Discovery and Monetization

Discovery is how to get found. Monetization is how to get rewarded financially once you are found.

Working out where you are going to publish your creations is very important as the platforms often dictate the format of your content. The choice of platform is also important for the audience you are trying to reach.

For example, for my own series on this site, I decided I wanted to create a motion comic using a series of short video clips. Most of the comic publish platforms however do not support motion comics. So as a result, I host my own website with episodes. That means there is more responsibility on me to be discoverable as I am not going to get the normal comic traffic. To counter this, I am experimenting with creating a static comic version alongside my motion comic and a pure video version I can publish on YouTube (although I have not decided what to do about the audio track yet!). That will allow me to leverage the subscription support on those platforms.

Is my strategy a good choice? Ummm, not sure! I am sharing my experiences, but I am learning as I go as well! “The only constant in the Universe is Change.” I just like the extra depth animation gives you, and I don’t have the time or resources available to do voice recordings, sound effects, and music. Testing a motion and static image version of episode 1 on a number of people has given me consistent feedback that the motion form is more engaging. So I am going to rely on social media posts (like Twitter) to direct people at my web comic episodes.

Platforms

There are a number of platforms out there for publishing content. You have well known platforms like Facebook and Instagram you can publish on. But there are more special purpose sites. WebToons for example specializes in publishing comics. Pixiv is another comic serving platform. For videos you have sites such as YouTube and Vimeo.

The advantage of a platform is they provide tools for sharing your content and an audience to consume it. Millions of people read comics on WebToons each day. That makes it easier to get discovered than having your own website. People are on WebToons because they want to read comics.

Web Sites

Rather than use a platform, you can also create your own website. This could be via a site builder such as Wix, Squarespace, etc, or via an open source CMS like WordPress (WordPress is so popular there are hosting partners that will manage the WordPress installation for you). This gives you more ownership and control over your content, but leaves more responsibility to you in order to be found.

A common pattern is for creators to start on a platform and then grow to build up their own website. Why? Partly protection. If you rely on a platform for all of your income, you are also subject to their policies. Many of the algorithms to suspend or ban you are automated, and things do go wrong at times. So if you are being successful, you may want to hedge your bets by having your own site that you completely control.

If you do have your own website, you can still publish your content on other platforms. Exclusivity is not required. It is a fairly common practice to share your content on multiple platforms to increase reach.

Social

I mentioned above that you can publish your content on a social media platform directly, but if you don’t, you can still use them to provide links to your content across platforms. This can be used to share when new episodes are out, but can also be used for other content to help create a feeling of community. For example, why not create a music video with your characters? Or share a short animated skit on TikTok?

Originally tweeted by Extra Ordinary (@XOrdinary99) on November 21, 2021.

For myself, I am sharing both my episodes, and my experiences in sharing them. These are two different audiences, but I am hoping that those who consume my content may want to share their own stories. If by sharing my lessons I can help them find a voice, that is payment enough for my efforts!

Search

Getting found in search engines like Google Search is important. [Disclaimer: I current work at Google!] There is a whole field about how to get found. If you are on a platform, you may not have much control here – the platform takes the responsibility for you. If you are on your own website, you have much more control. Google Search Central has a lot of documentation and videos on how to improve your chance of being found in Search. Examples include having appropriate terms in your text and having high quality imagery on pages.

Also keep an eye out for new experiences. For example, there is also Google Discover which is a form of “queryless search”. It pushes content in front of users based on apparent interest. This can help get you new visitors. For example, it may make sense to create short content targeted for Discover with the goal for someone then to follow a link to your main site.

Monetization

There are different ways you can monetize. For myself, this is not a priority (this is an after-work hobby for myself). However it is interesting to try and share experiences!

A common approach for the web is to share ads. If you have your own website, you can get paid for traffic from an ads platform by displaying their ads on your site. A number of free services around (like WordPress.com) are paid by displaying such ads (they take the revenue, not you!). YouTube channels once large enough can apply for advertising revenue. The are a number of variations here.

Merchandising products are another source of revenue. Why not sell a series of mugs with the characters from your series on them? Fans get a physical momento from your series. There are a number of companies that can create content on demand and deal with all the shipping for you.

If you have some special skill, you can sell higher quality training content. There are a number of platforms like Teachable, Skillshare, etc where they host training material you create and take a cut of the proceeds.

You can also do things like product placements, or live events, where you get paid by a product to mention them. The more famous you are, the more you can charge for such appearances. Just don’t go crazy or you may drive your audience away. Look for products that you actually like or are relevant to you and, like most things, keep things in balance.

Other reading

1000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly. An interesting article putting forward the theory that to be successful you don’t need to worry about total traffic counts, but rather it is better to have a small number of truly loyal fans. If you have 1,000 true fans, you have enough audience for the rest to look after itself.

The Passion Economy and the Future of Work by Li Jin. A description of a new type of work – sharing your passion and knowledge and monetizing from it. This is described as the next stage beyond the Gig economy. It is a result of social media platforms letting your audience follow and engage with you.

Throughlines by Rex Woodbury. “If the 2010s were the decade of performance online—status and signaling in broad brushstrokes, through likes and retweets and follower counts—the 2020s are the decade of deep and engaged digital communities.” The article weaves together the relationship between many of the current buzzwords, like Community, Authenticity, Avatars, Metaverse, VR & AR, Web3, Tokens (Fungible & Non-Fungible), DeFi, DAOs, and Creators.