Edward Wasserman, a professor of journalism ethics, has had a change of heart regarding the implementation of micropayments to save the newspaper industry. In his article for the Miami Herald, Wasserman doesn’t go down the “information wants to be free” route; instead, he considers how readers use the Internet:
I have praised micro-billing in the past as a clean, logical, market-based solution, which credits as well as debits: … I’m no longer sure. The problem is, reading news isn’t like buying chewing gum. It’s an act of vital social participation that should be encouraged, not penalized by levying a fee on every download.
…Subscriptions won’t accommodate the way people use the Internet. Nobody will subscribe to sites they browse only casually. The disaster newspapers face is a symptom of a vaster problem — how to compensate content-creators — that demands a Web-wide response.
If users were required to sign up for individual subscription accounts with each news site, then Wasserman would no doubt be proven correct.
However, if a system were set up like the one proposed by David Sarno, in which news organizations joined the same network, then members could surf from site to site without having to worry about entering a new login for their accounts — the network would be linked to the same pay system.
One upside that comes to mind: readers discovering network-member sites they previously didn’t think to visit. Imagine that on the home page for the network, news sites are able to advertise themselves and their content in order to attract new readers (perhaps by also offering free content as an enticement).