I seem to have a series of posts going about various industries undergoing disaggregation. This is an observation I’ve had on what the true disruptive nature of the Internet is. The Internet is a flat network, which means you can create new networks linking anyone to anyone else. You don’t have to go through a particular structure to do it, you just do it.
What this means is if you have digital content to share, you can just share it directly to consumers. It cuts out the middle man. Therefore society begins to transform its organizational pattern from one that is based on location (you live near the factory you work in) to one based on information (you live in Florida and telecommute to a company in California).
The first part of this process then is the disaggregation of existing physically based infrastructure. A prime example is the newspaper business. You used to need a newspaper company (with all it’s sub parts) to get news. Now you just need an Internet connection. Same goes for film, music, and many other industries. Here’s an article where it’s starting to affect another form of art.
So in an effort to become less dependent on an advertising system, Weinersmith recently opened a campaign for SMBC on Patreon, a new funding platform launched in May of this year. It allows an artist’s audience to pay for an artist’s work (becoming a “patron,” hence the name) on a subscription basis, anywhere from a few dollars to $100 a month. In a little over a week, SMBC earned a total monthly pledge of $6,700 from 2,300 readers—well above what Weinersmith was expecting, he says.
The Patreon model harkens back to a theory circulated on the Internet a few years ago that with the Internet’s breadth and ease of access, all a creator needed was around 1,000 “true fans”—or people who would pay around $100 a year toward their work—to sustain good business.
Now that’s pretty cool. Low overhead permits fans to directly support their favorite artists. So the big question is: can something like this work for teachers? You don’t actually need a building to learning something. (see The Empty School: A Thought Experiment)
Instead what if we had a teacher who taught online? Students would be matched to them based on personality, interests and of course, skill level. Some teachers would become popular and gain a following of students. These students could then support them financially.
This might sound radical but it isn’t a new idea. Universities used to work this way. The teachers in the middle ages would be paid directly by their students. Besides, radical ideas are cheap to try out these days. It only takes one company to create a viable business model and everyone else will follow. We will see!