Today morning I read an article on SPON about the unwillingness of readers to pay for digital journalism: you might’ve heard that recently in Germany two popular and serious newspapers (The Financial Times and the famous Frankfurter Rundschau) have been forced to lay down their business because they simply couldn’t monetize their users. The Daily and Newsweek are other popular examples of the journalistic genocide that traditional newspapers and even digital media is confronted with.
I must admit that I also don’t want to pay $/€3.99 a month for articles even though I know that it would be more than worth the price to have a broad variety of independent writers delivering truth to the people in the world. I just don’t feel like doing it.
Then I came up with this one: Since many people seem to have the same feelings as I have (don’t want to pay but want to have) let’s start a “virtual” currency that isn’t worth any real money in the first place! For example: if I’d like to read an article (which has no physical value at all for itself). The paper offers me to read it for 1 “bullshit dollar” (B$D) which is not worth anything at all – no one has paid for it yet. I actually don’t even own any B$D dollars when I register for the service. But I can pay with it: setting my balance to -1B$D and the publisher’s balance +1B$D. By paying 1B$D I can read the article. I can go on and read as many articles as I want, paying 1 B$D each, the paper earning 1B$D each. Playing that game leads me to the situation that I have lots of negative B$Ds and the papers have lots of (yet worthless) B$Ds.
What (all!) digital news publishers – including blogs – now could do is check the user’s current B$D-balance and implement a higher latency (waiting time) or advertisement cycle for users that have an overproportionally high negative amount of B$Ds. Those users will get served very slowly, gets presented lots of ads etc. To make the system work, as many news publishers as possible should offer B$D payments on their site and implement a growing latency for users with high B$D “debts”. That would mean that users that consume lots of news will be served slower and slower over time affecting the whole internet and news reading experience (on sites that require B$D payments for reading their news).
If the user is fed up with the high latency he can pay a certain amount of real money to lower his negative B$D balance. Each payment is distributed equally among all publishers with high B$D balances. Since every day new B$Ds are created by users who read articles for free the value of one B$D decreases every day.
In this system each click (!) on an article is charged in B$Ds. This means that everyone who starts a blog starts earning virtual money from the very first click on one of his articles. Since there are millions of publishers and readers the “real” money value is extremely low and the exchange rate highly flexible since every day new B$Ds are created. Big publishers with good visibility and high traffic would earn more from paying users since they have a proportionally high balance, small blogs at least have the opportunity to earn some money.
No one has to charge users directly: there is simply no contract between the user and the publisher. Real money is distributed absolutely equally among all participants.
Everything is free. The web shows that users simply are not willing to pay for news as long as they can get them for free somewhere else. Implementing the B$D payment on many sites would introduce the parameter of “pain” to non-paying customers slowly. On the long term users pay for the remedy of pain (“quality/speed”), not for distinguished digital goods.
I think the publishing industry has tried and failed to establish paid news content on the web. This has been proven by so many examples now that it is time to rethink the relation between readers and publishers. The B$D introduces an opportunity to charge users for “quality” that is not defined by the product itself but by the speed of the infrastructure. Users who can pay more for news get faster access (it’s like cars: you can go from A to B with an old one but it’s more fun using a new / expensive one)
This is an open thought and definitely not finalized. Feel free to comment!
Here’s the pointer that led me to the idea: http://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/unternehmen/warum-das-zeitungssterben-auch-online-leser-beunruhigen-muss-a-871220.html