Clickbait, fake news, yellow journalism – media today is in a poor state.
Audiences are sick of sub-par content getting jammed down their throats, through email marketing and ads, but they’re not always willing to pay for good content. It’s always going to be easier for clickbait to go viral and generate revenue based off traditional ad models. Other funding models, such as subscriptions and paywalls, have been implemented to mixed success – after all, on the Internet, there’s always the option of free, ad-supported content. Readers also like to consume their content from a range of sources and don’t want to be tied down to a single publisher.
So we need a new way of thinking when it comes to funding good content. Could the future of content lie in cryptocurrency micropayments?
What Are Micropayments?
Micropayments offer an alternative option that has the potential to support high quality content without locking users into a single, long-term subscription. The concept behind micropayments is that you spend a small amount each time you view content.
Paying per article incentivizes publishers to produce high quality content that satisfies the audience–if the audience constantly feels ripped off by a content source, they will stop making purchases. Because we do not pay for ad-supported content, we have no recourse if we feel like clickbait has wasted our time.
What’s Holding Micropayments Back?
Bitcoin and many other cryptocurrencies are prone to scaling problems. Billions of minuscule transactions would take up a lot of computing power and incur significant fees. If you are only sending a few cents for an article and a significant proportion gets eaten up in fees, it becomes an ineffective way of funding content.
To get around the inefficiencies and expense of writing small transactions to the blockchain, several organizations are using channels. Rather than recording every single transaction to the blockchain and incurring fees for each one, channel payments are recorded as a collection. The best way to think of it is like keeping a tab at the bar with your credit card. Rather than charging you for each drink, the bartender takes note of everything you order and only charges you at the end.
When a micropayment channel is created, a certain amount of bitcoin is locked into it and each individual payment is signed by the sender. The receiver can either withdraw each individual signed amount, or wait until the channel is closed and withdraw the total. If the receiver waits until the channel is closed and only records this amount to the blockchain, it minimizes the number of transactions, making it more efficient and cheaper.
This startup is one of many that are looking to change the economic model for content creation. Coinetize bills itself as an online paywall and resource management system. It allows websites to use their service as a filter that only lets users access content if they pay a fee. Users buy Coinetize Credits with either Bitcoins or their credit card. When they visit websites that use Coinetize, the user pays for restricted content with their prepurchased credits.
Coinetize is easy for websites to set up. There are several different linking methods; DNS, reverse proxy, page directs and secret folders. These can be set up for free in minutes, without any credit or ID checks. The service charges customers a 1.8% fee, but they also offer 24 hour email support.
The Brave web browser has already achieved renown for bringing lighter ads and faster use to browsing. As part of their service, they now offer Brave Payment, which gives users a way to privately pay their favorite websites. Users can link their external Bitcoin wallet or their credit card to a wallet within the Brave system. If they want to use Brave Payments, they must fund a minimum of $5 each month.
Each month, the contributions are split among the sites that Brave users visit, based on the number of times visited, as well as the amount of time spent on each site. According to Brave’s founder, Brendan Eich, users can “reward the sites whose content they value and wish to support,” all without being tracked.
Can Micropayments Bring Back High Quality Content?
Just like with Uber and AirBnb, you can make a side-hustle with your content. Imagine for a second, that every single blogpost, video and or podcast you publish your fans globally from their phone can send 25 cents, 50 cents or even a dollar for each piece of content. It seems small but it adds up! And above all, it puts the power back into you and your fans. Say, goodbye to depending on ads for revenue.
Although the rise of the internet may have coincided with the decline in content quality, things might not stay this way forever. Peer-to-peer micropayments are an emerging model of funding that show the potential for success.
Coinetize and Brave are just examples. The Dutch app, Blendle, has already demonstrated that some consumers are willing to spend money for the content that they want. Patreon, a platform that allows patrons to donate a set amount of money every time a piece of content is published, has funded over 50 million dollars to its creators.
Micropayments may never topple free content, but hopefully, they can provide a niche market for consumers who want excellent quality without the ads.
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