The User Generated Font Community

from the challenging-business-models dept

It's often amazing to see the larger struggles of one industry reflected in a very similar situation in a much more narrowly focused industry. Obviously, we've had tons of stories about major media operations, from television to radio to newspapers have suddenly struggled to compete in a world where there's also user-generated content to compete with on all levels. Certainly, most of that user-generated content is not very good, but that's missing the point. Some of it is quite good -- and the good work tends to get noticed and float to the top. Basically, the old guard no longer has a monopoly, and that can require a major adjustment in terms of both product and business model. And the same thing is happening in much more narrowly focused markets -- such as fonts.

A few months back, we wrote about how one font company got so upset that one of its fonts was found on a file sharing network that it sent a huge bill to the guy it believed was responsible, and then increased the price on the font, along with a huge rant about people "stealing" their fonts. This is like the RIAA flipping out over file sharing -- and rather than recognizing that the unauthorized file sharing was actually a sign of people wanting a more efficient market -- trying to resist that market.

Then, compare that to this wonderful story in Slate about an online service called FontStruct that lets anyone create and share their own fonts. Suddenly, a large group of folks who didn't even have the means before can now make their own fonts. They're certainly not as good as professional fonts in most cases, but for many people they are good enough (and some of them are quite good). As the article notes: "FontStruct is the Casiotone keyboard of font-making. Maybe you can use it to bang out a credible pop song. Beethoven? No way."

But just as user generated content has changed other businesses, it also impacts these smaller businesses. Now some (and I'm sure the font company we discussed earlier would agree) will bemoan this situation, complain about the "amateurs," insult the crappy fonts and insist that it will hurt the overall market. But that's the wrong way to look at this. What we're seeing is more fonts available, and more people even being aware of font possibilities. The best work bubbles to the top, thanks to a rating system. A good font designer can use a program like this to highlight and promote his or her works -- and then sell the ability to do custom work as well, or additional design work. It becomes a win-win across the board. More fonts are available, it's easier for the best designers to promote themselves, and more people who would never consider paying for a font learn about what's possible and available.
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Filed Under: community, fonts, user generated content


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2008 @ 8:48am

    Re: Re: Re:

    """
    "A few probably, but enough to base a business on?"

    The availability of free fonts notwithstanding (they have been around for a long time), this company has apparently managed to establish a customer base for its products that produces income sufficient for its needs.
    """

    actually, there is no indication of that, can someone find any reliable source on how this company is doing?

    """
    "Did you notice that you just contradicted yourself in the same sentence? A good is either infinite or not. In the case of digitally rendered fonts, they're infinite: they can be copied infinitely with zero marginal cost. The time and labor required to create a font is what is scarce."

    Not a contradiction given my use of the word "scarce" to signify that the digital good is released under license to the company's customers. Fonts available as freebies are certainly not scarce given how I use the word. The same cannot be said of what the company sells, assuming, of course, that a customer adheres to his/her contractual obligations.
    """

    the license DOES NOT MATTER. fonts are infinite. slapping a license on it to make it scarce makes it artifically scarce, which pisses your customers off because they realize they are being denied the ability to use this infinite good as an infinite good, which is the point.

    to be clear:
    YES I agree with you, this companies customers are legaly obligied to obey their contractual obligations, which restrict them from from making copies.
    HOWEVER it is a BAD IDEA to apply a license to this good, because it makes the product less desirable, and customers will buy competing products, san license, instead of yours.

    to be even more clear:
    YES they are within their legal rights
    NO, this is not a good business idea, they will piss off their customer base

    Follow?

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