Don't Underestimate The Value Of Exposure

from the if-you-can't-monetize-that,-you-fail dept

The NY Times is running an article about a bunch of illustrators complaining that Google offered to promote their work for free as special skins for its Chrome browser. The concern? That Google wouldn’t pay them to promote their work. Of course, that’s fine. They can (and many did) choose not to accept this free promotion, but it’s difficult to understand what sort of statement they think they’re making. As Google noted, it found plenty of takers for the chance at such a great channel for promotion, so all those artists who stood by their “principles” will suddenly find out that for all their complaints about not being “paid” by Google, lots of artists will get a lot more exposure, and hopefully most of them are smart about turning exposure into money. Google wasn’t asking the artists to do anything new, but to reuse an existing work — but from that, it’s likely that people will learn about these artists, and that could (or should) easily lead to new work. The cost to artists is next to nothing, but the potential payoff is quite high. So why deny it? It’s the same silly entitlement mentality that has people think that for every use of work they’ve already done they must get paid. It’s a failure to recognize that exposure is a form of payment, and widespread exposure from a brand like Google should be quite easily monetizable. People who think compensation only comes in money are going to have a lot of difficulty succeeding in the digital era.

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Comments on “Don't Underestimate The Value Of Exposure”

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:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Hello coward!

People who have planet-wide name recognition tend to make lots of money. While it is entirely possible this oft repeated phenomenon is coincidental, one must acknowledge the possibility of there being some connection between being very well known AND being very well paid.

(PS – Don’t quit your day job; because at the rate you think you’d starve before hitting upon another solution for employment.)

BigFN-J (profile) says:


I would absolutely JUMP at an opportunity to share my work, and my passion with a much larger audience. It seems that not only are they complaining, but they are complaining PUBLICLY…

amazingly they are now getting exposure, negative exposure (if that’s even a statement).

I was raised under the impression that if you do something great, or amazing, that you are driven to share that with others, why is it even important for an artist that creates something beautiful to be paid for contributing to millions of others happiness.

You make another amazing point, exposure can always be turned into profit by entrepreneurs, and if i see something that gives me a warm fuzzy when I look at it, I will spend money to have a piece of that warmth.


Bettawrekonize says:

Re: orly?

“I would absolutely JUMP at an opportunity to share my work, and my passion with a much larger audience. It seems that not only are they complaining, but they are complaining PUBLICLY…”

A bunch of whiny crybabies. No one is forcing them to create artwork if they don’t want to.

Diane Marie says:

Re: Re: orly?

This is a perfect example of a person who places no value on art. Positively EMBARRASSING. Obviously no idea of what it’s LIKE to be an artist. When you are an artist, brimming with ideas, it can be positively HAUNTING. It is a mere stone’s throw from madness at times: it drives away sleep and any sort of concentration on anything else until the “itch is scratched.” You are right no “ONE” is forcing us to create artwork, but SOMETHING outside of us IS. Any artist with any real passion for what they do will tell you that. It’s not like being an insurance salesman and you have the leisure to just decide to quit and become a librarian. We can walk away from our art, but it follows us, always, and we are never happy unless we honor it. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among artists.

Diane Marie says:

Re: orly?

in my experience as an artist and gallery owner, people are a lot more willing to pay the asking price (no matter what it is) for a piece of jewelry, a pair of shoes, clothing, handbag, a salon visit, a meal in a fancy be-seen restaurant than they will a piece of art, no matter how fantastic it is. If they see all of their friends buying a particular artists work, they will fork over the cash, but generally if it is a toss-up between a piece of art or a tricket to pamper or decorate themselves, people will choose the trinket nearly every time.

Slackr says:


How on earth is being offered one of these slots by Google some sort of insult? I can only conclude that the sheer arogance of having your artwork already appear in prestigeous publications makes these illustrators feel they’re popular enough to turn down a golden opportunity. As the poster above pointed out, they couldn’t afford this if they wanted to BUY this exposure off of Google – how dare they offer to do it for free!

It’s interesting that they point to paid illustrated work on TV and in print, then also lament the fact that these areas are starting to suffer to the web. Personally I’m never going to see an illustrators credit flash me by in the millisecond it is diplayed on TV, however in my own leisure at home I’ve already seen artwork and home page profiles of others I may never have seen before. I doubt I’ll ever see the work of any of these artists sticking by their ‘principles’.

Jason says:

Re: Idiots

“I can only conclude that the sheer arogance of having your artwork already appear in prestigeous publications makes these illustrators feel they’re popular enough to turn down a golden opportunity.”

Yeah, did you read the linked article? The prestigious names they dropped were: (Ta-da!)

Gift cards at TARGET and some NICKELODEON filler cartoons. (Ta-da?)

Google? Who the hell is Google?

slackr (profile) says:

Re: Re: Idiots

Yep I read it on the small not very well known NYT website. Did you miss this (para 2): “Mr. Taxali, an illustrator based in Toronto whose work has appeared in publications like Time, Newsweek and Fortune, …Mr. Taxali said that when he was told Google would pay nothing, he declined.”

I’d also say that I’ve heard of Target and I live on the other side of the world so they can’t be that small…a national chain I believe?

So obviously it isn’t ALL the illustrators, the point was that they both pointed to having a previous record of payment from established well known companies and then in the next breath said that they were competing with the internet and then turn down an opportunity to work with a giant in that industry because they’re not getting ‘paid’? I guess they figured it was more advantageous to whine about it in the NYT which required little effort.

Charlie Reiman says:

Um. No.

Normally I would agree with you but not this time. Google has some mighty deep pockets. If artists shouldn’t expect Google to pay, then when should they ever expect to get paid? Also, what makes you thing “The cost to artists is next to nothing, but the potential payoff is quite high.” Why is this particular art so easy and where does the payoff come if not in getting paid for their art?

Arguably they got more exposure by not participating.

slackr (profile) says:

Re: Um. No.

Yes, the artists might get their small piece of limelight by negative exposure. But in a week who will care who said ‘No’? When the profiles launch those who opted in WILL be visited and gain exposure.

I’m just guessing but I’d wager more people will visit by clicking a few buttons to check out some interesting free art than be bothered reading yesterday’s news about upset artists.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Um. No.

They can expect Google to pay, Google just doesn’t have to comply. It’s not like they’re being forced to do the work, they were given an offer, and they refused. Plain and simple.

There are plenty of people that are willing to trade free work for mass exposure. They’re the ones that took the offer.

And more exposure by not participating? Tell me the artists who refused then. Lucky for the few that got interviewed by NY Times, but the rest won’t even get named.

Jason says:

Re: Um. No.

“when should they ever expect to get paid?”

When they can convince people to pay.

And some of them can, so I can’t blame the one’s already making big money. I mean if I was making art at 200 bucks an hour, you’d be hard pressed to get me to do free promotional work – but even then I wouldn’t act like a cheerleader who just got asked to prom by the class loser.

I mean eew, whatever! As if!

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Um. No.

I’m no analyst, but it seems to me that a big part of Google’s success comes from the fact that they encourage their various development teams to move forward with projects in their own creative ways instead of making them wait for someone to green-light itemized budgets for every little idea. By reaching out to artists who might be interested in the exposure, the Chrome designers don’t have to ask for MONEY — and as everyone who has ever worked in a corporate structure knows, money is the only thing you really have to fight for.

But honestly, what’s the point of agreeing or disagreeing? There were plenty of artists who saw value in the exposure, and so to them, they received a fair transaction. What is there to complain about?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Um. No.

“Why is this particular art so easy and where does the payoff come if not in getting paid for their art?”

There is a willful agreement between both parties, why should I assume that both parties don’t have something to gain if the agreement is willful.

This is how free markets work. When you go to the store and buy something the reason you bought something is because you value what you bought more than the money you paid. The reason the person sold it to you was because he valued the money more than what he sold. It’s mutually beneficial because BOTH parties agreed to the transaction.

The same exact thing is true here. This is basic economics. Both parties agreed to it because it is beneficial to both of them. The artists that agreed to it did so because he saw the benefits as being more beneficial to him than the cost of his time to produce the art. Google agreed to it because they saw the art as being more beneficial to them than the publicity they provide. Both parties benefit so they agree.

Now when both parties may not benefit is when you have the government distort the free market. For example, when the government forces an artist or a restaurant to pay a third party royalties for playing a song when both parties would agree otherwise if it were up to them is not a mutually beneficial transaction. The artist (and restaurant) loses more from the third party than they gain (and if this loss is substantial enough to overcome the gains that both parties gain from each other then this might stop the transaction which may restrict the advancement of good music). Government involvement of free markets in this regard is bad.

afonso martins (user link) says:

Re: Um. No.

I have to agree with Charlie here. Google is making its product more attractive by offering more skinning options, it’s only fair to pay the illustrators for their work.

If illustrators didn’t charge anything each time their work got exposure they would never get paid. Where would they draw the line? Should the artist in the article not have charged for the cards she did for Target because of the exposure it got her? The nature of the work she did for Target is exactly the same as the one Google was asking her to do. So I reckon the same pricing applies.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: Um. No.

“””Also, what makes you thing “The cost to artists is next to nothing, but the potential payoff is quite high.”””

I -think- the cost to artists is next to nothing because the cost to artists is next to nothing. They are being asked for permission to advertise already created works of art, no extra work required. You do realize that a huge segment of the economy is devoted to paying in order to get more exposure (advertising) for products? And yet Google offers to do this for free since there is a benefit for them as well.

This is called win-win. I can’t even comprehend the mindset that cannot see this.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t think you understand how being an artist works.

There’s plenty of work involved, and time dedicated to any given illustration, but a large part of what makes an artist’s career is Brand recognition. Places like Coca-cola have it in spades. Sometimes you can look at a movie and know exactly who made it. Artist’s are employed based on this kind of brand-recognition, not that they just have a brand. Even a particularly good brand. Anybody with some talent can make a nice picture. It takes an artist to sell that to the public.

This would be akin to taking a giant billboard out in Times Square for the amount of publicity involved.

And for the people who complained, they’ll get their one or two articles and be gone from the public consciousness.

Jerry Leichter (profile) says:


Anyone who sells his work – as an artist, writer, consultant – has to face the tradeoff between getting paid what the market will bear, and accepting little or no monetary compensation in trade for visibility. This isn’t new to the Internet era. People starting out in any such business rarely have a good feel for what their own effort is worth. A few think too much of themselves; most undervalue themselves and will all too readily buy into this kind of deal.

The tradeoff is complicated. For one thing, like many tradeoffs in business, it’s about current versus future expense or income. These are always hard, because future expenses/incomes are inherently uncertain, while current expenses/income are certain – and sometimes you just have to pay the rent.

If you look at the actual Times article, the clear impression is that all the artists approached have a significant audience and business already, and certainly the ones who are refusing to let their work be used for free appear to be doing quite well. To stand on the outside and tell them how they should run their businesses – with no knowledge of where they actually stand – is incredibly presumptuous. Some of the artists who are refusing to participate are likely making a mistake. Others who are *agreeing* to participate may well be making a mistake, if the publicity they get ends up garnering only requests for more free work, rather than paying contracts.

Frankly, it seems to me that the biggest mistake here was Google’s. I’m reading between the lines here – I don’t know what Google actually said – but they appear to have been insensitive to how these artists see their businesses. It was only after the fact that they appear to have made it clear that they would be happy with existing work – most artists at the level they were approaching probably assumed they, like most customers, wanted something unique done just for them. Rather than casting this as an honor – a kind of on-the-web art show – they let it look like commerce. Well, if it’s commerce – why shouldn’t the artists expect payment? Perception and setting are essential in determining how people view a request.

By the way, this kind of thing doesn’t just happen with artists. A small company I knew spent a great deal of up-front effort putting together a proposal and participating in a bake-off against competitors, for a sale in the low millions of dollars – a big part of the year’s income for them – to customize and sell software to a mega-company. The mega-company’s response was “We love your technology; it beat everyone. We want to use your stuff. In fact, we love it so much that we’ll be happy to tell the world that we’re using it. Our endorsement is so valuable that we propose you give us your software for free.” Fine idea; but if the small company had gone along with it, they might well not have survived the year. (The deal was eventually negotiated to some level close to the small company’s original proposal.)

Tghu Verd says:

Re: Oversimplification

Do I hear the whimper of starving artists in garrets here?

So if an artist pays for a flyer to promote their work at a gallery, it’s OK not to get paid for the artwork on the flyer…but Google promoting them on the world’s most viewed web page gets them up in arms.

I don’t see any “mistake” on Google’s part – either you want to sell your art or you don’t. If you do, you consider this opportunity for promotion. If you don’t, say “no” and stay away.

But don’t then cry “foul” because big, bad Google made an offer to expose your work…for free.

Debunked says:

Melinda Beck Got "Streisand Effect"


It is up to each individual illustrator to run the calculus on whether that exposure is more helpful to them then an usage fee. Obviously some did decide that it would be helpful.

Obviously Melinda Beck who got her picture and name prominently in the NY Times (and being an illustrator who lives in Brooklyn) got more exposure to her target market of clients in the NYC area (via your “Streisand Effect”) by turning down the Chrome opportunity.

Also Google has as of yet given zero publicity to the illustrators who accepted the offer to exchange for exposure.

Also you do know that Google Chrome browser was at 1.58% market share in Q2 of 2009. So if I was an illustrator looking at a limited budget of giving stuff away for free than I would shop for an entity with a little better market share.

I am making an assumption that may or may not be correct about the work of illustrators and the market they sell to. I assume that the magazines, etc. who buy their work want something visually fresh that others don’t have so that there is some dilution of an illustration if it is seen too often in a browser or elsewhere.

A band can budget to do, say 5 free exposure gigs a year. They have a choice of the corner coffee shop or a medium large music club. Which should they choose?

Redphantasm (profile) says:

Easy work

It seems to me that the amount of “art” one has to produce in order to skin a browser is moderate at worst, trivial at best. And the quantity gets smaller if you are allowed to use existing art work. Case in point: The skin on my iGoogle page is 200×1280. The amount of time to create such an art must have been truly back breaking.

PS – Melinda appears to have gotten her face on the Times because she: A) lives close (traveling photographers are $$ after all) and B) is cute as a button, unlike other artists I’ve known.

Anonymous Coward says:

“In an interview, Ms. Beck estimated it would take her a week to create original artwork to Google’s specifications. “

(from the NYT article)

Then don’t, no one is forcing you. But stop your crying like a baby. What are you going to do next, cry to the government so they can hold your hand and force Google to pay you?

The Cenobyte (profile) says:

pay for it again Sam

This comes down to some fundimental issue with Artists I think. Every single artist I know (I live next to an art school) seems to think that they should get paid for any work they do for the rest of their lives. They take exception to the idea that someday they might have to give up thier copyright on a work. Meanwhile they feel like it’s ok that I got to work every single day and work for pay, if I don’t work I don’t get paid for the work I did yesterday or the year before. It’s an entitlement issue honest. Most of artist I know justify this idea by saying ‘artist can’t be creative all the time’, but personally I think that is crap. If an Engineer was not creative everyday he would loose his job, why should an artist get to create only when they want to and get paid for it forever.

Copyright shouldn’t be more than a few years. Maybe 10 at the most, anything else is really just robbing the people of a steady new stream of art by making the pressure to create new works almost nonexistant.

ken-x (profile) says:

Re: pay for it again Sam

It’s not for you to decide copyright. This belongs to the artist. why should art be free?
Your example of an engineer does not compare to an illustrator. Most engineers have a regular job and the company they work for owns whatever they produce or design. Free lance artists earn their living by each job. They create something new constantly. This is their work. They create it and own it. if you want to use , you must pay. Would you do a free ad for Mcdonalds or Coke?
I think not!

Bob says:

Re: pay for it again Sam

@ Cenobyte

How does one arbitrarily determine how long copyrights are set?
An “Engineer” working for a corporation will probably get 2 weeks paid vacation, health care, benefits, possibly profit sharing, salary increases, possibly day care for children, unemployment insurance, etc….

The freelance artist has to cover all of these and more from the sale of their art. Giving up rights = not going to work. Giving away your property/invested energies at a loss.

c.d.embrey says:

Re: pay for it again Sam

Why is it OK to pay engineers, but not OK to pay artists?

If it is an entitlement issue, why are engineers entitled to pay but artists are supposed to work for free?

For the most part artists (illustrators, photographers, authors, etc) are freelancers. They don’t get payed unless someone commissions work.

Unlike engineers, and other employees, artists are entrepreneurs running a business to make a profit(isn’t that the American Dream?).

Jacob Vorpahl (user link) says:

Re: pay for it again Sam

Your last statement there exposes you for feeling entitled yourself.

“…anything else is really just robbing the people of a steady new stream of art…”

So, the people are entitled to a steady stream of art? Why? Just because? So what you’re saying is that the public in general should have free stuff to look at… for no reason other than they just should. Pleas explain the difference in that to me.

You talk about copyrights as if the artist should just give their stuff away for free so that people can use it. Guess what, someone is making money off that art. Be it Google trying to spice up their interface appearance to get more people to use their product, some company using a photo to advertise their product so THEY can make money, or some business selling copies of the photo to make money. Basically, the artists should just give their stuff up so other people can make money off of it, all for “exposure”. While, yes, exposure is worth it in some situations, not all.

In this instance, as someone said above, they’re going to be showing their work to people who probably aren’t going to commission them anyways, so is the “exposure” really worth it? Maybe, maybe not. They say no. So drop it. Stop feeling entitled to seeing artists work for nothing and expecting everything to be a-ok.

martymefurst (profile) says:

Maybe the article didn’t make this clear enough: Google didn’t run an open contest with the grand prize of the winners getting recognition and free exposure, they contacted professional artists who are already well known in the trade and who need to get paid for their time. These aren’t kids just out of art school and still living with their parents, they’re working people whose major source of work – the print media – is struggling for survival and cutting back on expenses any way they can. Google is a multi billion dollar corporation that doesn’t (as far as I know) ask their employees to work for free.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Free doesn't make sense if it doesn't lead to sales

Working for free for exposure makes sense if you are an unknown. If you are already getting paid for your work and have more work than you can do as it is, there’s little incentive to work for free.

What new doors or marketing opportunities would being seen on a mass market Google project bring to successful illustrators? How would getting something on Google enable them to charge more or sell more? Generally illustrators aren’t compensated based on mass popularity but rather on the appropriateness of their work to their clients’ needs.

Rockstardom in the Google world doesn’t really translate into an economic benefit for established artists who already have lots of paying clients.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Scarcity of art

Another factor one might consider is that mass market art isn’t necessarily the image every artist wants to cultivate.

Part of the art market is to make one-of-a-kind or limited edition items, so giving your art away for free undercuts the cachet that comes with owning something that isn’t widely available.

Have you read the articles about the man who owns the sole rights to a Sufjan Stevens song? The only way to hear the song is to go to the man’s house for special concerts. That makes it a rare and very special event.

Matthew says:

don't do it

I’m a photographer, and as a general rule, anyone who asks for use of my images automatically expects they can use them for free. I would never in a million years allow a company as huge as Google to use my work for no fee. That’s ridiculous. Graphics on a web browser is going to to nothing to help those artists sell work.

If you are an artist and allow someone like Google to use your work without paying you for it, under the bogus premise that it’s “good exposure,” then you are basically saying to the world that your work is worth nothing.

Diane Marie says:

Re: don't do it

EXACTLY!!!! Thank you! It’s the old “Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free” adage, and we all know where THAT comes from!!!! True art collectors/buyers who want something original will never buy/commission the art of an artist who whored their work for free. It sends a message of desperation.

Adam (user link) says:

The value of exposure is worthless if people start expecting things for free. “Oh, so you’ll give away stuff to Google but not to me?

As a designer, my industry is rife with such horror stories.

Even related industries are being asked to work for nothing.

If I want to market myself, I’ll market myself. And not through a company who’s name is so big, it ends up casting an impenetrable shadow on mine.

David says:

How professional illustrators get paid.

Most professional illustrators get paid by working for companies that can cut the big checks per illustration, $1500 per job or more, companies like google. So an illustrator should not build a reputation of working for some long shot exposure. At they very least they can work for quantified exposure. If google wants an artist’s work in exchange for real exposure, offer them something quantifiable, like $3000 worth of adwords.

Diane Marie says:

Donating art in exchange for exposure

I have donated a fair number of art pieces and images to various people, entities, non-profit organizations, musicians, authors and others in exchange for exposure, and from it I gained exactly nothing except a long line of others who also wanted to use my work for free. People do not often appreciate art seen used in mainstream marketing enough to say “that’s really cool, I wonder who the artist is?” I have even asked people who have used my work and the work of others, and they say they get positive comments from the public about the work, but people seldom ask about the actual artist.

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