Alan Mutter has a plan to make readers pay for content, Michael Kinsley thinks micropayments are crazy, and Steve Outing says there is another, better way.
Mutter’s solution is a system in which users would pay for premium content by clicking a button that accesses accounts funded by their credit cards:
The amount of the charge would be up to the individual publisher but presumably would be kept to pennies, or even fractions of pennies, to encourage maximum readership. Consumers might not like being micro-nickled and nano-dimed for every article, but they would get over it, if the content were sufficiently compelling.
Micropayment advocates imagine extracting as much as $2 a month from readers. The Times sells just over a million daily papers. If every one of those million buyers went online and paid $2 a month, that would be $24 million a year. Even with the economic crisis, paper and digital advertising in The Times brought in about $1 billion last year. Circulation brought in $668 million. Two bucks per reader per month is not going to save newspapers.
Writing for Editor & Publisher, Steve Outing criticizes micropayments for hindering the process of accessing content and sharing it with others:
A significant problem with micropayments is that it walls off content and makes it difficult to share with others and spread it around the Web. If I like an article and promote it in one of my Twitter posts, many of the people will not read it if they encounter a pay demand even for 5 cents; it’s a barrier that will turn many away.
So he touts an nascent enterprise called Kachingle, in which users would be able to voluntarily support websites monetarily:
Just as online users currently pay an Internet provider $30 or more a month for their computers to access the Internet, and perhaps a monthly fee for all the music they want from a service like Rhapsody, they’ll also pay a monthly fee for all the news and blog content on the Web. Only the last fee is voluntary, and it will be up to publishers to educate the public on the importance of paying for content online.