I know the article is quite long, but this is an issue which myself and a growing number of other community members feel to be important. But I promise, it doesn't actually take too long to read once you get going!
If you agree with my points in this article, or even simply find the debate interesting, I would appreciate a - this will help to spread the article around, allowing more people to read it. And as always, your opinion, no matter what stance you take, is welcome in the comments section.
What is a giveaway?
In the real world, the purpose of a giveaway is to increase business. It's a marketing tactic. A company announces that they will giveaway an item of some value - this could be cash, a car, free products, anything - to a select number of lucky customers who purchase their products. This generates hype for the product in question, resulting in an increase of its sales, and greater business for the company.
Giveaways on deviantART have some similarities to real-world giveaways; however, there are some key differences which set them a part. Like in the real world, deviantART giveaways hold some sort of a prize, though not on nearly as large a scale. A typical prize is a few dollars, or even a few cents, worth of deviantART Points; but other less-common prizes include Premium Memberships, free art, and on the very odd occasion, cash. In order to enter, deviants are almost always required to favourite the announcing Journal; and are often required to also watch the host, leave them a comment, or favourite their art; as well as share the giveaway with friends through their own Journal or the Mentions system.
However, the biggest difference between deviantART and real-world giveaways is their purpose: while giveaways in the real world aim to increase business (a necessary measure for companies to take), giveaways on deviantART aim to increase popularity. Even simply favouriting the announcement Journal will help to spread it around enough so as to give the host some increased statistics. Quite simply, no matter how much hosts try to convince the community and themselves otherwise, giveaways on deviantART are for gaining attention. As I will discuss in the next paragraph, this is a very strange purpose and purely is not how giveaways are meant to work.
Giveaways are not for deviantART.
Considering that the true purpose of a giveaway is to increase business, we can conclude that giveaways are not for deviantART. While some artists on deviantART try to believe otherwise, deviantART is not a place to make business. The website is simply not set up to work like this. Yes, you can earn money from commissions; however, the fact that these commissions can not be priced at more than $80 USD shows that they're not intended for business use. deviantART commissions are intended for making a bit of side money from your hobby, and not for making a living or running a business. Furthermore, while some lucky artists have found proper careers as a result of their being on deviantART, the truth for the vast majority of users is that they'll never be presented with this opportunity. With this in mind, we can be sure that giveaways on deviantART do not, will not, and can not increase business.
So, what is deviantART? Quite simply, it's a community! deviantART is a wonderful place on the Internet where like-minded individuals can come to share their own artwork, view the artwork of others, and interact with each other. deviantART is a large online community for artists to just hang out and enjoy themselves. People come here in their free time to interact with other people with whom they share the same hobby. We don't come here to make more money than everybody else. We don't come here to put food on the table. It's not a competition! We come here for enjoyment, not for business purposes. This basically means two things. Firstly, it proves that giveaways are not for deviantART, meaning there is no real need, or purpose, to create them here. And secondly, it means that people who do create giveaways are most often being attention seeking.
Wait a minute though. People make giveaways on other websites like Facebook and YouTube, right? Why is it okay for people to make them there, and not on deviantART? The answer is that these websites are very different to deviantART in that they are not nearly as community oriented, and that they are very powerful marketing tools (you really can use them for business purposes). You could argue that YouTubers are united by a common interest of "videos", but at the end of the day, almost everybody likes to watch videos - and it's certainly clear that most YouTubers aren't lovers of finer film Facebook does allow you to network with your friends and subscribe to companies you adore, but hundreds of millions of people have a Facebook account, all with a very broad range of interests, and they are not publicly united. Furthermore, both websites are set up in such a way that they can be used as extremely powerful marketing tools - they're actually deliberately made so that people can use them as a true business component, whereas deviantART isn't. Moreover, the way both of these sites work means that giveaways don't have detrimental effects on the "community" or user base - more on this later.
deviantART giveaways IRL
Now that we've established the above, I want to put my points into a real world example in order to better illustrate them, as well as to provide a transition into the next paragraph.
Picture your local community noticeboard. If you don't have one, imagine one. People in your neighbourhood use it to spread the word about events and other happenings around the place. You have a community: just like we have on deviantART. Now, imagine that someone in your community gets a little bit hungry for some ego stroking. This person puts up a message on the noticeboard saying that he or she will very generously give away a two dollar voucher for the local market to one random person who compliments their looks every time they see them over the next month.
This is a pretty accurate real-world representation of a deviantART giveaway, yet in the real world, people wouldn't give the notice a second thought. However, imagine that everybody does, like they do on deviantART. All of a sudden the host of this giveaway is getting hundreds of compliments on their looks from everybody that passes them in the street, in the mall, in the park, in the supermarket, everywhere. Once the month is over, the host picks someone randomly and gives them their two dollar voucher. All is quiet again. The host feels deprived of compliments. They create another giveaway - it is received so well that all the other messages on the board are smothered, nobody giving them any thought.
The idea catches on. Soon enough, the only type of notice anybody ever finds on the noticeboard is giveaway upon giveaway from different people, asking for a compliment or two in exchange for entry. Your community is very happy, and everybody feels great about themselves; thanks to the compliments they purchased, but nothing much else goes on. A few people try to run an event every now and then, but of course, nobody turns up, because they're too busy finding people to compliment in hope of getting enough vouchers to get a burger at the market. Not that anybody knew about the events anyway, because there wasn't any room left to advertise them on the noticeboard.
I'm sure you'll agree that the above is a completely ridiculous scenario. Despite this, more or less the exact same thing goes on right here on deviantART, everyday! It doesn't take a genius to figure out what the detrimental effects were in the above scenario. However, hardly anybody seems to notice when it happens on deviantART.
The detrimental effects
Giveaways are certainly having a number of negative effects on the deviantART community. Considering that what really makes deviantART is the community (as discussed earlier), this is no good.
Perhaps the biggest issue surrounding giveaways is the fact that they often land in the Journal Portal. The Journal Portal is made to be a place that exposes interesting, relevant, and worthwhile news to the entire community. It is made so that projects, events, art features, tutorials, and so forth can attain the greater community spotlight which they deserve. However, if you look in the footer right now, you will almost certainly find at least one giveaway in there, and most often, even more than this. A few days ago was the first time in a very long time that I saw a Journal Portal with absolutely zero giveaways. However, it isn't rare to find a footer filled entirely with giveaways. There is space for five Journals in the footer, an already very limited number. For every giveaway that lands in the footer, that is one spot gone which more worthwhile community news can't take. For every giveaway that is merely published, that is one more Journal that worthwhile community news has to compete with in order to gain the exposure it deserves.
Staff, Community Volunteers, Senior Members, and other community leaders put considerable effort into creating content which will interest and engage the community. It is nothing short of unfair when giveaways, a representation of one deviant's selfishness, take the spotlight off this content. This such community content needs to be able to land in the footer so that it reaches the deviants who are interested in it, as well as so that it can get the reception it needs to make the creator's effort worthwhile. Other websites such as Facebook and YouTube are not bothered by "giveaway" content because it does not remove the spotlight from other content, due to the way the websites work. However, on deviantART, it is the complete opposite.
Another issue surrounding giveaways is that they create false statistics. They trick the host into thinking that they are "popular", when in reality, their audience is nothing but payed spectators. Furthermore, statistics are often used as a quick way to judge how worthwhile something is. For example, on YouTube, if you see a video with a lot of views, you're instantly going to assume that there's something worthwhile about that video which caused many people to view it. Even though on nowhere near as great a scale, statistics on deviantART can be used to make judgements about a deviant or a piece of artwork. This isn't the true problem though. Let's go back to the scenario I created above - everybody in your community was constantly praising each other on their looks. But it was all a lie! Nobody really thought each other were beautiful - they were only really interested in the small possibility of getting that market voucher. It's the same here on deviantART: nobody really thinks that artist is talented - they only watched them because they were interested in getting a few Points. Do we really want to be living in an online community where a deviant's watch count is determined by how many Points they can give out, and where we can't tell if people are favouriting artwork because they like it or because they were payed to?
Furthermore, giveaways lead newer and younger deviants to overestimate the value of Points. We all know that Points equate to real money; but being two different currencies, it can be difficult to gauge how much Points are worth unless you are experienced enough with them. The extremely competitive nature created by giveaways, and the supposed "generosity" which hosts claim they're fueled by, leads younger and newer deviants to believe Points to be much more than they're actually worth. This in itself has a number of effects which we don't need, such as the causing of these deviants to undersell their work on a dramatic magnitude.
If you'd like to read about some other, though not as major, negative effects caused by giveaways, you may do so at a previous article I've written on the same topic.
Excuses, excuses; solutions, solutions!
Some of the deviants who host or enter giveaways are aware of the detrimental effects they have, yet choose to ignore them under a number of excuses. Others may not be aware of the detrimental effects they are endorsing. I'd like to counteract these excuses, as well as provide some solutions to the giveaways issue.
I actually am doing it to be generous! I will believe that some giveaways truly are made for selfless reasons rather than selfish ones, but this does not excuse the host from the very real fact that their giveaway is preventing worthwhile community content from reaching the spotlight. Try to give in a different way! If you want to give Points, try giving them out as an act of kindness rather than through competitive means. One thing that is even more generous that giving your money, is giving your time - try leaving some comments for fellow artists, making some resources, or writing some tutorials!
I'm not trying to get people to watch me, I just want to show support for my watchers! If you submit your giveaway to the My Journal category instead of The Journal Portal, you'll be able to achieve this as well as avoid landing in the footer. Problem solved!
I'll add some art to my giveaway! This makes it okay! Not really, no. While it is taking the spotlight off yourself and making the whole thing less selfish, you are once again not excused from the other detrimental effects of giveaways. You're also essentially making giveaways on behalf of others, rather than allowing them to progress by more natural means. Why not try making an art feature without involving Points? This way, when your feature hits the footer, people will be looking at it because you made good selections and not because you're also offering Points!
I need to get Points somehow. Giveaways make it easy! You also need to eat burgers somehow, and market vouchers make it easy. You don't actually need Points - they're fun to have, but they're not required. Do a bit of work like people in the real world do, or participate in something which isn't so detrimental. Try selling some commissions or Premium Content; or participate in happenings such as contests, projects, and chat events.
I like this person's art anyway! That's great, so go and watch them without participating in the giveaway. By participating in the giveaway, you're helping to give it a more influential reach, which causes more worthwhile community news to miss out on the attention it deserves. You might also like to speak to the giveaway host and explain to them why giveaways are a no-no!
Let's see if I can summarise this entire article in just one sentence per paragraph!
The truth is that a giveaway is a marketing tactic used to increase business. Since deviantART is a community, and not a competitive business environment, giveaways are not for deviantART. You can imagine that it'd be ridiculous if people used giveaways to try and become more popular in real life - so why should it be any different on deviantART? The detrimental effects that giveaways are having on deviantART cause interesting, relevant, and worthwhile community news to miss out on the place in the spotlight they deserve; as well as provide false statistics and trick younger or newer deviants into thinking that points are worth more than they really are. Finally, not matter how they are reworked in order to be more "positive", giveaways are always going to have some sort of a negative effect on the community, which can very easily be avoided by giving in other ways and engaging in different sorts of activities!
I hope you've found this article both interesting and educating. If this is a problem you haven't considered before, I'm hopeful that my article has helped you to make up your own opinion on giveaways.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments!
And as always, a is much appreciated to help spread the word about this issue.
Thanks for reading, and have a good day!