We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them – Albert Einstein
It has been fascinating, observing how the debate surrounding paying for content has evolved over the past few months, especially since Rupert Murdoch threw down the gauntlet a year ago by announcing that News Corp’s content would, in the future, have to be paid for and that the days of news aggregators stealing their content would be coming to an end.
There was the usual vitriolic reaction to anything that the “Dark Lord” of the publishing world suggests, with many taking the ideological position that all content on the internet should be free, that users had a right ot free content etc etc The discussion has however moved on and a recent debate on OSnews¹ demonstrates perfectly where we find ourselves today.
Content creators should be paid for their efforts – It is simply a question of how this is to be achieved.
David Adams fired the first shot with the provocatively titled post: “The End of the Free Internet” . This post goes on to argue that despite the recent flurry of paywalls and the poor advertising rates currently being obtained, this is not the start of a trend which could see the end of free content, as has been suggested by other commentators.
This provoked a reply with a post titled “Rebuttal: Against Free”. The writer strongly disagrees that free and advertising-supported content is the future. The solution for paying content creators is, he suggests “Micropayments, with the only reason it hasn’t been widely deployed is because it has to be dead simple to use” Both articles received many comments, mostly raising valid points covering the issues and practical problems associated with micropayment schemes, such as:
By the time payment processors take their cut, the payment is not so micro.
Banks and payment systems will not be willing to work for fractions of cents.
Micropayments will eliminate what little anonymity is left on the internet.
There is no amount you can charge that is small enough to bring the psychological burden ( of deciding whether something is worth the cost ) close to zero.
Micropayments may grow out of donation systems or subscription systems.
There is now a general recognition that the creators of content need to be rewarded for their efforts and that the advertising model is not the complete solution. There is a belief that micropayments should form part of the solution, along with subscriptions, advertising and some free content. What many commentators are not yet aware of is that the excuses for not implementing micropayment system are no longer valid. Looking at some of the concerns:
The payment processors cut – CarrotPay charges 2.5%, no matter the size of the transaction – End of story
Payment systems will not be willing to work for fractions of cents – With automated processing systems this is not an issue – CarrotPay charges 2.5% no matter the size of the transaction – End of story.
Anonymity will be eliminated – Web Coins are the Internet equivalent of the cash in your pocket and just as anonymous.
A Micropayment system has to be dead simple. There are systems being used today where the customer can set an electonic purse to automatically make payments below a specified value (which can be reset at anytime) with the customer simply being advised everytime a payment is made or, if this is too easy, requiring a single click to authorise payment when the customer presses a buy button.
The question is not really “To pay or not to Pay” it is more how are content creators to be paid for their efforts. The answer is not as simple as saying that all content will be free and supported by advertisers or that all content will be have to be paid for by subscription or paid for on an article by article basis. The future will be that many content creators will be paid for their efforts through a mixture of all these methods. Easy to use, frictionless micropayment systems will however make it much easier for the creators of content to extract the full value of their content by selling direct to the end user. This should result in middlemen and aggregators playing a reduced role as micropayments systems evolve.
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