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Who's doing this to my internet? (veekaybee.github.io)
366 points by vkb 789 days ago | hide | past | web | 293 comments | favorite



I feel old. This article begins by pining for the good, old-fashioned 'net of 2012. I know that I'm not the most attentive person on this topic, but honestly I don't feel like the big picture has changed much in years. Services like Twitter started up, grew wildly, and then looked for some way to make money for pretty much that whole time. Social networks sprout up; some make it, some don't. Big companies do some cool things and some cruddy ones. Lean new browsers burst onto the scene and then gradually bloat. Advertisers find new ways to intrude into formerly pristine conversations. (The rise of clickbait sites isn't even remotely as disruptive today as the rise of spam and sporge posts was to Usenet, just for instance.)

So I suppose my point is that I don't see any reason to think that the sky is falling today. Yes, some beloved sites and valuable modes of interaction are changing. But it's not the end of the internet: this has been going on since the beginning. We'll adapt, as we always have, especially if folks who care about creating vibrant communities and rich flows of information keep finding ways to innovate.


You're right, author has rose-colored glasses. I almost thought it was a joke at first—2012 as the good ol' days? The internet ruined in the last three years? Come on.


"Septembering" should be the term for this phenomenon.


I would have thought that that would be over by now. Surely all of America is online by now already?


Eternal September doesn't have to do with new users to the internet, but new participants within a community.

It's essentially the problem of digital immigration (which is much easier to do than physical immigration).


I would argue that new users on a forum that have already used other forums will be easier to integrate than those who have never been online before. And those that have used multiple forums will be easier still as they will be used to the idea that different communities have different rules.


Why?



I think her point is the internet has changed much more quickly since then, as opposed to earlier years.


Yeah except it hasn't changed more quickly. Back in the early 90s we had Eternal September, the NSFNet stopped running the backbone which led to SPAM (there was a time on the internet before SPAM), then the web was invented and someone wrote Netscape. That probably all happened within a period of three years or so. A few years later there were a thousand crappy Geocities sites and Yahoo and Amazon were founded.


I think part of the problem is that services now start without a way to monetize themselves immediately - they rely on external money reserves to support growth. People get used to getting quality content for free. At some point said services finally need to make money, at which point they fuck up (from the user's point of view) their product, and so the users move to another party who has fresh investor money reserves.


You know, I'm actually OK with this in the medium term as a global wealth recycling scheme. Just as many of the private investors who built railways lost their money but gave us a useful network.

We just need to keep promising vast wealth to investors as a result of global dominance while never letting any particular one take the whole cake.


The problem here is that there isn't too much recycling being done. In the process of trying to become profitable companies seem to destroy their products so thoroughly that there isn't much left to salvage by the end.

It's like railway investors deciding that selling off all the metal from the left side of the track is the best way to recoup their losses. By the time that's done, there really isn't much of value left for anyone to pick up and use.


The value isn't just in the final product; it's also present in the paycheques that paid for it etc.

That said, investors will find ways to spend their money regardless (it's in their best interests to do so).


Just reeks of being a whiny niche webfotainment consumer.

> I've really loved listening to SoundCloud over the past couple years since mainstream radio sucks, for the same reasons that mainstream TV used to (needing to target the lowest common denominator so as to not upset advertisers.)

Boohoo, now my favorite sites are going mainstream since I spend hours on their sites/consuming their bandwidth and they need to cover costs.

Alexa time on site:

facebook: 21:23 reddit: 18:30 youtube: 17:52 tumblr: 12:46 twitter: 7:41 soundcloud: 4:24

That's an hour and a half of a person's day.

> There have to be business models that allow the creativity of sites like XKCD, Reddit, SoundCloud, and Tumblr, to flourish. There has to be a way to save the walled garden of bland banality that the internet is becoming.

But you're still going to these sites despite the banality.

> Who's doing this to my internet?

You are.

> But most importantly, who will solve it?

Consider nominating yourself.


I know you're trying to be helpful by pointing out what's wrong with the author's perspective, but I think you're missing the main point--that there is no business model today that aligns well the needs and "digital rights" of the individual. Eventually, all of the good intentions of internet startups are subsumed by their business models (usually an advertising model), which only incidentally aligns with some of the needs of human beings.

I don't read it as a violin story, nor as a complaint--more of an attempt to define the problem and serve as a banner calling like-minded people together.


Sure there is. People can pay for the products made by a business. Individuals don't have a right to the products that others make; if they want to have those products and don't want ads, then they need to ante up and pay money for the product and that money needs to be enough that the creator of the product can keep creating more products and support the customers who've already bought.


This is definitely a valid problem for anything strongly driven by a network effect. If you buy your widget and pay for it, it's not a problem, but if the product is only cool when many people produce content on it, then it get many people by being free-at-first.


It's just a combination of pessimism with a few random anecdotes. Reddit being "ruined" has so little to do with The Verge having a lot of ad tech in its pages they could really only be grouped together in the category of, "Things I don't like."


Constantly have to adapt and change or build services because commercial incentives will turn each and every successful service to shit feels like a problem to me.

It doesn't feel sustainable, and a backlash seems to me to only be a matter of time.


Another song I loved by an artist I loved was available for sale, but on a tiny third-party music distribution site I'd never heard of, and for $1.50. $1.50 is a lot to pay for a song

And then OP wonders why everyone is making free services plastered with ads instead of charging.


"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair

You're putting all the responsibility on the consumer, and none on us, the technologists, the so-called innovators. Where are our innovative powers to come up with alternate busniness models? Where are our backbones to stand up against selling out the internet so that we can get rich quick?

Because that is what the advertising business model is: a get rich quick scheme. Undercut the straight up competitors that charge for their product by fooling consumers into thinking you're offering what the other guy is offering, but for free. Come on, who could turn down that?

Only the truth is it isn't free. We all pay in the end. The lunch is not only not free, it's costing us more and its loaded with toxic crap.

The saddest thing about Hacker News is that we all get behind radical things like FOSS (Bill Gates called it un-American) and Snowden[1], and fight SOPA and NSA violations of privacy, but because too many of our salaries depend on advertising revenue, our cognitive dissonance blinders go up lightning fast. You can already see it in the top comments to this post.

Admittedly I suck as a writer, but ever time I make my very strong case that advertising may be the primary evil of internet[2], I almost invariably receive a great number of silent downvotes. No one solidly counters my arguments, except to fall back on the utter bullshit that that advertising is great because it gives us the internet for free, which proves that they didn’t even read my argument.

Boykis is wrong in saying that things were fine in 2012. No, they were bad then, and the internet's original sin, relying on advertising, started long before that. It’s only that now it is accelerating toward a crescendo. It will get worse unless we do something about it.

-

[1] Today on HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9961527

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8585237


I find comments like this to be sorta akin to putting your fingers in your ears and screaming "lalalalala I can't hear you!".

Whenever people say "free" in the context of information exchange, my belief is that they fundamentally misunderstand the nature of information. Information is a proxy for power, and the power comes from asymmetry. If everyone has a level playing field from an information access perspective, you cease to have functioning markets of exchange. The essential point of business is information arbitrage (I know something you don't know so I can buy low and sell high) and free access to information is antithetical to that view.

In short, everyone remembers the first half of that quote: "information wants to be free..." but conveniently forgets the second part: "... But information also wants to be expensive".

There is no "free exchange of information". It is always subsidized by the rich and powerful (no part of the internet's infrastructure is "free" and therefore any "free" exchange of information is a form of charity).

That is to say, it's hard for me to tell people to give up the information which is, in effect, their livelihood.


I made a mistake by ending my comment with:

> The author nails it at the end:

> "There have to be other business models that free up the internet for what it was meant for: free exchange of information.”

I'm with you. People need to get paid.

I'm only calling for coming up with better business models or go back to the straight up "charge for it" model that the free market system is built on. The bit about "free up the internet for what it was meant for: free exchange of information" is not my point, though we do need to come up with a business model that gets people paid but also let's the information that is the lifeblood of democracy flow freely to all people regardless of ability to pay. You focused on a red herring (though it was my fault to put it there, and I've deleted it, thank you). Now please address my points about the ills of advertising.

(P.S. We'll leave to another day the question of whether "It is always subsidized by the rich and powerful" or whether the rich and powerful are in fact subsidized by the people at the bottom, whom you consider the recipients of "charity".)


Advertising is the worst model, except for all the rest of them.

Charging for things, in and of itself, is hard and, on some level, facetious. If all knowledge were known, why would you pay anyone to do anything? It's not clear to me why anyone pays anyone except in the case of information arbitrage. Advertising is a form of explicit information arbitrage, where we convert dollars into attention. Other information arbitrage's include licensing, where we essentially leverage the properties of intellectual property and technical obfuscation to generate returns.

The ills of advertising are a consequence of information arbitrage. What most people are railing against is the act of arbitraging what they view as trivial information, and yet this is the essential point that makes a business.

We think advertising is evil because it monetizes our attention in a vaguely non-consensual manner, but there are tons of businesses which are valued with respect to attention that are not valued with respect to dollars (think porn as the canonical example). Advertising is simply the easiest way to convert attention into dollars. There are higher friction methods, but their returns are generally commensurately lower.

If I could just reach into your bank account and pull a penny out for every minute you use my app, or listen to my song, or read my book, that might be a viable business. Barring that access, advertising appears to be best.


Dude, you don't really make much sense with all that reductionist gobbledygook. You're quite hung up on the concept of "information arbitrage" in your numerous replies on this thread. You almost come off as a troll but I can see you're serious.

There is more to life than "information arbitrage". You cannot reduce people and society to transactions. Get out of your green-ivory tower. Arbitrage the asymmetry between your theories and reality by living a little. Maybe get laid. But if you reduce that too to some sort of arbitrage, you probably won't, unless you're paying for it, which only reinforces your world view.

> I find comments like this to be sorta akin to putting your fingers in your ears and screaming "lalalalala I can't hear you!".

Ironic.


1) Telling me to get laid has no place on this forum or in polite society. I have lived plenty. This is relevant: http://www.paulgraham.com/disagree.html

2) Relationships between people are also a study in information arbitrage as the power dynamics between two individuals are never equal unless both parties have intentionally decided to make them equal.

3) If you think the world of business is governed by some other form of arbitrage, please put your theory forward. If you think the world is not governed by arbitrage, please tell me what governs the world.

It is not reductionist, it is an attempt at distillation. Reductionist would be to ignore the pertinent facts of the discussion.


>everyone remembers the first half of that quote: "information wants to be free..." //

You appear to have the quote wrong and the intent of the quote wrong too?

Wikipedia has it as from Stewart Brand, supporting the freeing of information:

>"On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other." (Brand 1984, via Wikipedia) //

It's saying that information is valuable and so in a way it should be expensive but as we now have ways of distributing that information for little cost we can make the information free-libre and virtually free-gratis. Some people want to make the information expensive, so they alone can profit; others want to make the information free so that all of mankind can benefit.

>That is to say, it's hard for me to tell people to give up the information which is, in effect, their livelihood. //

To me all of this, and the way industrialisation is heading, leads to a need to re-evaluate the structure of society and the way we process and share resources (physical and otherwise). But that's not a reason not to go there, unless you wish to retain the current system where - as you note - it benefits a small minority to keep useful information from others.

Stallman apparently puts it this way:

>"I believe that all generally useful information should be free. By 'free' I am not referring to price, but rather to the freedom to copy the information and to adapt it to one's own uses... When information is generally useful, redistributing it makes humanity wealthier no matter who is distributing and no matter who is receiving." (Stallman, Comp. Sec. Conf 1990) //


Thank you for the correction! It is appreciated.

I am firmly in the camp that wants additional information dissemination, but I am also in the business of understanding why this is hard. I do see knowledge as one of the few universal equalizers, but I recognize, simultaneously, why invested power structures want to protect their advantages.

I agree that current economic paradigms require rethinking, but, short of additional taxation and subsidization, I don't see how we're going to achieve any semblance of novelty in economics.


The Internet infrastructure has nothing to do with what we are talking about. You actually pay for the infrastructure monthly to your ISP.

Also, your understanding of the point of a business is really flawed. Everyone can have perfect information and businesses can still function just fine. I continue to pay restaurants for food even though I know they are making a profit off me. I do business with businesses that provide value to me. It doesn't have anything to do with whether or not they have secrets.


>The Internet infrastructure has nothing to do with what we are talking about. You actually pay for the infrastructure monthly to your ISP.

Actually, your tax dollars for the last 40+ years subsidized the internet and you now pay your ISP because of their ability to leverage regulatory arbitrage against you. Their secret is their ability to get governments to give them money for delivering services that they then charge exorbitant fees for; it's a good game.

If you look at the cost structures of the networks in contrast to the tax dollars subsidizing them, you'll realize that the networks were basically paid for by the citizens and operated privately at a profit. Here's a good book on the subject: http://www.amazon.com/Broadbandits-Inside-Billion-Telecom-He...

>Also, your understanding of the point of a business is really flawed. Everyone can have perfect information and businesses can still function just fine. I continue to pay restaurants for food even though I know they are making a profit off me.

Sure, you definitely pay people for services where you are aware they are making a profit, but the reason those services make a profit is secrets: knowing where the best sources of meat come from, the best vegetables, the vendors who show up on time etc. All businesses have secrets.

And no, we cannot simultaneously have perfect information exchange and functioning markets. You might have microcosms of functionality, but the global economy would cease to function. Lots of deals are dependent upon one side believing the other side is not cheating them. With perfect information, all of those secrets would be revealed and the consequences would be unpredictable at best and dire at worst.


Ugh, no! It's not because they know the best places to get meat, etc. When I cook at home I can make better meals than most restaurants I go to. I pay them because they do the damn work for me!

There are some businesses where secrets matter, but the vast majority are just in existence because they have infrastructure setup to do things cheaper/faster than you could yourself.


I think you should expand your view. You are only taking into account the service aspects of the business and not supply chain or other very important details (like location).

All businesses have secrets and they matter. The cheaper/faster portion of the business is a form of information arbitrage. Cheers.


We are not paying for hosting costs ..


> If everyone has a level playing field from an information access perspective, you cease to have functioning markets of exchange. The essential point of business is information arbitrage...

This is a brilliant insight!

Still, we are in a sufficiently connected world that the balance is shifting from businesses having the higher value information about the cost to deliver a service and the consumer having immediate access to information about competitors and the relative value being offered. The cost of that information for consumers is diminishing and creating new market opportunities (i.e. an uber driver knowing where to go to find a paying customer...which greatly expanded the actual market size.)

All this is to say... That while businesses thrive on information assymetry, those that can find a way to even the playing field will expand markets and create much bigger opportunity than those that try to sell the information for ads or subscriptions.

The users post is a clear monetization path for soundcloud. Sell the downloads and own a piece of the transaction... Like uber does and like Google is trying to do with their buy buttons and comparison ads.


Would you say that Uber is less or more information asymmetric than the taxi companies?


> [U]s, the technologists, the so-called innovators. Where are our innovative powers to come up with alternate busniness models?

Well, we're technologists. Our innovative powers are good for coming up with technological solutions, but this is a business and social problem. Our ability to solve those problems are no better than anyone else's—worse, probably, given our focus on problems with very different constraints.


Exactly. What I took away from this article is that, despite everyone being frustrated by the inoculation of ads into our beloved 'free' services, we are still not frustrated enough to actually pay the premium to eliminate these annoyances. It's the old cliche, "you can't have your cake and eat it too".


Or it says that there's an untapped opportunity for low friction, micro-transactions instead of "ads" or full-fledged purchases on unknown websites.

It's clear by now that ads are for lazy. If your plan is to monetize your site with ads, today just like 10 years ago, you lost.

Edit: surprised by the negativity on her reaction for _hacker_news. She's rebuffed by the $ and time investment for a single song ("unknown website, takes time to create an account, multiply by times she wants to buy a song). As she says:

> and not enough to pay to risk giving my credit card to an unknown third party.

This is a UX challenge, not some morale lecture.


The UX challenged has been solved, though; there are multiple well known websites selling music and which allow you to bundle all songs in a single order. You just can't force the artist to use them.


Yes and no - streaming and iTunes are pretty good for most things "mainstream" music. Soundcloud though: there's no excuse for them at least not to _try_. Just like for her, ads and passive aggressive song selection are killing the experience.

Then for content at large, there's pretty much everything to do. Not surprised if Stripe and ApplePay, both focused on this micro-amount market, take it all.


Microtransactions have a minimum mental cost to the user. This is why even the services that could track your actual consumption and bill you to the penny don't.


If micro transactions break into public awareness it might get significantly better. There could be a joint meter app like mint to track usage. You could just sort by a few things like recent cash flow and trivially manage your transactions at scale. Transactions should be tied directly to user level constructs like playing a song or a period of time in a game. These should have consistent costs so that the user can form reasonable expectations without needing to sign off on every transaction. You don't think about how much water costs every time you use the faucet but you're aware enough not to just leave it on. That's the only mental cost that's ultimately necessary.



I swear I remember some bank or company generating single-use credit card numbers specifically for this kind of concern.

Did it fizzle out due to lack of use, or improved security on the banks' part, or am I just another victim of the Mandela/Berenstain effect?


You can still buy virtual Visa cards from various vendors: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=virtual+visa+card


My bank still does this, and someone else said Citi does too.


a block-chained digital currency would work pretty well...


I've been thinking about an idea that would solve this for bloggers and other small-time publishers: Readers subscribe to a federation of publishers for, say, 10 or 20 dollars a month. They now get to consume as much as they want on those sites.

After they read an article, they can click either a "worth it", "meh" or "garbage" button. At the end of the month, all subscription fees are distributed to each publisher proportional to their "worth it" votes. This will drive up quality. If "garbage" votes are penalized, it will discourage bad content as well as link-baiting, dishonest titles or any other gaming of traffic.


> Readers subscribe to a federation of publishers for, say, 10 or 20 dollars a month. They now get to consume as much as they want on those sites.

Federation isn't a very catchy name. Maybe you can think of it as a bunch of strings, all wound together. Like a cord, or... or like a Cable! Yeah, call it "Cable".


Exactly. Except that this supposed ratings system could potentially have a bigger impact on quality than the cable model, though I'm not entirely convinced.

I assume most channels make their income almost entirely off of advertisers, and channels which are not watched as frequently are presumably not paid as much. In the proposed system I would assume the idea is to decrease/remove advertising and content providers would be given a share of the revenue based on user ratings? Seems interesting, but probably not terribly practical. It seems this could devolve into clickbait hell pretty quickly.


@Roodgorf:

> It seems this could devolve into clickbait hell pretty quickly.

Avoiding clickbait and rewarding actual quality is the point of the simple rating system. The garbage rating actually penalizes clickbait further.

Clickbait happens today because of the advertising model, where the click not the content generates revenue.


> The garbage rating actually penalizes clickbait further.

But the reason that clickbait works, is that people like clickbait. So I'm not sure you'd get much success with getting people to rate them "garbage" when they like them. Sure, maybe not en masse, but on an article-by-article level, people do like clickbait.


> But the reason that clickbait works, is that people like clickbait.

No, the reason that clickbait works is because the clickbait itself (which is the thing which is presented before you click the link) looks like something that the user is likely-enough to like that they are willing to click it to find out.

The whole reason that its called clickbait is that that impression is often deceptive. So, getting feedback of the quality of the target of clickbait links would be potentially useful in weeding out the garbage.


> No, the reason that clickbait works is because the clickbait itself (which is the thing which is presented before you click the link) looks like something that the user is likely-enough to like that they are willing to click it to find out.

I think at this point if a user clicks on a link titled "12 Best Disney Princesses", they know exactly what they're going to get—and they click on it, because that's what they want to see.


#2 Our users punish clickbait by refunding

In 2015, sometimes it feels like the best example of modern journalism is Buzzfeed. Go to any journalism conference, and their logo will be on many, many slides. As a journalist today you might feel that it’s more valued to write clickbaity headlines than to write pieces of well-researched journalism. But, Buzzfeed doesn’t work if people need to pay per article.

At Blendle we see this every day. Gossip magazines, for example, get much higher refund percentages than average (some up to 50% of purchases), as some of them are basically clickbait in print. People will only pay for content they find worth their money. So in Blendle, only quality journalism starts trending.

From: https://medium.com/on-blendle/blendle-a-radical-experiment-w...


Sure, but the level of responsibility required by the user as a curator doesn't seem like it would hold past a critical mass. The insane amount of reposts that Buzzfeed-esque garbage gets just isn't all that encouraging to me. Short of the decidedly undemocratic method of only counting a certain group of users' ratings, I'm just not confident it would change things at scale.


You're thinking of flattr, I think


Actually, it's different. See this discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8008960


Yeah, except I want to read, say, 6 blogs, and they'll be on four different federations, so I'd have to pay $40-80/month, which I definitively won't.

We're seeing the same problems with all the streaming platforms.


We can all handle 3 or 4 subscriptions. The dollar amount I came up with was an example. A small federation might charge $1. The invisible hand of the free market decides. The federation would fail if it charged more than the amount of good content it produced. An author could also syndicate her/his content to more than one federation.

If we're not willing to pay for good content, i.e. the writer's livelihood, then we're all fucked. If you read my other comment herein[1], you'd know we're all paying anyway, even though we are fooled into thinking it is free.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9961761


I'm willing to pay for good content. But I also live in a place where a good software developer (net) salary is €14k/year, and that's still much higher than the average national salary, so I'm wary of these subscription services. They usually end up with a single price (since geo restrictions work poorly on the web), which the invisible hand pushes up to accommodate the disposable income of wealthier places.

As bad as advertisement is, it still helped subsidize my reading when I couldn't afford to pay for it, while the subscription model would create a tiered Internet for the more and less well-off.


So would you be in favor of the advertising business model for books? All books would be free, but there would be ads on the cover and interspersed throughout the book, sometimes on separate pages, sometimes in boxes between paragraphs. There would be product placements, as well as “native ads” which appear to be integral chapters of the book.

What if authors who refused ads just couldn’t compete against the deluge of free books?

What if books had a way of tracking who read them, and this previously private information was sold on the information markets?


No, I wouldn't. But I wouldn't like if most authors published in "book subscription services" either - ads might actually be less bad.

Thankfully, they don't.


he with the biggest voting ring wins


Ehh… no. The subscribers in the ring would only be gaming its own payments, no one else's. They'd be paying themselves, less the federation's operating fees.


The part that stuck out to me was when the author talked about her desire to have a long-term archive of her favorite music, but wasn't willing to "wait for 2 days for a CD to ship". I can understand not wanting to deal with CDs or not wanting to spend money on less-favorite songs on the album, but focusing on the delay just doesn't click for me.


If the only way you could get to Hacker News was over a dial-up connection, would you switch to dial-up or would you just go to a different site that loads a broadband speed?

Waiting two days to then have to deal with the unpleasant experience of getting a physical CD sucks. Wait two days, then rip the CD, then move the file to your phone... or just find other music you like that can be immediately downloaded. I love music but there are very few individual songs I would do that for.


I've done that with my entire music collection. I have only ever bought one MP3 in my entire life. The rest of it is ripped from the CDs that I have bought. If the artist has gone to the effort of recording, mixing, mastering and designing sleeve notes and documenting who took part in the process, then that's really something worth buying.

If we only consider music to be as valuable as background white noise, then downloading it without the associated archive of data is probably worth it. But I think the entire process is worth more, which is why I'll buy it and wait the "forever" of 2 days for a CD to arrive.

I can't believe people consider 2 days for postage for a CD to be a long time. Is this a generation of "I want it NOW NOW NOW NOW" that I am surrounded with?


It's a generation with a deeply internalized notion of opportunity cost. That and given most people care primarily about the actual music the ratio in effort to ship/rip a cd versus download a torrent is enormous.


I'll usually buy CDs at shows (since I assume more money goes to the artist), or when an artist just doesn't sell digital copies (e.g., Ladybaby).

But okay, I look at the pretty artwork once, I wonder at what exactly a producer does, and then I never, ever look at that stuff again. I buy the CD for mostly the music, which I consume via my ears.

I've literally got a stack of CDs that I purchased to get artists' music, and only keep them around for sentimental purposes. If the cats eat them all tomorrow, I'd be vaguely bummed out, but I honestly don't think they've even seen a CD laser since I ripped them the first time.


It’s two days if you live in the US. I don’t, so the CD will have to travel for weeks to finally get stuck at the customs in the airport—and CDs are much more fragile than MP3s or FLACs. Moreover, I don‘t have a single device to put this CD into.


If it's an album worth having, yes. But those are rare. Why pay $20 and wait two days to rip a single song that you want to listen to?

There are also people who thought the telephone would never take off because telegrams were a richer experience.


You really haven't noticed before now?


Perhaps, but I ignore it for long enough until it rears its head again and I feel disappointed, like now...


Sure, but the author was talking about being worried about long-term access to her favorite songs. I think she said that soundcloud still has most or all of them right now: the next two days are presumably not the big concern here. If she wanted a constant stream of curated but non-specific new material, I agree that that would be a different issue.


Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it.


I wonder if people give thought to the length of time it takes to learn an instrument, play it well, learn the recording process, record it well, learn the mixing process, mix it well, learn the mastering process, master it well etc. if they are willing to dismiss $1.50 as expensive for a song.

In comparison, how much is a cup of coffee or a portion of chips (for us UK types)?

How much is a trip to the cinema?

It shouldn't be a race to the bottom. If you want bargain-barrel prices, you'll get bargain-barrel quality too.


I don't think you can honestly rationalise it like that.

You could similarly rationalise selling an iPad for $2,000 by 'We have a bajillion engineers, who all went to top schools after decades of non-stop education, who worked 80 hour weeks to refine every single component of this, who tested 100 different chamfers for this edge, who polished it, who ...'

The price of something should absolutely be dictated by how much the target market is willing to pay for it (and that includes ease of purchase etc) - otherwise people simply won't pay. For music, that is one of the reasons why you have so many people whining about how much piracy there is; their target market simply doesn't think that their music is worth the amount they want to charge it for.

The consumers may be incorrect, but it doesn't change the fact that the sales will be smaller because of this.

Music is frequently expensive to produce, but the sale price is largely independent of that. If you consider production costs alone, an orchestral recording should cost many times that of a band, due to its many times greater investment (an orchestral musician will be vastly more technically talented (after 2+ unpaid hours of practice per day for all but a few years of their life) than almost any band musician) and smaller market.

Meanwhile a live recording should cost almost nothing, as it can be produced simultaneously (and frequently is) released immediately after the gig.

The price is the same, because that's roughly what people are willing to spend on music.


I always thought that the initial 99¢ per song in iTunes was partly influenced by the fact that people usually give $1 bills to street musicians (at least so they do here in NYC).

If you can pay 100¢ for a 3-4 minutes of street performance, can't you pay 99¢ (or less) for 3-4 minutes of a high-quality recording which you can listen to as much as you like?


I think that's apocryphal; https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9961530 suggests so anyway. The cause is probably the same; $1 is seen as an irrelevant amount of money by most people.

Even so, you compare very different things, and the result is not terribly informative.


I think the fact that music is so easy to get for free makes it difficult to assess what value people would place on it if that outlet wasn't there. Surely some portion of the pirates would pay for the music they're torrenting if it wasn't available for free.


The specific reasons for how people place value on music aren't hugely relevant; all that should matter for the label in most cases is maximising the total revenue (as for digital downloads the marginal cost is irrelevant).


A coffee or chips is a consumable, as soon as I use them they're gone and nobody else gets to consume them. They don't compare.

A trip to the cinema, without paying for unnecessary and expensive food and drink, only costs about 6x-10x more for something that costs considerably more to produce than a song. Jurassic World cost $150,000,000 to create and I got to watch it for $9. Skipping the cinema altogether, I can buy it on disc for about the same price at a later date and watch it as many times as I want.

A song has a tiny fixed cost per unit sold. Personally I think that my compensation to the artist (not their total compensation) for their effort in creating a song is pretty fairly priced at about $1 given their investment and costs. If they made something amazing, maybe a few million other people will also chip in and they'll be rich.

Honestly, I'm also not convinced money has any impact on the quality of music either. Amazing musicians often do well for themselves but lots of the big names in music put forth formulaic crap and pandering lyrics too. We get bargain-barrel quality despite those musician being well compensated, while some of the best performances I've witnessed are local artists still working a day job to survive and playing gigs on the side because they genuinely enjoy doing it (knowing full well their chosen genre to perform will never be a million dollar mainstream hit-maker).


That hypothesis is not supported by my model of economics.

Price is largely determined by the marginal cost to produce a good, and by the consumers' willingness to pay for it.

If demand is such that consumers are not willing to pay more than the marginal cost of production, the good is simply not produced. Firms with the highest costs drop out of the industry, one by one, until the remaining suppliers can make money again.

Music isn't exactly a fungible commodity, but it's close enough. There is a powerful substitution effect, at the least. If people think $1.50 per track is expensive, then guess what? If you can't sell a track at a lower price, you're going to go out of business. If you drop your quality to lower your costs, then guess what? Consumers will adjust the price they are willing to pay based on that lower quality.

So your implication is backwards. Bargain-barrel quality yields bargain-barrel prices, not the other way around. Lower price expectations yield fewer products on the market, and the survivors will generally have the highest ratio of quality to price.

The musical skills really only come into play when price expectations rise high enough that new entrants to the market can be supported. If people were willing to pay $2 per track, you would need those skills to cash in. The skill requirement is a barrier to entry, not a cost of production.


The hilarious part about this is that the OP is not only not willing to spend $.50 USD extra on a song... it is that it is for a song that he already loves and has listened to many times! What a great way to reward that artist!

My very favorite songs I've listened to a hundred times or more. In one case, I wanted a remix that wasn't even sold as a single, so I ended up paying about $50 for a promotional copy (given to DJs) on eBay.

It was definitely worth it.


Point taken, but keep in mind this probably isn't the artist's only song, the sound guy's only mix, or the recording equipment's only use. What is the marginal cost of using that mixing board to do one song? How many people are buying the song? As a digital good the per-unit cost of selling the song to another person is next to nil. It's not obvious to me what a fair price is for a given piece of music, but it is obvious that if say everybody in the world bought a copy at $0.01, nobody involved in the production would be going hungry.


I get what you're saying but that doesn't answer why a hybrid model isn't more common than it is.

Show me ads to monetize my free consumption of your service, but if I'm willing to pay (as many definitely are), allow me to subscribe to disable the ads. Why isn't this model more common? Is it because advertisers tend not to want to advertise on a platform where people can opt out of their ads?


There was a post on HN last week where the author provided a reasonable answer (or at least I think so) to this question.

The gist is that people who are willing to pay a subscription to disable ads are exactly the people that advertisers would like to target. When a service assembles a list of such people, the value of that list to the advertiser generally exceeds the sum of the individual payments provided by the subscribers.

You can increase the subscription fee, but then you'll have less subscribers and the ones who are left will be the most valuable to advertisers (i.e. they have the most disposable income). If you decrease the subscription fee, you will have more subscribers but not a lot more, because the primary obstacle for online subscription type services for most people is not the price but the idea of paying for something they are accustomed to getting for free.

So if you get 1000 people to pay $1.00 per month for your niche Swedish grunge music streaming service and double the price, a decent number of them will not like that and some of them will unsubscribe. But if you halve the price to $0.50 per month you won't see many new customers since many people aren't willing to pay even small amounts for music streaming. Advertisers, meanwhile, don't have these mental obstacles and just try to price things as objectively as possible. And they see a narrowly targeted list of people with a highly correlated list of interests and purchasing tendencies and value it appropriately.

This might explain why services like Hulu have gradually introduced more advertising into their paid subscription services. As long as two groups of people are are paying them (customers and advertisers) one will generally be willing to pay more. Economic forces on the internet seem to result in advertisers having more purchasing power here.


Do you have the link to the HN post you referred to?


Disclaimer: I'm making an educated guess here.

Most non-text media sites sell advertising directly, because most of the on-demand ad networks / platforms that provide a real-time auction are simply too slow. I've seen ad stacks that spend over 4 seconds determining which on-demand ad network will fulfill the view - usually accomplished via VAST chaining. VAST 'tags' are xml manifests for an advertisement, and can contain links to other VAST tags in lieu of supplying the ad unit data directly - and each hop on the VAST tag has the chance to drop a cookie on you.

Because ad networks suck for the user, selling direct advertisements is better. Because ad networks suck for CPM, selling direct advertisements is better.

Two primary metrics used to directly sell direct advertisement is viewership and consistency. Advertisers not only want to buy lots and lots of eyeballs, they want to be sure the entity selling those eyeballs can actually fulfill the desired number of eyeballs. The details of an ad buy can take quite some time to work out.

If the cost in man-hours to work a deal for $X eyeballs is more than CPM*($X/100), a company won't even try to sell the deal. Likewise, if the benefit of having $X eyeballs view your advertisement is less than the cost of your ad buy team's time plus the cost of the advertisement itself, you won't buy that placement. Since the ad buy team and the ad sales team's efforts are fairly constant with respect to the size of the deal, small deals are verboten - on both sides of the table.

And if you've got subscribers that don't see ads, that's leverage you don't have when you're trying to sell ads. And since your subscribers are probably more affluent, they're the audience your advertisers probably want to subscribe to anyways.

As soon as 'Ads' becomes the primary revenue driver (unless you're an advertising company), you've failed. IMHO.


This is spotify's approach.


And since when is $1.50 "a lot" to pay for a song when the standard going rate for a song on iTune is 99cents?


50% more? iTunes is a premium service. Buy songs a-la-carte at $0.99 and pay more than you would for the whole physical album. Or am I out of touch? Back when I was buying music you could get CDs for $10 or a little more, and they usually had at least 10 songs on them...

It is a lot. Record companies don't want you to buy online, they want you to prop up their traditional multi-middleman distribution schemes, so they can go on paying a artists a fraction of a percent of profit from the record sales, and only after the band's high-risk "startup loans" are repaid.

Think of all the expenses that don't have to happen when distribution goes online, and yet the price stays the same (or goes up, now you're paying for the convenience.)


A CD might have 10+ tracks on it, but it's a fixed bundle of 10+ tracks chosen by the artist, so of course the per-track cost on a CD is going to be lower than for individual tracks.


Don't items usually cost more if broken out individually?


Yeah, but in this case there's no extra packaging to pay for. ;)


Isn't that what he said?


I posted that as I was making coffee. Let's pretend I put emphasis on "usually", or something.


How is "iTunes is a premium service"? Its claim to fame is what you said, being able to buy songs at $0.99. Its more a bargain basement service.


I don't really think I need to explain any more, but go ahead and look for cheap CDs online and tell me $0.99 per track is a bargain basement price. Half.com has CDs for $2.99 or less section, with many whole CDs coming in under $1. Even Best Buy has a CDs: $5.99 or less section on their website. Those are more like "bargain prices," in my opinion, and those are physical media that had to be shipped in and no doubt you pay extra to get them shipped back out, but (unless you really just wanted to have the one song) it's still cheaper.

I just went on the iTunes store and picked random albums from the front page, a few to be extra thorough, and you know what I found? Most albums are $9.99 or $12.99 with single tracks for $1.29. Maybe it's because I'm browsing "chart toppers" but after clicking through a couple of albums, I honestly don't see any songs for $0.99.

Where can you actually buy music online that is any more expensive than iTunes, if it's such a bargain?


The bargain basement part came from sound quality and being able to buy single songs. Apple's iTunes does have $.69 and $.79 songs along with bargain album prices of $6.99 (on the front page with links to cheap albums under the category headings near the bottom of the front page).


Beatport is premium service. iTunes is the cheap one.


I think more popular songs are going for $1.29.


Before you bought your Model S, were you ever indifferent about a 50% difference in gasoline prices?


1. Open SoundCloud

2. Open your browser's Developer Tools

3. Navigate to song page

4. Click on network tab in Developer Tools

5. Press the big play logo on the song

6. Look for the request for the MP3 file

7. Save link to computer

Honestly, for a rant that detailed about how corporations are ruining the internet, I kinda expected OP to know how to save songs off SoundCloud.

The worst part about this "modern web" for me is that mobile browsers can't seem to download a file from a website using simple HTTP authentication, because someone thought it would be a great fucking idea to write a separate app to manage downloads, and they never thought that someone might still be using HTTP simple authentication in 2014. So no, sorry, you can't download that file because our developers needed to write yet another app and didn't consider your use case.


I came to say that. Don't believe in the cloud. Just own the things you like to consume more than once, just save them on your hard drive, and sync all of it on all your devices. It requires some setup and attention but it works very well. I do need all the pictures of my family on all my devices, I don't need them on a cloud. Same for the music I love.


"The cloud" is many things. A streaming service is clearly flaky; a storage service like S3 or Nearline where you can put an encrypted offsite copy of your files is helpful, despite both being "cloud" services.


Firefox for Android can download files from websites using authentication just fine; it uses its own download manager that gets passed the authentication info from the main browser.


She actually convinced me to save my likes using https://github.com/013/Soundcloud-Downloader, whose author used exactly this process to determine how to download the mp3s.


A 45 RPM single in 1962 was $1.00. That would be $5.60 adjusted for inflation today.


I worked for a company that made CDs for independent artists, and started selling Vinyl (didn't manufacture those in house, though). Vinyl is expensive to make, and heavy and expensive to ship. So I'd guess the vast majority of that cost would be eaten up in raw manufacturing and shipping costs, without even talking about middleman costs. And if I recall, our margin was pretty small.


Just last weekend, I saw the episode of "How It's Made" on Science Channel that covered vinyl pressed records.

Here's a comparison of the processes.

Vinyl:

  - Manufacture lacquered master discs (50% QC rejection rate!)
  - Ship lacquered discs to recording studio
  - Put master in recording machine
  - Cut test groove
  - Inspect with built-in microscope
  - Cut lead-in
  - Cut audio tracks, in 2-channel stereo
  - Cut lead-out, label master by hand
  - Ship back to factory
  - Use chemical process to create nickel-silver negative
  - Peel metal negative off lacquered disc
  - Manually find center with microscope
  - Center-punch and trim metal master
  - Use metal master to stamp out vinyl disc copies
  - Ship heavy discs to distributors
Digital:

  - Press "record", press "stop"
  - Upload raw audio tracks to studio file server
  - Sequence and mix raw audio into master song track
  - Assemble album
  - Add metadata
  - Re-encode master tracks to consumer quality
  - Upload to distributor's server
The capital requirements for digital recording are very low now, having benefited from Moore's Law. If you can buy just one high-quality microphone and one decent laptop, and invest a whole lot of your own time, you can single-handedly produce an album with quality comparable to the best studio recordings of the vinyl era.

While Bobby McFerrin is the first person that I am aware of who did this, some artists will record separate tracks of themselves performing every part of a song, and painstakingly assemble the result in the studio to make their album. Then they hire other people to play those parts at live performances, or just leave some parts out.

In the vinyl era, you needed session musicians on staff at the studio. If someone screwed up, you couldn't easily re-record just that track. You usually had to re-do the whole thing.

So there are good reasons why music was relatively more expensive back then. Those reasons no longer apply.


Multi take, multitrack recording was a thing "in the vinyl era". You make it sound like the recording was done directly to master disc.


They didn't cover reel-to-reel recorders in that episode.

Obviously, recording the raw studio performances directly onto the masters that were to be reproduced would be a waste of resources. Multi-track reel-to-reel recorders were still pretty costly, even if the tape was relatively cheaper than the other costs of recording. That tech also improved up until the digital era, but I imagine most of the progress now goes into computer software.

People haven't really recorded directly to a groove in a plastic medium since wax phonograph cylinders. When you cut a vinyl master, you were probably doing it from tape.


Don't forget printing, labels, test presses, and pre-mastering. I started a vinyl record label a year ago and it's wild how man people/businesses are involved in the manufacturing process.


Plus retail has its costs too, markup for vinyl used to be around 50%, plus VAT. So you'd buy the 12" from the distributor at 5–6 € net and sell it for 9–10 € incl. tax (numbers from 10 years ago in Germany, probably haven't changed all that much). Owing to low volume (you can only move so many units), running a record store inevitably leads to self-exploitation.


Here's an interesting look at music prices over time.

http://theunderstatement.com/post/3377858909/album-prices


Supply and demand? ie: There is a glut today, did similar market conditions exist in '62?


Which covered a large manufacturing and distribution cost that digital media does not incur.


Even if you adjust for inflation, you really can't compare the production costs.


Can't you? The music has value even apart from the production cost.


Everyone is chiming in on this point, so I don't think I wrote it clearly enough. I would be willing to pay $1.50 for a song if it were through a known party, like Amazon Payments or PayPal. I've bought lots of music through Amazon. I'm not going to risk $1.50 to an unknown website. Additionally, my expectations as a consumer have been set to pay 99 cents per track, so to me, in the current atmosphere, $1.50 seems like it's too much, even though to the artist it might not be. The other issue I didn't touch on is DRM. Do I get the MP3 to keep forever if I pay? Most times, no.


> I'm not going to risk $1.50 to an unknown website.

$1.50 isn't much of a risk you know, even if you don't know the website. You'd probably even get the song!

Also, if a song is on Audio CD, it's probably on iTunes too.

> in the current atmosphere, $1.50 seems like it's too much

This makes no sense. If you're a true music lover, a great song will give you countless hours of enjoyment and appreciation. Do you seriously think $1.50 is too much for that?

Compare to paying $10 for a movie ticket. You get 2 hours of entertainment, the movie might suck, and you don't get much from watching it again. That's massively worse value than $1.50 for a great song you can listen to over and over again.

I would gladly pay $1000 for Prince's Purple Rain, if there was no other way to get it.


> $1.50 isn't much of a risk you know, even if you don't know the website. You'd probably even get the song!

The $1.50 itself isn't the risk, it's how you pay for it - by entering your card details you let them charge you whatever they want whenever they want


They just might accept PayPal though.


And of course everyone trusts that PayPal won't be hacked. /s


I don't think it's a problem with $1.50 in absolute terms. It's $1.50 compared to $0.99 from other vendors. Artists have set the expectation that songs are worth $0.99 by selling them for that amount elsewhere.

FWIW, I don't buy a lot of music - I use free Pandora and put up with the ads.


Music execs set that expectation, and artists just have to live with it. http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/branding/1559631/...

"During those meetings it was Warner executives, not Jobs as is commonly thought, who suggested tracks be sold for 99 cents. At the time, many labels wanted to price tracks at $3.49 each. But not Warner.

“When we told Steve, he looked at us like we just gave him a gift,” Vidich recalls. “We knew we needed to alter consumer behavior in a big way. Below $1 was an emotional threshold for people. It became an acceptable impulse purchase.”


> I don't think it's a problem with $1.50 in absolute terms. It's $1.50 compared to $0.99 from other vendors.

Yes, but if you only have the $1.50 option for buying a song you supposedly love, it simply makes no sense to refuse because other places sell other songs for $0.99, especially considering the massive value for a measly amount of money you get either way.


Even when people would be strictly better off accepting a deal, they refuse it if they feel it is unfair: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultimatum_game


But it seems to be too much for her. To quote "$1.50 is a lot to pay for a song, even a song you love..."


> This makes no sense. If you're a true music lover, a great song will give you countless hours of enjoyment and appreciation. Do you seriously think $1.50 is too much for that?

Just to add to this: since you've been streaming the song, you already know that you enjoy it! There is no risk to you, as a consumer, of purchasing something you'd dislike. This, to me, is the genius of streaming services. I know that my money, once I spend it, is going to artists I enjoy.


So only willing to shop with the self same large monoliths you claim are destroying the internet.


> I'm not going to risk $1.50 to an unknown website.

While that's a fair decision keep in mind that Paypal started as an unknown website at some point.

I have used Paypal as a commerce before for my online game and I can't stress this enough... their policies are awful. I don't blame an independent artist for trying an alternative, even if it is an unknown one.


Do I get the MP3 to keep forever if I pay? Most times, no.

Is that really the case? Most vendors selling MP3 format music are DRM-free.


Good point. I routinely pay $2.49 per track over at Beatport for DRM free 320 kbps quality. Can I find the same music on iTunes or Amazon? Sometimes, but there's a premium that Beatport can demand through having exclusive / niche content, which seems lost in the context of this discusstion (more or less).


> I'm not going to risk $1.50 to an unknown website.

Is that really what you wanted to say?

Because before you wrote this, I was under the impression that you don't want to risk your credit card details (and therefore risk the overhead that fraud or a hack on that site would cause you). But the if the problem is a whole $1.50, then I simply don't understand what difference the counterparty in this transaction makes.


If you don't mind sharing (and if you still recall) what was the payment service they were using?


It was via credit card, but it was a smaller site I'd never heard of (I'm into music but not enough to know this place..maybe they're legit and I just didn't spend enough time doing research) and I was weighing the responsibility of thanking the artist the cost of buying a single track on a fairly "random" site and watching my credit card like a hawk for a month. It wasn't worth it to me in the end, ultimately. Typing this out, it seems a bit harsh, but I think a lot of consumers go through this same mental process. When I wrote an ebook, I put it both on Amazon and through a Shopify-type store where people could buy the DRM-free version. 99% of those people chose Amazon, and with good reason.


That is simply because most people have their credit card info saved in Amazon already. And people are lazy.

And yeah I would be reluctant to use my credit card on a shady looking website but I don't even think twice about using my card at shady looking businesses. For example, just last week, I bought tacos from a taco stand inside gas station.

Was site shady looking or just unknown? For me as long as site has valid certs & professional UI, I am usually fine with it. Also if you are using credit card, you are not liable for any fraudulent charges.


Digital compared to physical is no comparison at all. A physical shop incurs physical consequences - like people knowing where you are, where your address is, and being able to say "it was over there".

EDIT: And credit cards still require you to reasonably show the charges are fraudulent, which means hey, you get to report it. And now you're out a credit card, so you also need to change it on all the places you need to use it.


Anecdotally, I got my credit card frauded 3 times over the span of 4 months a couple years back. I started reviewing sites I'd purchased with online wondering where my details might have been leaking out. Lo and behold, a local store nearby had their POS systems hacked. It took a quorum of local people on reddit to identify that it was this store in particular. My point is physical locations are just as insecure as websites and in fact it's usually a lot less obvious than remembering that sketchy website you bought an MP3 from and never going back.

In all cases it was also my credit card company that called me to let me know I was the victim of fraud on my card. Is it really the case that people need to hawk their accounts? I haven't had that experience for years now.


> I'm not going to risk $1.50 to an unknown website.

This is why people need Bitcoin.


A couple years ago, I bought 1 week of Soylent with Bitcoin.

Last year, I bought another batch. No more Bitcoin, but at least they accepted Paypal.

Now I’m looking to buy another batch, but they are asking me to trust them with another copy of my debit card. No deal. Back to 100%FOOD.

I pay cash for everyday stuff. After the Monoprice hacks, and then the Target hacks, I’ve become extremely leery of giving my payment information away. I’m looking for a big payoff, like being able to pay at multiple vendors, and I’m looking for a well-defended infrastructure that will definitely let me know if it gets breached.


You forgot this part as well:

I clicked on one song that I loved. It took me to Amazon, but the song wasn't available on MP3, only on Audio CD or Vinyl.

I immediately clicked away. I would gladly buy it on MP3 for 99 cents. But not wait for 2 days for a CD to ship.

Seriously? TWO DAYS. You can't wait TWO DAYS for your beloved music to arrive? This must be the pinnacle of someone with a low attention span. Ironic considering they painstakingly searched out each artist to buy their music, only to stop when they learn it will take two days to get it?

I just don't get any more.


I would not buy a $1.50 song on such a site. Here's why:

$1.50 is not worth the scale of mental investment required. I'm not going to give my credit card info to a site that I'm only going to use once. I'm not going to give my info to a site I don't trust. I will buy my music from the places I am already invested in.

And it is an investment: it takes time, attention, trust, and memory to use a website. The cost of that song is not $1.50 to me. (If it were, I would have no trouble paying it. I think that's a perfect price for a song.) The cost is an arbitrarily long commitment to managing the risk involved with using the site.

Which is only worthwhile when I know I will come back regularly. When I can say "I plan on buying a new song every other day, and that I'm ok with spending hundreds on music from this one site." Or when I can justify a larger purchase that is exclusive to the site.


Agreed. God forbid a tiny independent site gain any traction.


I think the mean price per song is certainly less than $1.50 over my entire music collection.

That assumes an average $15 for CDs with an average of 10 songs on them. At that price, I get the original uncompressed audio, FLAC files for digital storage, and whatever lossy transcoded files I might like to put on my player devices. And all of them are free of DRM, or at least freed from it at the ripping step.

In that light, to pay $1.50 for a digital download of a lossy-encoded file is pure madness. Despite the cost requirements of manufacturing, transporting, and distributing a physical medium, I still think the best value for buying licensed music performances is to get the whole CD and process the digital files yourself.

And whenever I [rarely] buy digital downloads, I will only pay for lossless file formats. I might download a gratis MP3, but only as a means to determine whether I might like to buy the album, or if there is literally no better way to get that recording.

I simply don't trust the digital music distributors to defend my interests in this industry.


I really really want to know what site it was.

If it was Bandcamp, TopSpin, 7Digital, databeats or Bleep, these are hardly unknown players in the digital download industry. The price for escaping from iTunes is a bit of diversity and slightly higher prices.

Edited to remove whinge about the price, it's not relevant. The author has let me know that the shop was http://shop.coldbusted.org/music which happens to be a frontend to Bandcamp.


How much money does one song really makes through ads per person? I don't think it's anywhere close to $1.50.


I saw a figure recently that the value of a single user, over the course of a month, to all of the people advertising to them, is just over $6.00. I know that's not what you're asking for, but that's the most related actual figure I've seen.


I used to pay about that for a 45rpm single back when that was the format for music. Probably closer to $10 in today's dollars.


Tweet to Jeff Greenspan - maybe that will be his next self-directed project on he winds down his assault on the NSA...


Users.

Users always talk that they would love to pay. The problem is, they never do. They blog and write on forums about what they would like to see, but the things they write are always very, very different from what they actually do, according to the data.

You remember how in this whole Reddit debacle Pao said that "most of users don't really care about this scandal" and got downvoted to hell? It could very well be true, but users who were constantly around subreddits that were involved in the drama couldn't believe it. They are sure that evil corporate suits are out of touch with reality because they "don't even use their own service" and consume the information in form of PowerPoint presentations. But those suits are very well in touch with reality — it is a couple of SQL queries away from them, actually. (And I see that "managers" are getting more and more literate in terms of analytics, by the way — SQL and R aren't really that hard, and often you have much more user-friendly analytic services at your hands).

I'm not saying that big websites don't do bullshit. Of course they do. But when they do something that users actually don't like, users punish them in the most harsh way possible: with their wallets. Don't you remember how internet used to be? The hundreds of popups, for example — turns out, users didn't like it enough to install Firefox, so these guys went out of business. I could recall more examples like this, but this comment is already too wordy; you get the picture.

If you want to stop Buzzfeed, don't click clickbait and shame (in a constructive way — without calling them idiots, but making them feel a little bit low-brow, basic manipulation isn't that hard) your facebook friends for reposting such bullshit. And if you won't succeed, you'll just have to face the reality of being one in several billions.


Correlative:

Auto enthusiast site commenters claiming "If Manufacturer A would build this car with X motor, Y drivetrain, and at Z price, I'd totally buy that!" or "If only Manufacturer B would bring Car XYZ to the US it would be a huge hit!"

If history is any indicator, no, those types of vehicles will not sell well. Recently I've seen the discussion around the Chevrolet SS (Holden import), because while on paper it's on par with other performance sedans, it's selling very poorly. Granted, it had low expectations by GM, but it's just an example of this mentality / vocal minority over-inflating their self-importance in the grand scheme of things.


> They blog and write on forums about what they would like to see, but the things they write are always very, very different from what they actually do, according to the data.

That's because content providers make it fucking impossible to buy their content a lot of the time!

I've been looking into this here (the Netherlands) for the last 12 months or so. It is so incredibly hard to go into a pay-per-view movie service, whether that's a cable TV video store, Netflix, Apple TV or what-the-fuck-ever-else, search for a fairly popular movie you like that came out in the last 5-10 years, and actually BE ABLE TO BUY IT.

Content providers are almost entirely at fault here. (I know this as I'm currently working at a cable TV company). They insist on negotiating individual contracts for restricted selections of (movie, series, whatever) content with each streaming/VOD provider individually. They will happily let customers buy an SD movie but charge them again, 2x, for a HD movie. They throw up all kinds of hurdles when it comes to recording TV in the cloud -- it is LEGALLY DIFFICULT to just store one copy of a recording for multiple customers.

The list goes on and on, it will drive you crazy if you have to deal with it.

> But those suits are very well in touch with reality — it is a couple of SQL queries away from them, actually. (And I see that "managers" are getting more and more literate in terms of analytics, by the way — SQL and R aren't really that hard, and often you have much more user-friendly analytic services at your hands).

Those suits are in touch with reality indeed -- they see that this business model has worked and continues to work, despite The Pirate Bay. They just need a large enough army of lawyers to maintain their dominance, both over distributors and customers (via lawsuits and website takedowns).

Don't blame the users for the clusterfuck digital content distribution is. It is the content providers who are to blame. They screw the artists, the distributors, the end users, as hard as they can, for as long as they can.


> I'm currently working at a cable TV company

Look at netflix share prices. Then look at your cable company's. Then look back at netflix. It's on a horse. (OK, the pun is stupid, sorry).

I don't pretend that it's all rainbows and butterflies. It sucks a lot of the time, and I share your pain. My point is, that on a large scale, industry does move when users want it to be. Slowly, painfully, but this is happening.

Compare today with 10 years ago. It is a more appropriate time frame to evaluate change in such gigantic industries. Did you try to buy games online then? Movies? Music? How was your user experience? iTunes fails me often (and as a DJ who uses it for library management, it hurst a lot), but the ability to hear song on the radio and buy it in scope of 20 seconds is awesome. Or, nowadays, just add it to my library without actually buying and evaluate whether I should buy it later at home.


Thank you for the explanation! At this point, I've given up on streaming services to watch movies. It's actually so much easier for me to just walk a couple blocks down to the video store and rent the Bluray...


There's also a particular P2P technology that can help you.


> Users always talk that they would love to pay. The problem is, they never do.

Perhaps there are other reasons than not willing to. Say, for example, in Germany credit cards are not that common (other methods, like SEPA direct debit are used). Or they are in principle willing to pay, but not for the product that is offered (say, because of DRM or watermarks). Or they would pay, but don't trust their credit card number to some small, dubious website. Or they would pay, but are afraid of some hidden usage terms for the website that implies some kind of subscription (and thus future payments) that you don't want.

TLDR: There are lots of other reasons that can explain, why people would love to pay, but don't.


That doesn't really matter for a company that has already raised some money and now desperately looking to get out of red, does it? (I'm not talking about Reddit or any companies in particular right now, just remembering my mind state when I was CEO/Founder: I can almost feel that desperate depression again).


Indeed this matters a lot and is what is called "business model". Just to give a comparison:

a) Users are willing to give away some of their personal data. Unluckily it seems not to be easy (for various reasons that are off topic here) to monetize this asset for many companies so that they can't or have difficulties to use it to get out of the red.

b) Users are willing to give away their money. As I've shown this asset is also not that easy to leverage, thus also not easy to use to get out of the red.


I'd consider myself a lurker most of the time and I tend to express myself more through actions than posting on the web. In this case, I already do pay - I have a subscription to DI.fm, and was actively looking for something similar on Soundcloud when they rolled out the ads. Unfortunately, as there isn't anything, I've simply started using Soundcloud less in favor of DI.

This isn't the first time I've been frustrated with Soundcloud either. I listen to a variety of electronica that's often hard enough to buy that I was searching for stuff on youtube and bookmarking before I started using Soundcloud. It was only after some months of use and I sizable list of favorites that I found songs on Soundcloud could just disappear from my list with no warning and nothing left behind - which means if I can't remember the name of the song of spend an hour searching, I'm unlikely to find it again. At least with my youtube bookmarks the title and artist are never lost, even if the video is taken down. (I contacted their support about this and got a positive response, but its been a couple months this has happened at least twice since then.)

So for me, at least, Soundcloud is on its way out. And that's really disappointing, because I think on the whole they have a great platform.


I'm more familiar with Soundcloud from the publishing side: I seldom listen, but that's the primary place where I share my music.

The point is, SC isn't built as a service that provides a sound library. Just compare how easy it is to publish a track on iTunes and on SC: there's this huge button in the top that calls you to upload something. iTunes is a shop, it's got everything (actually, it doesn't have a lot of tracks, but you can replace it with Beatport or Juno, doesn't really matter). Soundcloud, on the other hand, is more oriented toward releasing what's here and now. I've hidden and deleted my own tracks a lot of times: sometimes they were WIPs that I didn't want to release anyway, sometimes I decided to remove the track from public access so I can release it on a label later, and sometimes I just decided that a track sucks and should be ashamed of it.

Could it be that these tracks were hidden because of similar reasons? Or, may be, they were uploaded by users who didn't have the rights to these tracks in the first place?


Taking a look at Alexa, the trend for Reddit has been and still after the "Pao debacle" is upwards. They are constantly getting new users, probably much more than what they lost. So from the viewpoint of the management all is well. These new users are also probably more susceptible to their monetizing efforts.

The fact that Reddit has in the last 6 months lost most of their high quality content creators does not seem to concern them.


Reddit is still mainly a content aggregation site, it'll be fine.


Really enjoyed this post, but I think some of her thoughts point to the root of the problem.

> I started by trying to buy each of them separately.

> $1.50 is a lot to pay for a song

So she wanted to compensate each artist for the songs she loved, but only at an amount of her choosing? I'm assuming she was expecting 99 cents, so we're essentially haggling over $0.50 here. This shows why the advertising model is so prevalent- people don't want to pay for content, even if it's a song that the person listens to 10 times a day.

That being said, the giving credit card info to an unknown domain is a real concern and I totally understand that. But it was mentioned second, after price, which feels more like justification for not being willing to pay $1.50 for a song.


The credit card situation is a completely separate concern, but a very big one. I still don't understand why there's no better international online payment method. There's a great Dutch online payment method, but that's only used by Dutch sites and a few really big ones (like Steam) that can afford to implement national payment systems.

Why that system hasn't been implemented on a larger scale, I still don't know.


My bank offers free Virtual Credit Cards with a configurable limit. I've heard that some US banks (BofA?) do as well. That limits the exposure to the amount of the payment. And you can still chargeback.


Sounds useful if you can make one credit card for each payment. But you first need to configure that before you can actually pay. What we need (and what Netherland has) is something that just works right away where you really only authorize that one payment without exposing any vulnerable information, using the security of your own bank.


At least here, you can make a CC for each payment. It's a simple form: input max amount, click continue, get CC number.

Here in Portugal we also have the kind of payments you're talking about, but it's not particularly easier than the VCC system.


Citi offers this.


That's pretty much what I came here to say. I travel frequently, use my credit card everywhere, both online and offline, and I have never had any fraudulent charges to my cards.

Only once have I canceled a credit card before it expired, and that was after finding out that a popular hostel booking site let the hostel managers look up all credit card details, including the CVV number, for all bookings. I talked to the manager at the place we stayed for a few nights in Lima, Peru, and he told me that the site would only show the details once (or for a limited period), so they would always print the page. Of course they kept the printouts in a binder in the common area of the hostel...

I really don't understand why USA has such a big problem with credit card fraud, and how that problem became big enough that people would actually avoid paying online, with the exception of major chains/processors (Amazon, Paypal, etc).

Although, come to think of it, Denmark is a bit of an outlier. We have a national credit card, Dankort, that was conceived and implemented sometime in the 1980s (I'm a bit too young to remember the details...). It was written into law, and part of the law was that transactions should incur no costs on the user, which resulted in massive adoption, to the benefit of both the banks (who were proponents of the Dankort before its introduction) and the consumers.


There is a better and safer online payment method its called Bitcoin

But the existing financial and payment companies realize that this new technology makes them largely redundant hence they lobby and make it hard to acquire bitcoin for the average person with existing payment methods.

The attitude of banks and regulators towards bitcoin is the same of the motor industry and governments towards the electric car, somewhere between dismissive to fearful.

Give it time tho' I suppose, after all the same arguments were made by many industries against the early web and hell computers for that matter.


Last time I looked at Bitcoin, the big show-stoppers for me were:

(a) the price was so variable that there was no way to know how much I was actually going to pay for anything;

(b) turning real money to Bitcoin and back again was an utterly horrible experience (and expensive);

(c) total lack of any recourse against fraud or theft, plus a rather scary security track record.

Have these got any better recently?


a) Yes, likes of Circle and are solving this with USD balances and instant conversion to btc, also bitcoin has not been that volatile in last year

b) Coinbase a YC company and Circle mentioned already are doing great job on this end

c) Since bitcoin is basically digital equivalent of cash thats like asking for wings on a car. As for security I have a hardware Trezor wallet on my desk which keeps keys secure even if my computer is infected.

You see problems, I see opportunities for startups

The early internet had many problems, those companies that solved these problems are now household names.


People may also not like bitcoin because they want a democratic say in the design and operation of their currency. Bitcoin has economic features built into it that its users simply have no democratic redress to change, even if they wanted to. Power should be to the people, not some guy who likes deflation and baked that in years ago.


Yes because the average person has power over the central banks

Anyways it is sad being down-voted in technical forum by people who should better than most understand that bitcoin despite its faults is still a damned good online payment method especially when compared to existing alternatives.

It does everything the OP i replied to wants.

Anyways fuck this place, people use their votes as a way to not encourage conversation but as a punishment tool.


I get to vote on the people who appoint the fed chief every so often. There is no mechanism, even theoretical, to put that democratic power in the hands of the citizen user of bitcoin.

Edit: Wow you changed your comment a lot in the edit!


Good, bitcoin is not going to replace central banks, what it is a great online payment system not a replacement for world banking.

Some of us have no issues trusting cold hard maths, cryptography and computer science behind bitcoin which give so much certainty and such clearly defined rules for how the system works. As compared to some central bankers who have no issues with whole countries going down the drain (Greece) due to their policies which often change based on politics.

There sure as hell is no chance that trillions of bitcoins will suddenly appear out of thin air Fed style.


I don't think it's true that you can't change how bitcoin works. I'm no expert, but as I understand it, if more than half the network agrees with you, you can change it.

I think the main problem with bitcoin is that it doesn't scale, because every transaction has to be approved by the entire network. More payments and a bigger network means the number of validations goes up quadratically.


"change half the network" doesn't meet any definition of democratic access to power that I am familiar with.

People don't need to do a turn on a garbage collection route to vote on how their municipal garbage service is run.


"change half the network" is almost the textbook definition of democracy.


Democratic access to power has in no other circumstances required knowledge of coding.


The federal reserve system was designed to be resilient against the democratic whims of the people; any minuscule control you have over the management of the US Dollar is a bug, not a feature.


It is responsive to democratic actions even if it isn't directly under the peoples control. Bitcoin, your average citizen has no recourse, period.


To be fair, we're not haggling over 50 cents. We're haggling over 50 cents times however many songs the person plans to buy.


But still, 50 cents extra for a song that she loves and listens to all the time? Heck, we used to spend €20 on that limited 12" with that mind-blowing remix on it, just to get that one track (I'm old).


For these kind of purchases, I have a credit card that allows me to credit virtual card numbers with a limit and expiration that I can set. I'll set the limit to the order amount. If they try to charge more, the transaction is declined.

That, along with the ability to contest charges (chargebacks), makes it a lot less risky.


Oh shut up already.

We are, because people like us don't want to pay 99¢-$1.50 for songs that took time to compose, play, record, master, ship, and market, apps for mobile devices are quite literally a dime a dozen in app packs, games are at their lowest prices ever and the only sustainable model is DLC and subscriptions, and hundreds of petabytes of video storage are hosted by YouTube for no charge.

It's 2015, grow up. Innovators need to make money. Maybe you'll understand one day when you make something people want.


Maybe we have too much expectation that you can make money directly doing creative works? People talk about entitlement of users, but this should work both way - when building a small app you shouldn't feel entitled to make a lot of money off it. That people may not want to buy your offerings at the price you want them to buy is the basic feature of a free market.

On the other hand, I believe we need to have a serious conversation about business models. Things like spamming with ads, massive tracking and micropayments should not be encouraged. Ponzi schemes are profitable too, and so is slave labour, and there are various forms of these and other business models that are legal but still shunned by the society. And just like those, chunking up your games into million paid DLCs, abusing gullible parents or turning the entire Internet into an ad cesspoool should not be things a self-respecting, moral person would consider doing.


That's not your internet. That soundcloud content isn't yours, and neither is Soundcloud. Reddit isn't yours. Tumblr isn't yours. Github, where that posting is hosted, isn't yours either. This site, where you linked to the discussion because you don't have a local comment facility, isn't yours. And it's not mine either, no matter how many comments I leave or votes I make or imaginary internet points I win or lose.

Your client, your internet connection, and a server you pay for, on a domain you own, with bandwidth you pay for. That's your internet. You can use that however you want.

Nobody's doing anything to your internet (well, notable exception for mobile carriers and anti-net-neutrality-campaigners). They're doing things to their own internet.


This article has made me realize that I'm about to start paying for sites to show me ads, and paying a lot. What do I mean?

We just bought a gorgeous 15+ acre property outside of Austin with all kinds of outdoorsy stuff that I like -- horse barn, stocked pond, creek, salt water pool, woods with bike trails, etc. I've convinced my wife, a city girl, that we should all (we have three small kids) move out there and just try it out. The big problem is that there is no wired internet service of any kind at that address.

Luckily, I have clear line of sight to a cluster of cell towers less than a mile away, so we get 5 bars of every carrier out there. I'll be starting out on ATT's ~$375/month plan which is capped at 50GB/month with $10 per GB(!!) overage charges.

This means that for the first time in my life, I'm actually considering installing ad blocking software on our machines, because I just don't want to pay for tons and tons of ads. There are so. many. freaking. ads., and the web is so slow now. Those of us who actually pay for our bandwidth are getting screwed.

I'm happy to pay for your content. I'm not happy to pay for your ads. There has to be a better way.


> I'm happy to pay for your content. I'm not happy to pay for your ads. There has to be a better way.

Sorry, there's not. The vast majority of people are cheapskates.


This timeline is a little skewed. Google+ started in 2011, way before Project Loom was announced. SOPA was introduced to the house in 2011 as well.

And none of this is new. Before SOPA and PIPA, the DMCA raised similar discussions. Ads have been degrading the experience at least since Tripod introduced popups. And the Tumblr arguments are almost the same as back when Geocities was bought - in fact, by the same company!


Probably 2012 is the year when OP got the Internet connection or something…


So it all starts with some guy having the genius idea to "rebrand" the internet. Now it is "The Cloud", a fancy term for 'server'. Then all the late millenials fall for it. "It's cool, it's in the cloud, I stream my <everything>". I thought it was fairly obvious that the cloud meant 'turn the internet into TV stations'. Which is a mostly completed process at this point.

Now it's the good ol' days of 2012 when there was still bait on the line. 2012? Companies have been trying to transform the internet for a long time, and users have been helping by refusing to:

a) pay for anything. b) create sites/content the way we used to.

It wouldn't kill you to order an album, drop it in a CD drive and rip it. My apologies for implying hard labor.

You want your MTV.


> "Who is doing this to my internet?"

We all are. It costs money to create, host, and distribute content. We've demonstrated our unwillingness to pay a proper amount for it. (For example: "I would gladly buy it on MP3 for 99 cents... $1.50 is a lot to pay for a song...") And so companies that do this stuff have to get creative about making money. And advertising does the job.

The solution is to pay much more money for the content that you now get for free.


This is why I think solutions like IPFS are the future:

http://ipfs.io/

(tl;dr: go get github.com/ipfs/go-ipfs/cmd/ipfs)

Basically, the day will come when any single one of us will be able to serve our own content privately from our own machine without requiring a massive infrastructure investment, nor any kind of fancy participation in what is, essentially, branding on steroids (Internet of today), but rather all it will require to sell and control ones own art is to publish it yourself with cryptographic certainty that there simply is no middle man any more.

Its the third party that degrades all art - those who have to carry the stuff from place to place in order to pimp things for the artist. Get rid of this, and give the artist direct and completely control over where and when and to whom their art is delivered, and we produce the utopia that many of us artists wish we had. It is unbearable to have to go through a third party to get to the masses; to have direct contact is the ultimate goal..


You can already set up a website using a "website builder" which hosts it for a couple of bucks and doesn't force any branding on it. A site on Squarespace costs $8/m and gives you unlimited storage and bandwidth to distribute your music; for $18 more, you get to use the ecommerce part to sell your stuff.

If artists aren't doing this already, which is much less intrusive than Soundcloud/iTunes/etc, what makes you think they'll be hosting their own IPFS sites?


Because you said server, and the solution is serverless. $8/month is still $8/month. I'd rather that anyone who was interested in my artistry just come and get it from me, directly. Remember the aim is to eradicate the middle man entirely. You have not done this in your position.


Well, your aim is to eradicate the middle man. What I'm missing is a reason to believe that artists generally share your aim.


Artists don't get paid, piracy or no-piracy. The middlemen get the majority of the profits in the MPAA-protected mafia industry.

Putting tools in the hands of artists that provide them with the ability to contact many, many fans, and be assured of that relationship without interference by a 3rd party, is quite a valuable goal. Thankfully I'm not the only one with that aim.


Like I said, artists could already bypass the MPAA-protected industry and get a much larger share of the profits and direct contact with the fans by setting up a site as I mentioned before.

If they don't even do that, I think it's unrealistic to assume they'll start using IPFS and host their own stuff.


I think the author doesn't realize that what's changed about the Internet isn't the technology. It's the people that changed. Today folks expect to get things for free with adverts. But now people don't want the adverts either so they use uBlock (I know I do). So, what's left for content and technology/service creators to do?

I think micropayments would be a viable solution if a platform that's fairly secure and non-intrusive was created (I don't think Paypal or Bitcoin fit the bill). But the problem is that people today are rightly concerned about identity theft which can wind up draining their bank accounts or tanking their credit score. So, I'm not sure such a scheme would ever take off if companies like Sony can't secure their own infrastructure.

Anyways, the author should realize that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Either you pay in advertisements and data mining your personal info or you pay up front. Honestly, I prefer to pay up front and as directly to the creators as possible.


Except we tried micropayments about a bazillion times and they have universally failed. People don't want yet another monthly bill, which is what micropayments would be. You'd "subscribe" to various sites and services and it would eat at your bitcoin or whatever that you would need to replenish monthly.

Ads aren't as terrible as the average INTJ male makes them out to be. They're trivial to block as well. The OP's post is just one long angry rant. I'm not even sure what the take away here is other than how monetization works on the modern web (internet is not only the web!!). Everything about this screams, "The mainstream doesn't care about my marginalized interests and opinions!"

If anything, the mainstream has it pretty good. I pay something like 1/10th for Google Music what I spent at the record store annually. As a music lover, being able to tap into 30m songs trivially is pretty amazing. Geeks used to write love letters to a future with a "universal jukebox" and here we are, yet no one is happy! Old fashioned ideas of "collecting" albums and such are bizarre to me. The people into that always seemed to do it for some kinda of social gravitas so they could show off their "taste." I just like the music. I don't need to own it, I just need access to it.

Hell, it even makes radio stations based on my library or by artist, or even by song if I choose. This completely invalidates whatever questionable value radio stations provide today. What a waste of bandwidth all these FM/AM stations are. Retiring them and selling that spectrum off for better LTE makes sense to me. The old ways aren't always good, in fact, a lot of the old ways were shit. They're old compromises and dinosaur tech that's overstayed their welcome. Lets not pine too badly for the past. It was shit for the most part. As a person in his 40s, I think we have it better than ever.


The problem is the blocking of the adverts. Even if the percentage of users blocking is below a certain percentage like 20% or lower, that's still money lost to the ad firms. They won't just sit idly by while we use uBlock and the like. They'll double down on the whole matter. Probably start with interstitial ads, but it could become as annoying as blocking any browser that runs an adblocker extension.


Honestly, I don't think the new services are a problem. They fill a niche in the market. Streaming services are for folks who don't want to manage their own media (physical or digital). Those folks prefer ownership of access over ownership of media itself. In itself it's fine as something to supplement a media library. But I don't believe most people realize that once access to the media is lost due to economic reasons (loss of job, service company goes bankrupt, and etc) that it's lost forever. Well as much as forever means in such a situation since you have to rebuild your entire playlist as it's not a standardized format from streaming service to streaming service (and I'm willing to bet it never will become standardized in any capacity). Either way, you pay a price. I still stand by my view that up front cost (direct ownership) is better than cost applied over time (ownership of access).


This is a minor hassle compared to the fairly significant cost savings. When I was a teen/early 20s I'd spend something like $50-100 per record store visit. I'd go at least quarterly, buy music at concerts, etc. I'd easily spend $500 or more annually in 1990s/early 2000's money. Discs were $12-15 for a very long time, singles were economically stupid, and dealing with crap like scratched discs or skipping in the car was the norm. Now, I'm paying $120 annually, in 2015 dollars, and every single song of that 30m library is available on my phone, which seamlessly connects to my car and other devices. I can also listen via the under-rated google music web player.

I don't know any young person without Google Music or Spotify. They're popular for a reason and not because we don't understand economics.


>This is a minor hassle compared to the fairly significant cost savings.

The costs will always be equivalent as you pay with the not-so-major-hassle of losing access to the streaming service for some reason. It's a fact of life that there's no such thing as a free lunch. If you lose access, that is a cost in terms of time. However you may perceive it doesn't discount its existence.

>When I was a teen/early 20s I'd spend something like $50-100 per record store visit.

Today the price of a digital album barely breaks 15 USD. And in terms of inflation adjusted dollars, you and I were paying closer to 20 dollars (today's dollars) per album (I'm assuming 1990s era prices). As such, in many ways today's 20 somethings are getting a windfall in terms of digital purchases (DRM-free).

> Now, I'm paying $120 annually, in 2015 dollars, and every single song of that 30m library is available on my phone, which seamlessly connects to my car and other devices. I can also listen via the under-rated google music web player.

Which are held contingent on the fact that music labels can re-negotiate terms of access to their catalogs. If tomorrow any one of them decide to cut off the streaming services, then where's the music you had in the playlist? Clearly, this isn't likely to occur but it's not impossible nor is it theoretical. Netflix often rotates film and TV series through their streaming library. Music streaming isn't exempt from this same problem once music labels begin to assert their dominant position.

>I don't know any young person without Google Music or Spotify. They're popular for a reason and not because we don't understand economics.

I think you're confused as to what I'm pointing out which is that people are valuing access over ownership. This isn't a lack of any understanding of economics, it's just preference of consumers. I think the sooner you understand that all preferences are equal in the market the sooner you'll come to grasp my points.


So, to be clear, you are a self-described "music connoisseur" who is unwilling to support the artists you claim to love at any point while their content is freely available, yet you claim that you would be willing to pay for a subscription model. Yet when you feel that content is at risk you are also unwilling to pay if access to their music is not instant and the cost is marginally more than nothing.

You are a net-negative fan. Your support does nothing for the artists and, until recently, costs SoundCloud money. When SoundCloud adjusts their business to account for users like yourself, you complain publicly with a shakily-supported premise that I believe is actually more a complaint about digital things having a cost.

When I like a band or an artist, I buy their albums on CD or MP3. There's even an independent record store I like near my house, one of the last, and I frequently buy from there, because their existence enriches my life and the community. If an artist is on Bandcamp, I buy through Bandcamp and usually give more than the minimum because I know Bandcamp gets a cut and because I work in technology and have the money to do so.

If you don't like the ads, buy the music and listen whenever you want. Don't be a net-negative fan and then complain when you are treated as such.


There are many ways to support content creators who distribute via the web, such as Flattr ( https://flattr.com ) and Google Contributor (as nandhp mentioned). Patreon is becoming popular too ( https://www.patreon.com ).

As for music, my personal favourite site is Bandcamp, aside from having an interesting mix of music I believe it has a model that's good for artists and fans alike ( https://bandcamp.com ).


Annoyed at "Big Corporate" taking over the internet, not willing to buy from small independent label/store.

The lack of self awareness is outstanding. And astounding.


How can a web site survive without ads? You can charge a subscription fee, but many users who would tolerate ads will just leave when faced with a paywall. You can ask for donations. Or you can run the site as cheaply as possible and try to support it out of your own pocket.

Given these alternatives, it's easy to see why people support their site with ads. So how can we make these alternatives more attractive? Or is there some other way for web sites to survive?


It would be really exciting to have something like Google Contributor go mainstream: https://www.google.com/contributor/welcome/

Basically, solving this problem by allow users to set up a prepaid fund with Google and have them deduct website ad revenue from there instead of showing me an ad -- and have it work everywhere Google ads are displayed.


You don't have to have a single solution. You can do "freemium": free with ads, premium without ads. Everybody gets what they want, though it is a bit of extra work.


2012? How about 1967, the year the 1-800 number was invented. The web is "free" because the other side is footing the bill.

Quick, review the Amazon S3 bandwidth pricing chart!

Now calculate how much bandwidth you're using via the idiotic model of copying the same song you're listening to ten times a day, ten times. Multiply that by ten hours or however long you're sitting there with headphones on taking money out of Fred Wilson's pocket while you pretend you're coding the next great site that's going to put money back into it.

Author states that SoundCloud is "made up mostly of music connoisseurs who would gladly pay for service." Ha!

The sad reality of the music business is that there's a very narrow age range when most people are "really into music" and it tends to correspond with a period of time when those people don't have very much money to spend.

Now that I have money to spend, I simply do not have time to waddle through the anti-curated wasteland that is SoundCloud. Slap enough ads on it (especially ones that directly get in the way of trying to discover something to listen to) and you've guaranteed I won't go there.


Something that has always bothered me about advertisements isn't that companies are creating/using them it was that they actually work! The reason ads are everywhere is because they make money, LOTS of money. In 2010 it was estimated by "statista.com" (http://www.statista.com/statistics/237797/total-global-adver...) that the advertisement industry made 495 billion U.S. Dollars ranking it higher then Retail or Oil/Gas according to outdated "Wikipedia" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_companies_by_r...). So my point is the crux of the problem is more to do with our (global) society then it does the evil plot of an industry. The best weapon against ads is to stop making them profitable. Bad flash or obnoxious java applets make money! Having a stupid mascot walk across the page offering to help makes money! Forcing people to watch and listen to ads just to see the cute kitten play with yarn makes money! Why wouldn't it be littered everywhere? Case in point: SPAM. That Viagra email poorly written and incorrectly translated actually makes the pharmaceutical companies money! Sad, real sad.


This article is interesting because there seems to be an assumption that there is some ideal the web should strive towards ("free exchange of information"), when actually everyone is optimising for their local maxima.

Google wanted to challenge Facebook and had a huge userbases on lots of different platforms...you can see the reasoning which would lead them to add everyone to an umbrella google social network. The Verge saw a way to make money with relatively little investment on their part - a seductive offer. Soundcloud (presumably) found a business plan with a clear path to profit and evaluated it to be the best option.

In the end, all of these companies exist to make money. Those that do stick around to be criticised, those that fail are irrelevant! Buzzfeed is a great example because it's so polarising - it's criticised for having low quality content, and yet it's extremely popular, a perfect example of something that people clearly do actively want to use. If you had an isolated choice reduce your userbase by 20% but increase profit by 10x, that's an easy business decision to make.

I just find it difficult to make sweeping criticisms of these companies and the internet as a whole - these are independent evolutions, each of which can be criticised on their own demerits. Of course the internet will evolve to consist mostly of what the majority wants - this isn't inherently good or bad.


You know how in the innovator's dilemma, the point at which the new innovator gets a foothold is also the point where the old firm has peak profits? I think there's a similar thing where the best time to user a particular service is when the service is least profitable.

That's what the 2012 nostalgia sounds like to me. Back when Twitter was hosting revolutions, but still having issues with uptime (not to mention revenue). And Project Loon was alive, but mostly getting mocked by both Wall Street and charities/nonprofits (With Bill Gates being the most visible).

I also suspect 2012-2014 was when SoundCloud had huge amounts of traffic and, without any way of making money, at its least profitable. I have no actual evidence of this.

Personally, Project Loon always sounded like some crazy way of getting more people to use Google than actual charity. Like some weird extrapolation from, "the more people that use the Internet, the more money Google makes" and "Google's reached market saturation in current markets, we need growth in developing countries"

Going off memory for all this. Sorry if I get some details wrong about Innovators Dilemma, Twitter in 2012, Project Loon and such.


This is somewhat tangental, but it's tangental on a couple of points so I'll bring it up anyway.

Would someone please fix "podcasting," and maybe even RSS?

The first tangent is 2012 (or maybe 2007, I dunno time is a blur). RSS and XML were one of the Web 2.0 buzz. Blogs were exploding and there was a lot of novel writing of a type we didn't have much of before. RSS, XML, semantic web and their friends were being brought up all the time (here too) in confusing contents. I didn't really get it but I assumed other people did.

I think there was something wrong with the conceptual design of it.

Podcasting though, that was a nice little bastard of RSS and ipod. She had weird hair in weirder places, but.. I'm going to abandon this metaphor ..podcast content has been getting better and better.

It's terrible to use though. It's hard to find or share content. It's hard to subscribe, even if you know the name of the show. All the podcatchers suck.

It has a lot os stuff going for it though. It's genuinely "web." Compared to youtube or any other centralized internet media. Anyone can host their own audio files and broadcast the feed. Apple, Sound cloud or whoever makes an app using podcast content can access all the content. They can filter, sensor and display it how they see fit. This could be great for competition, freedom of speech.

Why do all the apps suck? Why is it so hard to find content. If you're below median technically, just getting from the show's site to a feed in your app is a serious challenge. I suspect the protocol is partially to blame, but I don't know.

Anyway, HN… fix it?


I used to be a really large fan of RSS because it fulfilled the dream of bringing hand-picked content to the user, in one place. Why go to all the separate websites? Why have an app for EACH new agency. I can search, sort, see when articles were published, all from the comfort of a single web page or desktop client! RSS even seemed to have pretty wide adoption. That orange button was everywhere! My non-techie friends even used Google Reader circa 2006-2008.

However, my love of RSS is really just a historic relic of becoming interested in computers between 2001 and 2005. Before that was Usenet and other technologies I'm probably unaware of. RSS has since been replaced by Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, Google Plus, etc. Someone needs to pay the bills and it's a lot easier to monetize when you keep users in your walled gardens and control what they see. These newer technologies are also MUCH easier to use for the average consumer and have the net-benefit of being "social" which is likely beneficial for the ad conglomerates.

Companies who create (or curate or distribute) content are fundamentally at odds with their users. Users want relevant, high quality, add-free content, but most are not willing to pay for it. If they do, they expect a fine-tuned user experience or physical product (a magazine or Amazon Kindle for example). Even paid subscription magazines (NewScientist, Time, etc.) have ads to help keep their pricing competitive and increase quarterly profits for investors. Hell, even my Kindle (which I PAID for) came with ads. Granted, Amazon gave me the ability to remove them for $20. But, that gives you an idea of how valuable ads are. I never understood why more websites didn't just include ads in their RSS feeds. Easier to filter out? Less control since the user isn't visiting the site?

I'd be MORE than willing to pay for RSS or NNTP feeds of high quality content. To me, there is no better user experience than reading format-free text and images in Gnus, but I imagine I'm in the minority. Average consumers (my parents, non-tech friends, etc.) are more than willing to visit cnn.com in their browsers or dedicated phone app. Most people simply don't care enough. I feel like I'm constantly trying to chase the conversation of the topics I'm interested in by stringing together mostly-incompatible technologies and work flows.

I'd really just like the ability to read, annotate, comment on, share, and discuss media with people who are also interested.


" There have to be business models that allow the creativity of sites like XKCD, Reddit, SoundCloud, and Tumblr, to flourish. "

There, in the last sentence is the relevant insight. But, sadly, here the post stops.

I must admit, for me the most relevant information was google using the computers mike through chrome. I am shocked how far companies can go and do go. I think this finally ends the discussion about google being evil or not.


The "OK Google" voice feature for Chrome is opt-in, not enabled by default. https://code.google.com/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=500922#c...


There is a lot of focus and discussion around the $1.50 figure I mentioned, and perhaps I was wrong to include it in the post. The $1.50 is not the point. I would pay $1.50. I gladly pay for Pinboard, Newsblur, The New York Times, The Economist, The New Yorker, and many other online services that provide exponential value to me. And, as I mentioned in the post, I am more than happy to pay $10 a month for SoundCloud because I use it so much.

My point is that instead of even offering the option of a subscription, SoundCloud immediately went to ads that are annoying and hostile and started deleting music, forcing me to scramble to other options that are just as hostile (where hostile == "first world problem" of paying with a credit card to multiple unknown vendors) because music distribution online is broken.


I understand what you're saying, and I agree: I pay for many services online and I'd be happy to pay for more if it meant the services I enjoy would get even better. Or wouldn't lose their souls to advertising.

But your $10/mo and my $10/mo aren't enough. It seems like the web-o-verse has spent the last twenty years desperately attempting to figure out how to charge money in a way that enough people will shell out the necessary cash. For the most part, it's been a failure. Most people seem uninterested in paying directly for digital content.

Any service built upon user-generated content -- like SoundCloud -- has an even worse path. If you charge from the start, you put up a huge barrier that will prevent people from ever using your service. But if you start changing after you've gathered up steam and have an active community, people will feel betrayed -- like you were just baiting them into using your service so you could pull the old switcheroo and force them to pay to access the community they built.


I think the reality is that content is just not worth anything anymore. There is SO MUCH content out there. The internet has democratized content creation. Now that anyone can publish content, record an album, what have you, the value of content has dropped to nearly nothing. I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing. I'm a musician and artist myself, and I think that many artists and musicians feel entitled to success. Essentially, art and music are worthless - they feed no one, they build no bridges. I see no problem with art and music being fragmented into groups of passionate hobbyists with day jobs that produce art for the love of art.


I'm also a passionate hobbyist when it comes to music, but I can't disagree more.

Worth is not solely measure in terms of material gains like food and bridges. Art and music have massive amounts of cultural and entertainment worth. Sure one probably requires their basic needs to be met along Maslow's hierarchy to have their life enriched by art. But I believe it's well established the impact and relevance art has.

The problem with music being fragmented into groups of passionate hobbyists with day jobs is that you cannot reliably create high-quality art this way. A lot of the luxuries afforded to hobbyists, particularly in music these days, are gained from riding on the shoulders of the professionals who are innovating and driving the industry forward. Not to mention only a certain subset of day-jobber professions can actually afford to produce quality art or music (instruments, equipment, and/or professional services).


I hear what you're saying. By worth, I didn't mean value - but I wasn't clear. I think art has much value, but as a commodity in the marketplace, holds very little worth. I agree that making quality art in one's spare time is challenging. I think this guarantees that the work being completed is a labor of love that the artist truly cares about. In an ideal world, the best work would receive the greatest reward. Unfortunately, much of the best and most creative works are already coming from outside of the music industry. Before gaining recognition, these artists are essentially passionate hobbyists.


There is a working business model that does not rely on ads: Kickstarter.

The problem with making everything subscription-based is that it changes the dynamic of the website. A lot.

An interesting experiment would be to allow people to pay not just for themselves, but for a few others as well. I.e. you've seen something good, you pay to get rid of ads for that item and it removes ads for N other people as well. Sure, there will be free-riders. That's the point. I postulate that those free-riders would be the people would otherwise not use the platform at all.


> The New York Times (which I pay for), is making some money off its paywall, but still a lot more through digital advertising experiences, which mean it's limited in what it can truly say.

disclaimer: I'm a dev at NYT. comment: As a dev at the Times in the Data Science and Engineering department, I am privy to all of our data, aware of our ad-services integrations and relationships with our advertisers, in contact with marketing and, most germane to the discussion, allowed to sit in on editorial decision-making discussions (sometimes). I can honestly say that this part of the OP's post is very far from the reality of how decisions are made here. In fact, the newsroom, while increasingly aware of a controlled set of analytics, works almost completely without concern for the financial aspects of the company. Even if a reporter wants to see analytics regarding an article he/she wrote, or a report on aggregated article performance, that information is only in the purview of an editor and, even then, limited to data that intentionally exclude information that might lead to 'click-bait' articles. While this might change over time, I can assure you that it will be very very controlled and that the newsroom has stronger veto power than marketing and advertising. I have never witnessed a scenario where an article is pushed or pulled based on what an advertiser wants and I can't fathom how that would happen. Hopefully, this will assuage the OP's fears that the news we print is somehow at the whims of our advertisers.


[deleted]


> "There have to be other business models that free up the internet for what it was meant for: free exchange of information.”

Do there? The internet began as a government- and academic-sponsored network. Even the worldwide web, you couldn't have a commercial website until 1993.


Serious question then - where do you trace this back to then? Companies abusing the freemium business model? Companies not having enough revenue to support their start-up?

Where do you think the internet started having to rely on advertising? I'm curious to hear your thoughts on it.


You don't make a "very strong case", your post come off as ranty. Your analysis of why ads aren't discussed on terms that suit you better is, frankly, condescending and arrogant. Find any discussion of tracking or ads, and there will be lively discussion of blockers and plenty of posts that are very critical of advertising in general.

Those two points might serve better as a model of explanation of a few down votes than a grand conspiracy on behalf of advertising would.


Ad's delivered via the Internet ... gee, let's see some time around 1992 I guess I recall the first of them, they got obnoxious shortly after with pop-up's and blinky text.

Which is too say nothing about today's websites has offered anything really new since the first webpage did even before that.

Twitter Revolution? not about twitter, it's about the millions who went into the streets (with and without twitter).

Cloud Sharing? In 1990 all my data was housed in the Cloud, my apps ran in the cloud and I was happy to have a slice of the VAX so I could send messages to my mate in the other computer room.

New Browser features! Yay! stuff it that the browser is already unsafe, slow and cumbersome - make it look Different and call it Better.

The point here is that the Web has always been the get rich scheme for half baked ideas ... as it ever was.

Nowhere ever has any Internet based service been free. Someone Somewhere has had to pay for all of it. The only thing "new" about what this author is pining about is for the Johnny Come Lately who entered the Internet, is they assume too much -- they assume they are entitled to a free service and shouldn't have to be bothered about how it is provided. Just like they are IRL.


How about building your own platform? Your post is a clear indicator that there is a space left in the market for services that deliver your model, without all the marketing bullshit and bigdata hype. How about a google with a proper query interface (not just +,-,")? How about a social platform for organising parties, without farmville and like this and like that? How about a platform where i can buy whole seasons of game of thrones for download or stream as soon they get released? Or how a bout a twitter for 30 seconds voice messages, that cost you a dollar for every extra minute? There is lots of money to earn. Sure i might be stupid for sharing these ideas, but id rather have them become reality instead of suffering from this dumbing down of the internet to become the TV 2.0. Yes i am paranoid, and i think i have right to be, as a member of a political party that once had the goal to preserve the beneficial part of the internet, which has now become just another political party with most of its delegates being the usual representatives of the 48 laws of power.


I have been greatly attracted to the idea of creating a better search engine. But people aren't generally searching for websites anymore, they're searching for content. There is a certain need for the service provided by google/ddg; and I'd be looking to provide more of an internet yellow pages so that you don't always have google funneling you back to a handful of large sites. It's hard to commit to a project like that, but I do think the idea (and your others), have merit.


Meanwhile via http://www.residentadvisor.net/news.aspx?id=30610

"The streaming platform's plan for monetization has been the subject of industry-wide speculation for months, particularly after Sony started pulling its tracks from SoundCloud. A leaked contract last month hinted at a new tiered listening system, and now SoundCloud chief technology officer Eric Wahlforss has confirmed plans to launch a paid subscription service later on in 2015, according to Tech Times. Details are scarce, but the first tier would allow listeners to explore SoundCloud ad-free and download a limited number of files, while the second tier would provide unfettered access to the entire catalogue."


I think the other business model is that of donations. The obvious example being Wikipedia, which has done incredibly well to not have ads or a subscription service and still be top 5/10 most visited site on the planet (I don't know what it's exact 'rank' is)


Until we have a system on the internet that everyone accepts that allows for a collection of a small fee to access things (posts, songs, photos, etc) ads will never go away. Of course no one will ever agree on such a system, or even worse it will be owned by a big for profit company.


I also like free things and don't like it when they are taken away from me. The author had ample opportunity to pay for content but she didn't and now we're here.

So I guess the answer is "she is". Vicki Boykis is doing this to her internet.


If paywalls don't work, and ads don't work, some kind of metered-browsing would be a solution. It's so far away from happening, it's hardly worth discussing, but imagine this:

* let's say soundcloud could charge $.0001 (or something) for every pageview (or play, or some other interaction that the website chooses)

* this fee is mostly transparent to the user, they've signed up once, and have access to all metered sites

* the user would deposit money in an account ahead of time to use for the metered sites

* the metering could be built-in to web browsers to display when you're on a metered site using a standard graphic (like how the lock is a standard symbol for a secure connection)


What you're describing is very close to https://contributor.google.com/ where you can pay to replace ads with content of your choice. For the content publisher this is a completely transparent operation.


On second thought, after doing some back-of-the-envelope calculations, the per-pageview fee would have to be a lot more than that. Even if you charged $.01 per pageview, that still couldn't compete with ad revenue.

So nevermind.


There was a discussion... some time ago (maybe even a few years ago, actually), regarding a hypothetical web service where users deposited funds (say, a few dollars at a time) and enabled it on websites of their choosing.

When they loaded a website, it could check if the user had that installed and enabled for their website. If so, it would charge them a microtransaction (a few cents, etc) and not load ads. If they did not, it would load ads.

In this way, they paid services they used frequently as they used them and in increments they didn't mind.

Of course, there is a lot of things undefined in this model about how it would be implemented, but it was an idea I still think has merit.


I vehemently disagree with the authors taste in music, but she makes some good points. Soundcloud is just a platform though, and if you live by the sword of constantly available unlimited new content all the time then you kind of have to die by it, too. Content producers change styles to chase trends, tracks get taken down and everything changes when more money and popularity is involved. Enjoy free online content for what it is, but support a scene by buying releases/merch, going to events and spreading the word - it wont implode just because soundcloud changes.


I agree with what's been said here about payment. It is hypocritical that the author want's ad free music, but won't pay a buck and a half for a track. That said, the ad supported web still has problems, and I don't see anyone trying to solve it. Subscriptions are great, but how do we get people like the author of this post to buy into them? What's a fair way to charge subscriptions? How do you balance getting paid with keeping your content searchable? We shouldn't stop looking for new business models.


Here's a radical idea: pay for the services you love to use.

The author mentions she pays for an NYTimes subscription presumably because she gets a lot of value from their content. I pony up the same for a handful of websites and services that I choose to support. It's certainly not a democracy but there is some logic to "voting with your wallet".

I hate ads as much as the next person but one thing I hate even more is a great service or product going the way of the dodo because there's no viable way to make something free forever.


"Here's a radical idea: pay for the services you love to use."

Here's another radical idea: trying to understand why people are unwilling to pay.

To me it's pretty obvious. People don't value those things they're supposed to "love" enough to pay for them. They don't actually "love" them, they're just induced necessities. If the whole Internet was turned into a pay-it-or-leave-it model, I wouldn't be surprised if most people just left it.

However, it this rare to see someone considering this possibility. It's much easier to discard users as being "cheap" or "freeloaders" than to think the all-so-important content on the Internet is just an extra on people's lives.

The article does make the point that other types of monetization besides ads or paywalls should be pursued.


Feeling value in intangible products (articles, music streaming, etc) is definitely the crux of the problem. If we can't hold it in our hands (not to mention we've grown accustom to getting all this content for free) it's quite a sales pitch to get someone to start paying for that. Finding that content valuable and feeling like you're supporting those creators is one of the few appeals I can think of to convert a free user.

I think it's important to also recognize that many of these services are just convenient alternatives to other modes of consumption (streaming Soundcloud vs playing a mix CD in your car). That being said, it's alarming to realize how the web has evolved to embrace these walled gardens and that ad-supported models will become more perversive despite the terrible user experience (and the consequences it has for open web).


Often those other types of monetization boil down to someone else paying for it in one way or another.


Or you pay for it yourself but without the decision to specifically pay for _that_ content. I guess one heavy point of friction is having to decide to pay for something and not doing it because you either think it isn't worth it or the decision itself isn't worth it.

Bundling subscriptions and sharing revenue could be a way to do it. Not sure how that can be materialized in practice, though.


| "Voting with your wallet"

Oddly enough thats exactly how our 'democracy' works... what would it be without political donations?

Back to the point though, if you want to make something free forever, buy it outright one time and its yours for the keeping... Subscription services like buying a car then going to TitleMax and giving them the title, wait for them to take your car away when you can't pay.


In a big D Democracy, you're correct. I don't consider the modern web to be a big D Democracy though.

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