Twisty thinking

Have you seen the Twist Collective? It’s a fabulous new online magazine – and by new, I mean really new; groundbreaking. As the name suggests, it’s published by a group of designers, editors etc, and functions largely as a showcase and shopfront for their talents: most of the patterns are for individual sale, not for free. You can browse the magazine, read the excellent articles, take inspiration from the beautifully photographed designs, and not pay a cent; but if you want to knit a project, you have to shell out around $6 to $7 apiece.
I think this is not only fair, but the future (or perhaps, one future model) of online publishing. In fact, more than a year ago, I was daydreaming about my fantasy future knitting magazine (oh, you know you do the same!), and this was a major feature of it: patterns for sale. (My model was quite different in many ways, including pricing structure, but this idea was part of it.) It just made sense to me that for a professional publication, all-free patterns would not enable the magazine to deliver suitable quality to the readers, nor to pay the designers appropriately. So, create a catalogue (as some are calling it) that offers plenty of fantastic free content, and provides an opportunity for readers to pay only for what they really want to knit – not for a whole issue of perhaps not-my-style filler. Eminently reasonable, right? After all, nobody’s making anybody pay anything. There are plenty of sources of great free patterns for those who want them. And many of us get just as much joy from simply looking at interesting design concepts and details, mentally bookmarking them for future use in our own projects. So frankly, it’s a win all round; especially if the magazine is really well produced – as the Twist Collective most certainly is.
But of course it’s a new model, and it requires some adjustment, and some people are quite het up about that. I understand they might be disappointed that it’s not free, when we’re so used to online magazines providing free content. (Lucky, lucky, spoilt us.) But really I am amazed at the strength of feeling that’s coming out. Some quotes from Ravelry (and please understand, I don’t mean to attack anyone behind these words; I just find the sentiments expressed fascinating because they are so alien to me):
“I know that 100 dollars isn’t enough to actually compensate a designer for all the work put into a pattern, but I sort of took that as a given… doing what you love to do rarely makes people rich.”
Isn’t that weird? The idea that it’s somehow *wrong* to make a living from doing what you love, and therefore it’s okay to effectively exploit their passion by paying below-cost rates?
“They may call it a business model, but I call it deception… It is greed and I don’t like it.”
This person was arguing that it was unfair to make readers pay for what “the magazine” should be paying for; she also claimed that Twist was offering “NOTHING” to the readers! Again, I’m thoroughly flummoxed by this point of view. Apart from the lack of understanding of economics (how, exactly, should a magazine pay its designers if not with money gained from readers, eg via the cover price?), and the assumption that everything except the actual pattern instructions constituted no reader value whatsoever… I am amazed at the accusation of deception and greed. How is it deceptive to put a product out there and ask for payment? How is it greed to want the end user to pay for (some of!) what they get?
The greed point is the bit that really rankles. Because surely, the most greedy thing is to expect to get patterns for free – when patterns take many, many, many hours of hard work to write. When did knitters get so entitled? When did we start to feel we were owed the fruits of others’ labours for nothing?

10 thoughts on “Twisty thinking

  1. It’s not just doing what you love – it seems a lot of people are looking to get something for nothing these days.
    I subcontract sometimes as a freelance writer for someone. I mentioned to him the other day that I’d be happy to help him re-vamp his website (it sorely needs it), and he half-jokingly (I hope) asked me what my rate would be (he should know – he pays it on behalf of others).
    I responded, “Well, R – I don’t USUALLY work for free…” He chuckled, but I do half wonder if he was seeing if he could get some free copy out of me.

  2. people absolutely feel entitled to free intellectual property these days. No one would dream of expecting a free skirt at the gap, but continue to want the hard work of individual designers pursuing their love at no cost.
    I agree that the Stitch Collective is lovely, allowing you to peruse the gorgeous designs, and support the designers whose pieces you wish to make.
    Its a wonderful website, every time I look at it i am stunned by its excellent quality.

  3. Totally with you, Robynn. I think US$6-7 for a whole pattern, with broad sizing is not expensive in comparison to – say – a good cup of coffee (I’ll pay AU$3 for my piccolo latte no worries, about half a pattern, and my fun from that lasts max 10 mins whereas a pattern – joy for ages!)
    I don’t understand why people feel they’ve been duped, it always said it would be pay patterns.
    Weird, what people expect for ‘free’ (and don’t get me started on ‘free’ but paid for by advertising – which someone, um, us, pays for! OK by me when it’s a small needle-arts company).
    Unintelligible rant over.

  4. I agree with you entirely. I think it’s a beautiful website, well thought out and put together. And I love the business model — an online shop and magazine, nicely woven together.
    I don’t mind people thinking ‘meh, not for me’ — but to talk about being cheated or accuse the publishers of greed or deception. Wow. That seriously misplaced sense of entitlement isn’t nice to see.

  5. Thanks for the link! and I agree with your post – very well put too!
    of course everybody loves “free” but not to expect it!

  6. Actors and politicians say how much they love their job all the time. Based on the business model that you shouldn’t get paid for things you love doing does that mean no more pay for Bradgelina or Mr Brown.

  7. I love the whole concept of the Twist Collective. How many bloody knitting magazines have I bought and never used a single pattern? I’d much rather have the option to buy the patterns I do want, at a price that’s fair to the designer, than keep shelling out for magazines I end up tossing in the recycling bin, because there’s just nothing in it for me. (Spoken like a woman who is very tired of sealed-in-plastic magazines with jumbo knitting needle giveaways.)

  8. ooh, thanks for the link — what a stunning magazine. And I’m right with Ana on preferring to pay for one pattern I’ll actually use vs an entire magazine of blah. The negative comments are completely baffling; creative work is HARD and the idea that people should starve in garrets just because they love what they do is just silly.

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