Monday, May 9, 2011

How To Pay For News

I've been thinking about how internet news sites could monetize their services to provide income to meet the expense of news gathering.

Paywalls are one way - monthly subscriptions,  just like print newspapers.  But what if I don't want to pay a fairly substantial annual amount for a lot of content (sports, etc) I'm not interested in?  I would prefer to pay for just those posts I really want to read.

The obvious answer is micropayments - paying a small sum, perhaps even just one or two cents per click.  I would be willing to pay for my news and commentary if it were so priced.  But what would be the billing mechanism for such small sums?

I think of how I pay to cross toll bridges here in the San Francisco area.  I buy a Fastrak for $30 with a credit card account. Every time I cross a bridge, the toll is deducted from my Fastrak balance, and when the balance gets low, my Fastrak account is automatically topped up from my credit card.

I visit  many websites in search of information.  I wouldn't want to be setting up multiple "FastrakNews" accounts, particularly when the incremental deductions from each account would be so small.  I am thinking that news and opinion websites could form a payment consortium:  I could buy website clicks ahead of time from the group operation, and for each click I made on a website, the owner of the site would be credited with the click fee, and it would be deducted from my balance.  As my balance got close to zero, my balance could be topped up from my credit card.  That way, I'd be paying only for what I wanted to read, it wouldn't be a burdensome expense, and the news organizations would be getting an income.  Perhaps not as much per reader as they would through a paywall, but with more readers, the micro payments could add up to approximate the paywall income.

Just a thought...

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