner of living within the various nations.

      Starting with "The Avatar Returns," they establish the principle that violence is not the solution to every problem.  Aang uses every tool at his disposal not to fight.

      When we see the avatar state for the first time, its power is truly awe inspiring, but at the same time we see the toll it takes on Aang.  It is not something he can turn off and on, and the cost for tapping into it is great.

      None of the kids are masters of their bending. Their vulnerability is clear.

      In "The Southern Air Temple," we meet the formidable Commander Zhao.  He establishes the treat that the fire nation posses to the world, as well as Prince Zuko's position among his own.

      To enter the air temple, Aang must use his airbending to blow a steady current of air through a labyrinthine series of tubes to blow three horns.  Through this simple scene we see the other side of the airbenders.  The power of air is not only carefree but controlled and steady.  The balance of these two sides of the art are at play in Aang and represent his most basic dilemma.  Then when exposed to the horror of what happened to his people, the third element is revealed, that of indiscriminate destruction.  The sheer power of the air to destroy everything around it.

      On Kyoshi Island, Aang learns the hard way that there are consequences for his actions.  Even though he is still a child, his birthright forces adult concerns upon him.  If only he had been more mature or if he would have listened to Katara, the calamity that ensues could have been prevented.

      The series begins strongly and only continues to weave tighter stories as if pulls you deeper and deeper into its world.

      Avatar: The Last Airbender is available at Avatar: The Last Airbender - Avatar: The Last Airbender, Season 1 and Amazon.