WITHIN MEANS [Author: Lum the Mad]

UGO dead? Good. Took long enough. Blue’s not getting paid and Evil Avatar’s asking for handouts? Well, what did you expect to happen? eFront’s run by evil bastards? No shit? Sucks to be Lowtax. Those logs are really funny, though.

Michael Wolff told the WashPost that he thinks the Internet’s dead? Should this surprise anyone, considering this is the guy who blew gobs of his own money on dotcoms, then wrote a book about how he wasn’t making any money, and has been whinging ever since in his NY Magazine column? What else is this guy gonna say but “stay away, Internet BAD”?

I can sort of sympathize with the people who have been expecting the
Internet to bear fruit all this time, but let’s recall: None of us knew exactly how that was going to happen. Maybe it’s because I write for a newspaper, and am used to the idea that my job isn’t the main reason the company I work for makes money — it’s because the perky people in nice dress suits and ties in the Advertising Department are selling space in the same rag people pick up to read my articles. Other businesses that sell goods and services will pay good money for some of that space.

I will always remember the girl who came in during off-hours and asked to buy last Sunday’s newspaper. I took her money and handed her a back issue, one with several articles of mine on page one. She took out the coupons, then handed the rest back to me. She smiled at me, and I envisioned beating her over the head with the paper.

I got over it. Unfortunately for the Internet, there isn’t such a
relationship between consumer and provider. Even though more people are getting on the ‘net all the time, most of us expect stuff for free. The print industry has a remedy for that — fill the product up with ads. Village Voice has one of the highest subscription rates in the world. New Times owns several free weeklies (though I’m not thrilled with what happened to the Kansas City PitchWeekly since they sold out. Separate issue.)

I’ve long suspected that the Web had the potential to produce sites with alt-weekly-style status. The content is there, the interest is there. But the ads are not, and therefore the business is not.

Granted, I don’t usually like the ad department where I work. I sometimes have to write stories that are placed in sections designed solely to sell ads. It sucks, but I get enough good stories otherwise, and every second Wednesday I get a check, so I get over it.

What’s on the check? Not a fat lot. That’s another thing I’m used to. I’ve never thought real big before I thought small. The people I work for don’t think real big, either.

Contrast that to the Web, where a fat lot of interesting sites are run by puffed-up charlatans or wanna-be
that are suddenly realizing the consequences of what they had to have known in their hearts all along — they were sitting on a giant balloon, and it was gonna go pop sometime. But which one of them was truly interested in creating and nuturing a product or service or jobs before making scads of money?

Go ahead, tell me which one.

But moving along, I wasn’t too thrilled after C|Net decided to shut the Gamecenter Alliance down. XRGaming had only paid me once for running one of their sites, and I was deciding I kind of liked the idea of getting paid for doing Web stuff. Not a lot — remember, I don’t make all that much now. But like my day job, I’ve had to do certain things on that site that I don’t necessarily like doing. I just did it because it needed to be done.

I wasn’t thrilled by one of the first serious prospects Marduk, God bless him, said he was considering — this unknown, unproven wanna-be game publisher called WarCry. They wanted to buy XRG up; I said I’d quit first. Like Virgil reminded me recently, it wasn’t the first time I’d threatened to quit.

Once again, I got over it. I’m encouraged by the sales guy they’ve got on board. This might work, it might not. Any amount of griping won’t remedy the fact that this network requires a fat annual budget to run, and a good chunk of lifetime from the people running it. Like before, I’m concerned about how this is going to work, but if it works at all, I might be able to live with it. At least the people in charge aren’t too full of themselves to talk to me.

The other day, I found an interview the other day with Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, two roommates from Spokane who thought they could do a comic strip together. They gave up their day jobs, and “were under the impression that we would be making money in relatively short order,” Holkins told the local mini-weekly, The Pacific Northwest Inlander.

Of course, Penny Arcade fans
already know Mike and Jerry, better as “Gabe” and “Tycho.” This article was apparently written before they decided to become totally sufficient on fan donations and direct sales, but they both said in the interview that even after two years, the idea that they should be getting paid was still somewhat alien to them.

“Yeah, the concept that it might not be enough is even more alien,” Krahulik said. “It’s like, well, this is all I have to do. What more do you want? I quit my job selling computers, and I draw cartoons all day. And then peopleask, ‘Well, are you being paid enough?’ I quit my job selling computers, and I draw cartoons all day.”

I’ve got a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and over two years’ experience in news reporting. My job bores me. Will write for food.