Rationalising my digital media purchases, or lack thereof

@juleshughan tweeted an interesting Guardian post titled In the digital era free is easy, so how do you persuade people to pay?, and it got me thinking about why I pay for some forms of digital media, and why I refuse to for others.

The article is a good read, and speaks of motivations, which is something I’ve been very interested in lately, but this list, or whatever the post will turn into, is a lot more, colloquial, I guess.

<time jump> I’ve ranted too much [yes, I’m jumping in time], so I’m going to just list my rationale / motivations—generalised—below, and if you’re still interested, you can read about why it was basically World of Warcraft that got me paying for digital media. </time jump>

Note: The following rationale may likely be highly irrational to some.

The short of it


  • Features [the social, multiplayer aspect in 99% of cases] not accessible through pirated copies
  • Ease of purchasing and the convenience of digital delivery
  • Supporting Indie developers


  • Supporting something I’m passionate about
  • It’s cheap
  • Convenience


Good luck trying to get me to pay for television.


Can’t justify it, and I’m more than doing my bit to support the movie industry by paying $20+ each week at the cinemas.

<time jump 2> Ok, I’m jumping in time again, but I realised I’d forgotten about mobile, and it feels a little different in my mind.

I would more than happily pay for an app I use regularly, but at this point in time, all my favourite, and most used apps, are free. In saying that, I do feel like, for whatever reason, I would hesitate / consider buying an app a lot more than I should, for the relatively small amount they cost. This Oatmeal comic sums it up  </time jump 2>

And now, a wordier version…

The long of it


The idea of purchasing a game was absurd to me, and I thought earlier the turning point was Steam, but no, it was World of Warcraft. Now, this is actually the extreme end of the gaming spectrum in terms of absurdity, as you’re paying an initial fee for the game, as well as a monthly subscription fee of ~$15. You sure as hell know Blizzard are doing something right when they’ve got 10 million+ monthly subscribers.

I trialled it, I really liked it, and then the trial ran out, and I didn’t hesitate for a second to buy it. I, ok, Leon, rationalised it at the time saying that it’s not the same game you’re playing month on month, with new content always being created, and a game that never really ends. This got me to pay for the first month or two, but then it became pretty damn clear what the real reason I was paying $15 a month really was; the social aspect of WoW.

Some people level up to 80, or 85, and happily do quests every day, make money, forward their professions, duel in arenas, bla bla, but I only really played WoW after those first few months to raid. Raiding is 25 random [well, at the start anyway] people working together to kill funky dragons. If that description doesn’t sound appealing, just take it from me, it is. It’s challenging, requires everyone to know their roles, and we’d spend weeks trying to figure out how to defeat something, and the FUCK YEAH feeling when we eventually did was pretty awesome.

After a while, I was playing for 3 hours a week, 4 days a week, with the same 25 people, and I really felt like I became friends with a lot of these people, none of whom I’d ever met before IRL. In the end, it became too much of a commitment, and I quit, but this social aspect of gaming that I’d been introduced to lived on.

I still haven’t played the single player campaign of Starcraft II, purely because I love the multiplayer aspect of it, and most recently, Portal 2; wow wow wow, the best co-op gaming experience I’ve ever had. And guess what? It’s very rare that you can play a multiplayer game without paying for it, as the pirated copies can’t account for that authentication.

I discovered Steam amidst all this, and then a few other motivational factors kicked in, namely the ease at which you can buy a game through Steam [seriously, their checkout process is perfect], and the fact that I don’t have to walk into a store, buy a physical copy [DVD], and then worry about whether said stupid DVD will be able to be read by my DVD drive.

Then I found “indie” games, and with some of these cheaper [$5] games, I started thinking, “What the heck? What’s $5 to support this ridiculously amazing, unique game?”


This “support” mindset creeped into my music world. I’d torrented everything, and then I discovered Grooveshark a year and a bit ago, and haven’t looked back. Grooveshark is music in the cloud, and it rocks. I’ve even blogged about it four times, so I must love it, right? I’d been using Grooveshark, ad-supported, for months, and thought, “$30 a year for a service I already use so much is dirt cheap to support these guys”. 

The argument became even more compelling after I bought an Android phone, and the Grooveshark mobile app, however buggy it initially was, allowed me to practically have my music and my playlists with me everywhere I go, and I haven’t had to download an mp3 in over a year.

The other way I used to rationalise this, and still do, is that I go to a crapload of concerts, and feel like that’s my way of supporting the artists.


Good luck trying to get me to pay for television. Honestly, the disconnect between the immediacy of the Internet age and the speed at which tv shows are broadcast here versus the U.S. is a joke, and I refuse to pay money for free-to-air tv, just because the Australian networks take their sweet ass time showing it here.

Just take LOST for example. A show that I spent hours every week watching, and then reading about, before and after each ep. Then throw in Twitter, and how exactly am I supposed to stay up-to-date, and spoiler-free at the same time? Torrents my friend, torrents.

All those reasons like speed, ease of use and convenience, yeh, well, they go out the window when it comes to tv in Australia.

This is probably an area in which my thoughts are highly biased and flawed, just because of the annoyances that have built up over time, and hey, Netflix is absolutely killing it, but for someone like me, at this point in time, I can’t rationalise it in my mind. I’m eagerly waiting for that killer experience that will do it.


I watch a 100 movies at the cinemas each year. I coughed up over $2000 last year. Ticket prices in Australia are an absolute joke, but the experience of watching a movie amidst a group of people, in that darkened theatre, is unparalleled, and I live for it. If anything, it was heightened all the more by my recent experience at SXSW, with the crowds and the lines and the Q&As; a magical experience. I’ll never [read, I don’t think I ever will, but am prone to change my mind] purchase a movie digitally.

To be an absolute hypocrite, or maybe I should have just worded that last sentence differently, I still download movies, but I refuse to pay for them. I’ve seen Inception five times at the cinemas, so, you know, Warner Bros can excuse me for not paying for my sixth and seventh viewings. Then there are the hundreds of old classics that I still haven’t got around to seeing, and I’d happily go to a cinema that was showing them, and pay, but yeh, no, I borrow those from ChannelBT too.

I did say my rationale would be highly irrational to some…


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