Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Middleman

The Penny Arcade guys, who, as far as I can tell, have built up to a convention, an annual fund raiser, massive street cred, and now a game, all from a mere cartoon (wow it looked totally different back then), were discussing the forthcoming On the Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness and the Greenhouse distribution app, and they linked to an interview they have over at Wired (with their actual pictures). 

Wired: Oh, so this goes back to the earlier experiences you guys had, where you let other people take too much control of your content and it didn't work out.

Gabe: Yeah. We were essentially in the business of being screwed, professionally, for years. If we can avoid being screwed, we're gonna do it.

This should bring to mind, dear reader, all the material you read about musicians, Napster, the RIAA (vile people), and how the Internet was going to erase the middleman and connect consumers (citizens?) directly to non-middleman businesses (all of this was heady pre-dot-con hype). Eventually the hype machine realized that middlemen can be good at times (a realization that generated even more column inches and advertising revenue), such as with news filtering, but not all the time (possibly with musicians, and I hope you've read about alternate revenue models for musicians that the Internet is allowing us to imagine and realize, and as you see above, with cartoonists).

It was striking to see the same issue being played out ten years on in the case of some really smart, capable guys. I thought we'd figured that one out, but I admit running your own web server is not an easy thing.