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Clive Thompson on the Hybrid T-Shirt Economy

Cameron Parkins, December 2nd, 2008

A great article in the most recent WIRED, Clive Thompson on How T-Shirts Keep Online Content Free, discusses the growing hybrid economy developed by purveyors of free content looking for a stable source of income. Their answer? Schwag in general, t-shirts in particular:

Increasingly, creative types are harnessing what I’ve begun to call “the T-shirt economy”—paying for bits by selling atoms. Charging for content online is hard, often impossible. Even 10 cents for a download of something like Red vs. Blue might drive away the fans. So instead of fighting this dynamic, today’s smart artists are simply adapting to it.

Their algorithm is simple: First, don’t limit your audience by insisting they pay to see your work. Instead, let your content roam freely online, so it generates as large an audience as possible. Then cash in on your fans’ desire to sport merchandise that declares their allegiance to you.

While Thompson doesn’t mention CC directly (he does mention Jonathan Coulton, a CC-staff favorite and current partner in our fundraising drive), he hints at the mentality behind our CC+ initiative and generally argues that openness is an important component of functional business models going forward.

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