Clive Thompson on How T-Shirts Keep Online Content Free

Increasingly, creative types are harnessing what I’ve begun to call
“the T-shirt economy”–paying for bits by selling atoms. Charging for
content online is hard, often impossible. Even 10 cents for a download
of something like Red vs. Blue might drive away the fans. So instead of fighting this dynamic, today’s smart artists are simply adapting to it.

Their algorithm is simple: First, don’t limit your audience by
insisting they pay to see your work. Instead, let your content roam
freely online, so it generates as large an audience as possible. Then
cash in on your fans’ desire to sport merchandise that declares their
allegiance to you. — Clive Thompson, Wired