When I started on Ebay years ago, it was simple enough for whatever put there to be seen by someone during the auctions – from when the auction started and especially, when it ended. That’s because, as listings were entered into Ebay, the listing showed up in the search results as it was made.
There was something very fair and level playing field about that which changed after the platform went to a Best Match style search results product they added and then paid positioning which was added not too many months after that.
I really don’t know how close the two things occurred – but those two changes made Ebay into a place where most individual sellers and smaller shop owners in particular were no longer able to compete in a fair marketplace.
A lot of Mom and Pop shops that were doing their business activities on the platform would not be seen in search results, auctions of things wouldn’t come up for twenty-six pages after all the paid results were listed, and many individuals and small businesses lost the income and audience that they had been building.
At the time I started on Ebay, I had already been putting my art – paintings specifically, onto the internet platforms of various kinds including art sites that were more like portfolio hosts in the beginning and then changed to offer prints of artist’s works with a tiny percentage going to the artist.
There were those and myspace and then a lot of people who had built their websites on geocities watched their sites be taken down without regard when it was sold. Then things like photobucket, deviantart and loth lorien sites where a lot of people simply picked up images to use without asking or paying or saying anything until I would find my artwork on sites somewhere without my name or any note of me having painted it or it being my work or anything. That happened from my blog too for that matter.
And, people said that being online to do business makes so many things possible for individuals because the whole world is out there and available from this single interaction sitting from wherever I might be.
Yes, then CafePress as a print on demand option which never did allow me to put in my tax number to get paid nor had anyone at their HQ who could help me really fix that. There is probably still things over there. The DeviantArt page or two that were put on without writing down the password and then when my email changed, I couldn’t even find a way to get in to do anything with it and there it sits.
It was pretty awful to watch what happened to the people creating content for Huffington Post without pay believing that they were building something together with the founders that would profit them eventually – and I still believe that the way it was presented to me and other content creators made it seem that way.
I didn’t push content there, though I might have posted one article once over to it, but I watched the dismal reality as writers, reporters, videographers and columnists, bloggers and others contributing material that built the platform by providing that content as they watched their audiences of followers turn out to not be theirs at all and not be paid for any of their work either, nor be hired on full-time, nor it be made into any kind of paying gig.
As the big money was paid to buy the platform, those contributors were not treated as part of what created the platform and gave it the value for which it was sold at that price, nope – not at all.
Anyway, I’ve seen a lot of these kinds of things over the years I’ve been working with the online concepts of doing business. The portfolio style platforms which started offering prints, from what I understand, wiped out those artists’ work that was being shown there to continue with some curated collection of prints from other sources without any regard for the artists whose works helped build their platforms’ traffic either.
By the time that happened, I had my artworks on about three of them, maybe four and didn’t even try to worry about it because every one of the platforms had been making some sales of my works as prints and I never could get my payments from them, even though it wasn’t a huge amount – still. And, too many headaches to worry about however many pieces I listed with them being deleted and the work I did to build a following. It is a zero sum game.
But recently, when YouTube changed its policies about paying the content creators and then a lady who had worked very hard to build a following was hit with censoring, then watched her audience numbers destroyed, then probably dropped from the revenue sharing on top of it all – after she had worked some years to build all that, I can see why she went off the edge. I don’t agree with her shooting up the YouTube HQ and then offing herself, of course, but I can certainly see what took her to the point of that.
This is the article about it from the LA Times.
It is one of the ugly sides of doing business through online platforms where the traffic is being built by the content and marketing efforts that are being provided by people like me and like her and like tens of thousands of us out here trying to get an opportunity to earn from our efforts doing it.
Yesterday, it was Polyvore that became a different platform without warning where millions of people had been interacting and providing content and efforts that built the value of the platform which lent its value to it being sold at a price in the $200 million range, first to Yahoo and then to the Montreal SSense, whoever it may be that owns them.
There are many people who made hundreds, if not thousands of collages on the site (called sets) by meticulously clipping out and creating beautiful groupings of clothes, furnishings or even artworks for the community there. And, now those things – all gone.
The company is allowing users to request a download of their sets, but basically – it is gone and no telling what those files will even look like once users get them. They probably won’t look like the sets that were created, nor the libraries of things they clipped to be able to use in the sets. And yes, my designer products and sets I made were on there too – several hundred probably. A lot of people are very worked up about it and understandably so.
My thoughts are a bit different about it at this point, I suppose. It doesn’t make sense to me that these companies would buy platforms that were built up by the users into a well trafficked platform and then dismantle it. Why buy it then? And why are the content creators not treated with more respect and value by the founders and companies that host these platforms to the online community? I don’t get that.
When YouTube changed its policies and then changed the revenue sharing, the content producers in the online community had spent valuable time, resources, talent, marketing efforts and faith in the premise of the platform to share in the revenue as it was presented to them by the company.
Then the changes were made considering none of that as having any value to them. I just don’t get that mental landscape. It doesn’t make sense, but I’ve watched it happen over and over on the internet and across American businesses throughout the country over the years. Customers don’t mean anything, employees don’t mean anything, the communities the company had served don’t mean anything and the well-being of those who have served the company across the board in extended communities of people and other businesses don’t mean anything. It is bizarre.
So, the good of the doing business through online platforms is the possibilities that it represents which, however hard to realize as a fruitful and prosperous business – do actually exist.
And, the fact that the whole world is out there with a massive set of communities and networks available to access through the internet, through the platforms – all that is a good thing about it, although it is very difficult to access those communities now for a variety of reasons not the least of which is, utter clutter.
The bad things about doing business through online platforms are mentioned above, like the platform being bought or changing its guiding mission or changing its rules about how revenue is derived by the content providers and those efforts having been invested to build an audience, a following, build a brand, build a business, become known and derive some reasonable income from it – are destroyed or decimated without regard.
The platforms online do provide low start up costs in money, but not in time and efforts. They do provide access to a global marketplace 24/7 in every currency and nearly every language – all good as well. But, unless I know about SEO and fifty other marketing things very specific to online marketing and talk about celebrities most of the time or some other trending topic, or do something that out-outrageous-es everything else out there in internet land, no one is going to find my things in that global landscape and marketplace.
There are other things too that are just genuinely bad about online business efforts through internet platforms that are provided in many different types now.
The main one I’m thinking about right now is that it puts anyone into direct competition, not just with others doing the same things but with every other retailer and every other product, design, use of money that could do something else and every other business selling anything including every service based company as well as the very largest well-placed competitors, to get even a dime from those efforts.
For the ugly, I think it is becoming obvious with the recent Cambridge Analytica / Facebook debacle. As one computer programmer recently said on twitter, if you aren’t paying for the service – then you are the product (or something close to that.) Although, to be honest, most of those services that are charging also sell the information and provide access to their information for a fee to third parties sooner or later – either because the company gets sold, goes bankrupt and is dismantled or changes their focus which changes their terms of agreement with customers and the content on their sites.
And, the services of online platforms that seem to not be charging like the print on demand types – are certainly charging each of the people using the site. On Zazzle, where my designs are now – it is like Lulu books or anything else, shutterstock and istock included, that are making money from my side of the interaction when anything sells and on the other sides of the dimensional equation from payment services fees to other revenue streams coming from the manufacturing companies for the products, or subscription fees to the customers as well, in the case of istock and shutterstock.
Ebay does that too and every other platform. Facebook has ad revenues that generate money from having the audience that all of the people having pages there are providing that audience and traffic from the real world of potential customers. Then, data is sold too. And, information of other kinds is sold too. I’m not on Facebook much, but on twitter – and definitely the same kinds of things can happen and may be happening with data harvesting.
But, the ugliest side of doing business through online platforms probably isn’t the data harvesting. The ugly is most likely having millions of people disenfranchised of their work and the internet’s promise and potential of providing a viable way to reach the world and create a sustainable income from it, particularly through these platforms, being less possible in reality than anyone would believe or try to do, if that were known.
When that lady shot up the YouTube offices a few days ago, she was lost – whatever she may have provided to the world was lost, her life was lost and the potential of everyone she shot was altered forever, and thankfully they didn’t die from it – but their lives were permanently altered because of it. So, in every way – it was a complete fail and a total loss rather than whatever it might have been without it ever happening.
In my case, I’d say the ugliest mistake I made with the online platforms was believing that it was a place to express my art, provide my art at a marketplace where I had access and that it would work well. That said, it has put my art and design into the hands of a lot of people across the world who would have never had access to it all otherwise.
The problem is that most of us likely buy into that idea about these online platforms freeing us to put our work into the hands of a larger marketplace – whatever our art may be – from writing and music to artwork and design.
That draws us – including me – into a place where the platforms thrive by getting content without cost to them and getting traffic, audience and communities built for them without any of the true costs of that as well. Yes, the backend efforts of the platform are being provided, but without content and audience – it would mean very little.
After spending years creating content online, and receiving very little if anything from those efforts, it looks to me like I could have declared it a holiday every day and never lifted one hand to any of it and come out better than I have for making those efforts. And that, I live with knowing every single day. Yet, somewhere – because I made those efforts, someone many times over, is enjoying what I created. It sits in their home. It was given as a special gift. It gives them some feeling that is nice when they see it. And, every single day somewhere around the world, every one who sees it is receiving something from it.
That part of it is really, really good.
About CricketDiane –
I’ve been creating nearly every day since I was a kid and that is over 50 years. I’ve created in numerous ways in a range that moves from art to problem-solving to inventing, creating music, sculpting and painting to writing and doing various computer / online based projects.
“It is better to make the effort to move forward and release the flow of ideas to work with them and do things creatively, create things and invent and write and make – I definitely know that by experience.” – cricketdiane, 2018
You can find more of my art and designs here –
CricketDiane and Cricket House Studios Store on Zazzle
and other blog writings by me here –
On YouTube –
The website for Cricket House Studios Art and Design is found here –
And see my current efforts on GoFundMe to make a board game I created into a video game that I’m working on right now –
The Scared Donkey Mine Money Game by CricketDiane on GoFundMe
Thanks for checking us out!
The Cricket House Studios Team and CricketDiane