Net Monetization and Micro Payments

Some of you may have noticed the latest web trend: content monetization. Content that used to be free such as on NYT and WashPo is now limited to only so many articles, and in some cases entirely closed off. This is the new Web. Unfortunately, the future will only bring more of this.

While I like free content as much as anyone, I know that’s it’s not really a viable option. “There is no free lunch,” as the old saying goes. Advertisements may pay the bills for some content providers, but it will not suffice for most. However, how does this affect the access to a multitude of opinions and sources that we’re so used to. That is, I may dish out the cost for a NYT subscription, but I will probably not buy a subscription to other papers I may rely on: WashPo, HuffPo, Guardian (yes, I’m left leaning)… Here is what I propose: Micro Payments for content on an on-demand basis.

Imagine a system where you pay in some amount of money (such as PayPal) and then I can use it in multiple places on the internet to purchase only the content I would like. The prices would be very low (say between .05 to .25 C per article) which would require a system with very low transaction costs. In the end I may spend more than the subscription fee on my news consumption, but I would spread out over many newspapers.

From an end-user perspective I would enjoy using this system because of:

  1. No subscriptions\contracts
  2. Pay only for what I consume
  3. Make premium content more approachable–not an all or nothing approach
  4. I feel in control of my expenses. I can setup a system where I only put in so much money in my account to ensure I don’t’ go over per month.
  5. True competition among content providers might bring prices down

From a corporation stand point, this system is ideal in even more ways:

  1. Access to a larger market
  2. Can compliment existing subscription-type system (IE, micro payments for non-subscribers)
  3. I can accurately judge what content is more valuable to make better decision by reading the market
  4. Overall, the pie gets bigger. People might spend more money on content if they didn’t feel pressured by a subscription\contract.
  5. Transaction costs will be very low

iTunes revolutionized the way we pay for music. This system would do the same but across the whole web.

There is a significant hurdle to overcome in trying to make system like this viable: buy in from well established content providers. Let’s go back to my newspaper example: it may be hard to get buy in from the NYT that may already have a large subscription pool for fear of revenue canabolism. Imagine paid-for subscribers leaving for a micro-payment system. Subscription\contract revenue has some major advantages, which I don’t want to get into at this point. Mainly, contract revenue is more stable even when the quality your product falters.

This becomes a chick-and-egg game. Without great content, there are no users; with out users, there is no micro-payment system; without a micro-payment system, there is no content…

Eventually, I think the greed for more revenue will win out large, established content providers. They’ll concede having a smaller piece of a much larger pie.

Until then, I think we should create this system for the rest of us. PayPal would be an ideal candidate to get this system out…



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