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The Almighty Buck

Micropayments: Effective Replacement For Ads Or ? 206

A reader writes: "The traditional support model for content on the net is failing site by site, and with the growth of anti-advertising utilities and the collapse of financial support for risky ventures, this will accelerate in the coming months. Will this vacuum be filled in by people doing content as a hobby, or will a new support structure such as micropayments take over. This article takes a pro-Micropayment stance, and mentions a contrasting article at OpenP2P that presents an opposing opinion. Would you pay for content if the infrastructure was secure, inexpensive, and allowed the content to prosper?"
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Micropayments: Effective Replacement For Ads Or ?

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  • Personally, I think the voluntary payment scheme being pioneered by Amazon makes a lot of sense. I have already kicked a few bucks each to my favorite content sites (satirewire.com, modernhumorist.com, etc.) which offer the option. It will be interesting to see how much money can be raised this way, and whether donations fall over time.

    In my view, contributing to keep sites you like operating makes as much sense as giving money to street performers you enjoy. Hopefully a lot of other people out there agree, and will act accordingly.


  • Would you pay for content if the infrastructure was secure, inexpensive, and allowed the content to prosper?

    This will never happen. You may get two of you three requirements but it will never be both in a company's best interests and feasable to implement all three...

    Secure and inexpensive? well then it'll probably go bust for lack of funds and the content will suffer... Besides, I doubt any company out there will be able to resist the appeal of dipping in to the logs and selling some data.

    Secure, and encourages content growth? They're going to have to charge alot for that... pennies a page at least. That's alot. I'm serious.

    Inexpensive and encourages good content? The people running sites have to pay for bandwith. It's pricy... For a smaller site (bandwith is cheaper in bulk) It can cost a few cents per impression (ok, maybe $0.01, but that's still alot if you get slashdotted or such...) If the system is inexpensive, that money needs to come from somewhere. Where? Well they're going to sell your data. How's that for secure?

    Maybe beople would buy it if it existed, but it can't so why are we even bothering to discuss it?

  • That would be OpenP2P I assume, not OpenPGP. (Use the Preview Button! Check those URLs! Don't forget the http://!)
  • Hasn't anyone been paying attention these past few years? Micropayments have been talked about since the very first commercial interest in the 'Net started bubbling four years ago.

    First off, companies learned rather quickly that you simply cannot charge for content to consumers unless that content is porn.

    Ad revenue will continue being the driving force in producing income for a content-based consumer dot-com company.

    What we're seeing right now with the dot-coms dropping like flies is a good thing. There are (were) thousands of companies that really had nothing even remotely realistic in terms of a business model and plan. Silly venture capitalists were infusing ungodly amounts of money in these flimsy companies, everyone hoping to 'get rich quick' (or get richer in terms of the silly VC's), and now when reality is starting to catch up with everybody, everyone is running around saying the sky is falling.

    Maybe ad revenue will not continue being a viable revenue stream for dot-coms. My personal opinion is that it will, but let's say it isn't.

    Okay, so we've seen from past observations that not a single company has been successful in charging for content (except for porn) to consumers. There were notable attempts, such as by Britannica and such, but all have abandoned this and went to the ad model. They did this because competition demanded it. If Yahoo began charging micropayments for using their service, then why would anyone in their right mind use them with there's dozens of other web directories that would offer as much value but be for free?

    The only way micropayments would conceivably function would be for something like Napster, online gaming, or other sorts of things we're you're delivering something of unique value -- not just content.
  • With ad companies refusing to pay sites running their ads, affiliate companies refusing to pay sites running their affiliate boxes, what's to stop micropayment companies refusing to pay sites?

    How many times have people with smaller sites come within like $2-3 to the payment threshold only to be told they've decided to stop paying and sorry if you didn't earn enough, we'll just keep your money?

    If micropayment companies take a cut of the payment, then it'd take even longer to earn your threshold (depending on what type of users your site has).

  • Jakob Nielsen's column [useit.com] last year mentioned web wallets - "easier than credit card" way to pay over the web.

    Flexible online payment methods make it easier for small players to operate on the marketplace - whether your talking about content providers asking for tips, or super specialized vendors providing better service than their mammoth competitors.

    Involuntary micropayments are NOT the way to go, we need something like PayPal [paypal.com], but with universal access and ease-of-use that is comparable/superior to live cash money.

    Transaction costs keep mankind down!

  • This is a perfectly terrible idea! I have a solution, though...how about advertisers get their butts off our precious internet. The internet should be a free for all melting pot of all human knowledge, not a commercial playground. It is ideas like this that may lead to a sudden (unlikely) internet crash. Let's not let our kind do to the internet what we have done to almost everything else we have touched.
  • The problem with the subscription model is that it requires content control and paritioning of free and pay-per-view content. Many small-to-medium content creators either simply do not wish to do this, don't have enough content or simply don't have the skills and resources to make a secure website with members-only areas.

    If these sorts of people can just bung a "virtual tip jar" onto their site with little or no other modification then it makes it a lot more attractive -- at least until they're a little larger. And they do work -- Penny Arcade has recently signed onto [penny-arcade.com] Amazon's new "honor system" and they're already 30% of the way to their US$10,000/month target -- although it's slowing rapidly and still needs a lot of support.


  • here's a perfect example of it working in the adult world - www.ppvn.com [ppvn.com] and of course www.TokenBank.com [tokenbank.com] It's pay per view or rather the online equivalent .. Pay per use .. Sheesh you guys are slow if you didn't know about that NEW Url allready !
  • This probably needs to be mentioned until it's been mentioned to death, because it is the one detail that tends to kill micropayments in reality, yet no micropayment supporter ever (so far as I have yet seen) acknowledges it:

    What about the mental transaction cost to the customer? Each click becomes a "do I buy or don't I buy" decision, with accompanying anxiety and time spent to make it.

    Unless and until this issue is successfully addressed by micropayments, it does not look like micropayments will be accepted in reality, no matter how much hype people put behind it. (Remember Divx - the discs, not the MPEG format. Remember "push". Would it be too early to say "remember WAP"?) The alternatives - subscription, aggregation, and so forth - all deal with this problem by bundling everything into one transaction. (Granted, this transaction is potentially slightly wasteful of money, if the customer does not use the whole package. But money is not the only thing of value to the customer.)
  • Micropayment wouldn't be bad if it was more technically feasable to do it fairly, but it just isn't. Here's a few things I can think of off the top of my head:
    1. Evil scripting tricks: What about Javascript pop-ups? Is it fair that you will inevitably end up paying for content that you did not want to visit? What about 'stealth URLs' that don't go where they claim they will go?
    2. Can't measure eyeball time: HTTP is a stateless protocol. You can't tell how *long* someone is spending looking at a page that got downloaded to his browser. So you can't tell the difference between an accidental hit that lasts a mere 5 seconds and someone who stays at the page to read the whole thing. Charging someone the same price either way would be like charging full price to someone who opens a Newsweek at the magazine stand for one second to look at the title page and then puts it back.
    3. Vendorlock: It seems to me that to make the idea really work correctly, you need something inserted into the client software to watch what the end user is really doing (This would solve a lot of the other problems in this list). But do that, and you have the potential for vendorlock abuse. (What? You are using a third party browser? Sorry, you can't see our site, because our micropayment scheme is only implemented for browser foo. Why don't you "upgrade" to browser foo?) Also, putting security in the client inevitably will mean cracked versions of the clients will appear to exploit this security misfeature.
    4. Web caches: Today, web caching is a powerful technique for saving bandwith from large organizations to popular websites. When person A visits a web page, and then person B from behind the same web cache visits the same web page, they see the copy from the cache instead of from visiting the page again. Most large subnets, such as universities and corporations, use a web cache. How would the micropayment scheme work then? Would the owner of the webcache pay the payments (since that's where the website would see the hits coming from) instead of the user browsing the site? Would the owner of the site be getting 'shafted' out of his hit money because the cache is letting many users see the page for the price of one?
    5. Using the web as a book reference: Today, lots of people use web sites as references where they go back to to visit the same page over and over, much like one would use a reference book on a shelf. Would a micropayment scheme be able to tell the difference between a first-time visitor and a visitor who's already seen the site many times? Should it charge the same to both types of hit?
    6. Cookies vs server-side IDs: Where does the context get stored about micropayment accounts? What is the key? IP address - that won't work because people have dynamic IPs. How about with a cookie? That won't work unless people are willing to open up cookies to all sites (not just the one that sent them), and that has security and privacy problems of its own.
    7. Truth in advertising: Do micropayment sites have to tell you that you are about to enter a micropayment area? The amount of money per transaction will be so small, and the transactions so numerous that it will be impractical to check a sort of 'bank statement' to see who you've been paying money to. Less-than-honest people could charge you without you even knowing that their site is a pay site.
    8. Credit Card: I note that the author doesn't like the exorbatant fees banks charge for mundane services that little or no effort because they are automated (like credit card fees), yet he is advocating a system that requires a credit card to work. If you have to pay a third party company ahead of time to do the micropayments, then why not allow more 'static' forms of payment to them, like cheques?
  • I'm all for micropayment. remember it didn't work too well for the slate.com as i recall but I'm more than willing to pay for Penny-Arcade. (got my "Got wang" shirt today in fact) I think this is one more of those things that will work for some but not for others. I'd like to see it succeed.(sp?) As for whether i would pay for /. I don't know yet. depends. I've come to rely on slashdot alot. not for the insightfulness of the editors but the responses of the commenters. Some of the things I've learned from reading comments on slashdot have simply amazed me. I think I would pay for slashdot possibly on a subscription basis or a few cents per article basis. but actually I like the ads on Slashdot. some of them are actually things I'm interested in.
  • This is a late post. Probably no one will see it, but I feel so strongly about this, I think it's worth mentioning.

    I don't like banner ads, but I think part of their limited success is that they're so annoying. Micropayments aren't even as visible as banners, and they request significantly more from the user. Right now, micropayments are an entirely voluntary way of getting money from the user. It's a great idea, but I think it's going to be fundamentally ineffective that way. What about something else:

    What if the user has to watch some graphic before the site gets loaded... sort of a "hey, did you guys know we work entirely by your support"? I'd liken it to a PBS pledge drive (only it runs about 10 seconds). And to make the graphic go away fast, rather than waiting for the animation to load, the users clicks it and it brings up a page that suggests a payment and gives an easy way to make it (probably credit card). Perhaps it uses cookies also, so the graphic doesn't come up for two weeks after someone pays. Users will be able to click through and not pay, but at least in this case consciousness is raised about the issue in a direct way. It also means that the people who come to the site most are the most likely to pay, because this graphic is really an inconvenience for them, not the casual viewers.

    Just my $0.02 slashdot micropayment.
  • If every web browser served up its cache of web pages, anonymously to the web, the costs of content maintanence would be distributed to those who enjoy the benefits. Furthermore, it would provide greatest storage redundancy for the most valuable web pages and ensure that valuable information was lost to the world the way it is, all too often, with links going dead or, worse, entire "archives" going off line, like Deja News' pre-1999 archives have.
  • The pro-micropayment article had been temporarily removed when I tried to view it, so some of my questions may have been answered in there. I am not necessarily opposed to the idea of micropayments; if ads don't work there has to be some way for sites to stay in business, thats just economics. I don't know exactly what is meant by "micro"payments, but for the sake of this post I'll say sites charge about a quarter to view their content (sounds "micro" to me). Now, it would be a tremendous hassle to put in your credit card for a bunch of $0.25 transactions for every content site you look at. But what if ISPs charged just a little more than they do now, say $5.00 more, and the micropayments came out of that? I don't know exactly how that would work and I'm sure there are many obstacles, but I think that would be the most convenient way.
  • The internet is supposed to be free, and is based on the idea of the sharing of information, freely. Charging would be absurd, and I for one would never pay for it. I already pay enough for broadband access, I don't need to lose more money every month. Plus, what are the sites going to do to attract customers, have an information 'preview' of the type of content they carry, like pr0n sites do? Ummm.... no.
  • Try Fairtunes [fairtunes.com].
    OliverWillis.Com [oliverwillis.com]
  • Actually, Amazon gets 15% plus $0.15 per transaction, so in a typical $1 tip, 30 cents go to Amazon...
  • I agree with you that macro payments are much more desirable by all parties involved (as opposed to abusive 90%-of-screen/BW adds which I believe will fail in time as well). Though I personally prefer the cable system which uses aggregate subscriber channels in addition to advertisements.

    As always, the porn industry leads the way. You subscribe to a "content network" who hires on various content producers. You may then visit the web member web-sites freely and in an unlimited fashion. Because the site can be reasonabily assured a steady income, they're less dependant on the adds, and can thus be more choosy as to what they display. Currently adds are convoluted, so viewers make a point to ignore them all. By having fewer, higher priced, higher quality adds, everybody wins (just like the super-bowl)

    Pure subscription web sites like premium cable channels (such as HBO or say the members only section of Toms Hardware which might tout zero commercials), are less likely because you introduce a very high entry barrier for viewers to be willing to surmount. You'd have to be famous on the web from the outset.

    Problems I see with subscriber networks are the same sort of beuracracy we currently find on TV: Manditory sensorship, keeping up with what's popular or risking being cut from a profitable network, and others. Sure there'd be lots of options of networks (it's not like they layed the fiber as say com-cast), but bigger names would require exclusive signing and we'd be in a very similar situation as the record companies - an oligopoly.

    Lastly, cnn.com is no worse than cnn-the-channel.. It's simple content regurgitation. But even cnn attempts to adhere to the multiple-sources before disclosure of rumors. slashdot isn't the be-all-end-all of rumors/current events, after all. Which furthers the case that what-ever system replaces the failing ad-system, it had better support culturalizm, and not fall into the MTV-look-alike madness - never deviating from the proven formulas - The ubiquitous "bottom line".

    Diversity makes the current version of the web very desirable. It was also a fundamental building block of American development: from religion to resources to military organization to banking systems. Unfortunately, it's only natural to wish to replace diversity with efficiency (diversity inherently involves redundancy). We're seeing America approach more traditional European levels of consolidation. What's good for business isn't always good for darwinistic survivability. Sadly it's often only the logistical or ledgislative divides that allow diversity to flurish amid corporatism.

  • We need a method of free bandwidth. Ads and micropayments AREN'T the solution. Slashdot and Yahoo are among the few sites that make revenue of banner ads. Yahoo, because it's HUGE and if you want to hit everyone, they're the place to do it. Also with Yahoo, you can key off search words, and they are the most common search site. Besides, Yahoo collects money for reviewing sites and sponsered links.

    Slashdot happens to have a GREAT target audiance. A good potion of it's viewers are people in decision-making positions regarding technology. I know that I spent over 10K on a business decision with a company that I found via Slashdot, I know that I'm not alone.

    The real solution is cable TV style, but not networks of sites. Broadbands makes it possible.

    In the dial-up world, phone lines were part of the infrastructure costs. People sitting online ate up limited resources. With DSL/Cable, there is no "cost" of being online, only bandwidth.

    To make things more rediculous, bandwidth is asynchronous. This resulted in ISPs selling downstream bandwidth to consumers, and upstream bandwidth for web hosting, a hack system. The real solution is for ISPs to pay for content.

    For example, Akamai has cacheing servers. Eventually, you host your content with Akamai or competitors, but instead of paying Akamai, Akamai pays you. Akamai charges the ISPs for the free "bandwidth" (if I connect from my ISP to the Internet, I use their expensive Internet connections, if I connect to a server sitting in their farm, I use no Internet bandwidth) because the ISPs pay less to Akamai than to their T3 providers.

    In this model, I am paying not just for bandwidth, but for content/bandwidth. If my ISP has it local, I use no Internet bandwidth. If my ISP doesn't carry it, they "pay" for me to get it from their bandwidth.

    With that model, ISPs try to maximize their free bandwidth (Cacheing) and minimize their expensive bandwidth (non-cacheing).

    Think of it as proxy-serving on a mass scale.

    For example, ISPs shouldn't be allowed to require a proxy server, they are distributing someone else's copyrighted work for a fee. They should be required to pay for the right to proxy, which would solve the situation.

    Good content => more hits => more bandwidth => more money

  • While an interesting technical idea, basic economics conlcudes that this is an untenable idea. The best example from economics is an environmental one: the tragedy of the commons in 18th(?) century England. Most are familiar with this example, but for those are not, check here [aol.com].

    Essentially, the same arguments that apply to envoronmental commons apply to shared, freely distributed content. Groups in economic systems tend to optimize thier own personal consumption. This is true despite sincere intentions and ideologies of individuals, at a societal level. No one will voluntarily pay for content as a for-profit enterprise.

    Clearly, people are willing to defy economic rationalism for non-profit institutions, but this is a very different proposition. Show me a non-religious or non-profit organization that collects revenues through a volunteer model!

  • Almost everbody here agrees NOT TO PAY. Because WEB means FREEDOM.

    But well ogranized ads can really make money. This is done by Yahoo, or other sites which track "your" interest. Thus for example when you search "KONQUEROR" on google you'll come up with "Nautilus" (which is better as they say), and wonder what it is. A single click, wow, the ad hitted the target.

    I get ads on my native language on Yahoo, and even "GoZilla" (i must admit, i still use windblowz for "browsing").

    But most of the "little" sites cannot do that, because accessed enough to track user interest. Maybe an online database (GPL'd maybe) of all the interest of all the nodes would solve the problem.

  • When televsion first came out (well, I wasn't born yet, either, but go along with me on this). Television was envisioned to be a source of information and entertainment, free for the masses?

    Yeah, that lasted all of two seconds.

    Problem is, this is a capitalist society. Money makes the world go round. The all mighty buck rules, and another half dozen similar sayings that get the point across.

    We may find ways around advertising online (with said programs to block banners ect...), just as we can find ways to avoid commercials on TV (change the channel, use a VCR programed not to tape commercials). But advertisers will always find a way around that (putting product placements within TV or movies, for example).

    Personally, I've completely tuned myself out from commercials (buy Coke), and they don't affect me whatsoever (no, buy Pepsi). So I say we should just accept advertising on the internet, not try to block it, and just tune ourselves out. It worked for me! (buy Jolt) That way we can avoid this micropayment issue altogether.

  • I may or may not actually pay for content (that might be an a per-article/per-item basis)...but I can definately see myself as paying to explicitly NOT see any ads.
  • by winterstorm ( 13189 ) on Monday February 26, 2001 @10:56AM (#400655)

    Online content providers have skipped over a "known good" revenue generation model; that of subscription services. I won't participate as a consumer in micropayment systems. Its too risky. I can't afford to pay $0.05 several hundred, or thousand times a month for content whose value is only known after I've paid. Refund systems layered on top of micropayment just waste my time.

    I feel subscriptions are well worth my money. If I find an online resource that has a mandate and reputation for delivering detailed, accurate information with a specific focus, I'd be happy to pay a larger sum of money (larger than a micropayment) under the assumption that they'll continue producing similar information.

    For example, I'd probably be willing to pay CA$3/month for access to slashdot discussions. I'd be willing to pay $5 or $10 per month for Access to FirstMonday [firstmonday.org]. I already pay over US$100/year for access to the IEEE Computer Society's Online Library [computer.org] (it's worth every penny!).

    I don't bother with "free" information presented by CNN and other "news magazines". The accuracy of the information they present is questionable, and the cover is shallow.

    Perhaps if web sites generated revenue from subscriptions instead of banner-ad sales we could be rid of these ridiculous three column layouts that impede understanding of the core content they contain.

  • Having heard a LOT about this kind of system, I wonder why nobody tried to make usable and convenient system for this yet ... Sure, there are some forays into this topic (Amazon, various tip jars), but nothing that would fit under convenient, easy, no BS, 3% max deducted, consumer- and site-oriented.

    I'd shell out a buck or two to ./ and various other sites right this minute IF there was a convenient, easy, hassle-free way. There isn't.

    Maybe PayPal could investigate doing something like this SOME time. They seem to have a nice infrastructure (although I do miss direct wire transfers, which are a convenient way for me to transfer money (remember, this is Europe) and even allows me to automate the process).

    If you keep asking whether I would do something you will never find out whether I actually will. Especially not on SlashDot. Give it a try, maybe give it some backing, if it doesn't work out, improve your concept. People are good. Usually. They are lazy, too.
  • by SnowDog_2112 ( 23900 ) on Monday February 26, 2001 @10:56AM (#400657) Homepage
    These days, the net is too big for something really good to be a "labor of love." Somebody has a hobby. They say, "I can afford to spend $X on my hobby." So they find a way to set up a server with their little labor of love, and it costs them around $X.

    Someone says, "What a great site!" and tells all their friends. Sooner or later, the traffic to the site increases way beyond what can be served by $X. So our friendly hobbyist who had such a great site to share has very few options:

    1. Shut down
    2. Relocate and hope people don't find him
    3. Hope some nice sponsor funds his work.
    4. Get money from somewhere to increase bandwidth.

    Nobody wants option 1. Otherwise you have dozens of little sites popping up and dying as soon as they gather some intertia.

    Option 2 is hardly better than option 1.

    Option 3 is not going to happen often, and may be unattractive as you're bowing to their control, possibly.

    Option 4 is all that's left. So how do these guys get money? Banner Ads? But we know those aren't working -- ad companies refusing to pay sites running their ads, etc. What about asking their dedicated fans to pony up a little ... contributions, as it were.

    If it works, why not have it?

    I visit Penny Arcade religiously. I've told everyone I know who plays video games to check out the site. I've learned about great games from them, I've laughed my ass off at their strips. When they put up a micropayment box I immediately sent my micropayment in.

    If your fans love your work enough to pay you to do it...great! You've succeeded. How many sites would I be willing to micropay to get at? 3, maybe. But it's one way to cope with the increased monetary restrictions of what was originally a little hobby turning into something that costs an incredible amount to maintain.

  • I read both articles. The first article (at yafla.com) argues that the advertising model is failing on the Net. That is correct. It then says that as a result of this we need to move to a micropayment strategy instead. After all, don't we already do that for the monthly utility bill?

    The second article (at openp2p) points out correctly that micropayments have, are, and will continue to die painful deaths for one simple reason: users hate them. It also points out the flaws in the first argument, namely that the micropayments we have in our daily lives now almost inevitably come from monopolies. When consumers have a choice, they inevitably go for flat pricing instead.

    Just because the advertising model failed, it doesn't then follow that the micropayment model must work. In fact, both could fail, and the Net will keep on going. Oh sure, some of the commercial sites might stamp their feet, hold their breath, take their ball and go home. Go ahead, I say. Take your products and leave. In the meantime, the rest of us can enjoy the community of the Net and keep micropayments where they belong: for the use of monopolies.

  • Five or six years ago, when the internet WAS entirely content produced by people for the benefit of others, sans ads, this same thing arose, except people though 'well, them ads will give us money'. The concept of paying to use websites, on top of paying for bandwidth, moves the internet to being a peer-to-peer aol. Being someone who supports, and creates, free content, I think that both positions may prevail. People tend to tolerate ads, which is why ads don't earn money. Hopefully we will wind up back in a time where the web is full of RESOURCES. Websites with research papers, HOWTOs, support documents, and manufacturers websites with useful info are wonderful. But i doubt anyone really cares about some 'portal'.

  • Micropayments will never work, for the following reasons:

    - Abuse. People would find a million and one ways to abuse it, from micropayment pop-ups that go off incessantly, to sites that constantly refresh to get payments.
    - Content. Am I really going to make a micropayment to CNN every time I check it for a quick update and nothing has changed in the last four hours?
    - Too much surfing! Unless the micropayments were almost meaningless, serious websurfers would be broke all the time.
  • I was more referring to sites like Penny Arcade (online comic), Blue's News (video game news), and the like. It takes a fair amount of time to upkeep a site like that. It starts as a hobby, something you do in your spare time. Before you know it, not only do you need to pay for hosting, but you've hit the threshold where you either have to drop everything but the site, and make it better, or cut back and keep it a "spare time" activity, at which time the quality begins to drop.

    If there exist ways for these folks to get paid, and there are users who are willing to pay, then why not encourage that? Why not build the infrastructure?

    I don't have time to keep watch on everything in the video game industry. I rely on Blue and his small crew to keep me up to date. Just like I rely on the Ars Technica crew to keep me up to date on new hardware. And Penny Arcade to make me laugh (and point me to timewasting games like Counter-Strike and Bejeweled). Those services are worth a few bucks a month -- and if enough of us think so, enough that those guys can actually make that their day job -- then great. I'm all for it.

  • ...that you don't measure the success of an ad in terms of the number of times people click on it???

    For example, suppose Coca-Cola set up a cable tv channel where you could buy Coke by dialing up a phone number, etc. Now how sane would it be for Coca-Cola to assume that the success of a tv ad is measured in the number of times an individual changes the channel to the Coke channel?

    Right now, there is a Rackspace banner ad displayed on my screen. I'm not going to click on it. Why? Cause I don't need it! But you can bet your dollar that if I ever do need it, I will probably have this vague feeling that "rackspace" is something I should look into, or that Rackspace is something that I'm familiar with and is a good product for "some strange reason".

    Ads never were, and never will be, about getting someone to want to "pursue", "possess", "interact with", "get" the ad. They are about increasing your familiarity with product and getting you to want the product.

    This is why, if subscription or micropayments or whatever are implemented, the best sites ultimately will get paid by banner ads. When a site is REALLY good, and gets tons of hits, ad smart agencies will pay to have their ads displayed on that site just for the exposure. They won't care if people click or it or not, because millions of people will SEE their product and KNOW about it. The bottom line is the bottom line, not the number of clicks.
  • I agree. In addition, no one says that it has to be an "either/or" world. Any web site could have a free, banner-suported and micropayment-support "path". Maybe, as a user, you check out the banner-supported side first since you're just browsing. Later, you need to really dive into the content without distractions (and with, hopefully, a more responsive connection since there are no banner ads) so you authorize the micropayment.
  • Taylor makes a good argument against micropayments [captaincursor.com] in his blog and prefers the term "microdonations".

    Forcing users to fork out for content is going to be too much work on both sides

  • Shareware collects revenues through a volunteer model.
  • I would gladly subscribe to CNET News.com without ads of any kind.

    However, slashdot, please don't drop your banner ad agreements... hint hint.
  • That's not a bad thought, actually.
    I was trying to link the isp payment to the accessing of the web content, since without web content, there's really no need for an ISP. (again, I'm ruling out IRC, email, etc. remember broad strokes)
  • Reminds me of mid-90's Seattle when suddenly "tip jars" started appearing everywhere. Of course the barrista at the coffee shop has a little more leverage than a mere web site ("Tip me or next time I spit in your latte.")
  • However, relying on client data for this is faulty (pain in the ass, probably proprietary, probably not multiplatform, hacked clients, etc), and relying on the server is also inacurrate (people using proxies). Practically, if this was implemented on the server, who cares if they get around it using a proxy? If they're doing that, they probably don't want their money going to whatever site they're at (microsoft.com comes to mind).
    Part of the idea was that the client is allowed to override the default of what it goes to, by design, so attacking clients and working around it is a non-issue. That way, people can give all the donations to the sites they feel have the highest-quality content, and it also means that the client can be considered trustable.

    What is the incentive for the ISP to do this, though? If ISP X charges $8 extra per month and pays it to sites that get the most hits, and ISP Y doesn't -- which one are you (the consumer) going to choose? The ISP isn't going to want to lose its userbase just to fund content providers. Maybe the ISP would get benefits somehow in turn from the sites. I dunno.. it's your idea :)
    There are a variety of ways ISPs could be coerced into doing such a thing. One would be regulation enforcing it (via international treaty, most likely). A more likely idea would be for sites to only open themselves to viewers from pages that enable this (they're the only ones the site gets money from, so I see why they'd do it). The extra pages accessible to customers (and thus wider customer base) are the benefit to the ISP. Also, in my example where I said +$8 a month, my base cost is $40 for DSL, so by comparison I wasn't talking about very much money. Also, AOL with its $20/month dialup cost has shown that Average Joe doesn't shop around for prices very much.
    A picture is worth 500 DWORDS.
  • Send me a nickel and I'll post it for you.
  • Micropayments are a slippery slope to convert the internet to one big pay site.
  • It all comes down to economics. When the cost of distribution becomes effectively $0.00, then consumers will not be motivated to pay. They can get it illicitly for free, and consumers have shown overwhelmingly that even if it is illegal, they will do it. The question is, what is the value proposition of online content? What would consumers be willing to pay for? I think the answer lies in services and other value-add models where the content is basically free, but you pay for the added services. I'll give you an example of what I mean.

    Let's say a new movie comes out that has a killer soundtrack. I, as a consumer, could use Napster or Gnutella to download the song for free, but what if the movie studio offered a web site that included not only the ability to download the tracks, but also had screen savers tied into the movie, downloadable trailers and teasers, and occaisonal online chat sessions with the stars and production crew? Essentially they could provide a whole range of products and services that I simply can't get in one place anywhere else. They aggregate the content, making it searchable and easy to get from one source. Consumers might be willing to pay for this service that offers value over and above what the mere content is worth. Perhaps they could charge $1.00 a month for access. This could tie in to a whole service offering for the studio. For a small subscription fee you could access a whole range of services for all their movies. Searchable movie databases, old scripts, etc.

    This model is essentially the Free Software model. The content (software) is free. What companies charge for is the service that supports the content.


  • Try it [slashdot.org], it is just like what is described at http://www.yafla.com/rants/micropay/page4.htm [yafla.com] except that I still provide my site for free (easy to restrict, but that would not be nice in my opinion)
    Setting up an e-gold account is painless and free, if all the open source projects would do it then maybee we would make progress a bit faster.

    cya, Andrew...

  • I wouldn't mind paying for contenet if I didn't have to pay for internet access. It's a bit like paying for cable, and paying again if you want programming.
    That's what happens in the real world, right? You get some level of programming with basic cable and if you want HBO/whatever, you pay more. I think it's reasonable to expect that some content on the net will be provided free while the really compelling or useful stuff will cost me a few bucks.

    Then again, I don't have cable.


  • I already pay a monthly fee to get access to this content. It's that little monthly fee that the broadband provider charges me.

    I'm not willing to spend even more of my money to access additional information. I don't like pay sites. Never have, never will. I've always been able to find the information somewhere else.

    I'm sure there's a solution out there that would benefit all parties involved, but additional fees are going to turn off a lot of people. Just look at Napster.
  • Here's how I imagine an ezine conglomerate like TOTK.com Sports [totk.com] using micropayments:

    1. Give access to our recent articles on the Web. As the original poster notes, if you haven't seen our content before, you have no way of knowing whether you'd want to pay for it. In terms of the current day, current content is a "loss leader" in that we "sell" it at cost--none, really, other than intellectual capital.
    2. Charge for subscriptions via email. Since we hold our weekly content out a few days as an impetus to subscribe [note: we don't do that on dailies], there is incentive to get it in email. Also, email is great because you can read it offline, at your leisure, etc. A well-formatted ASCII ezine can be a joy to read if you don't let it run too long.
    3. Charge for access to our Web archives. Presumably, if you're paying us, you like our content. =) If you like it, you'll like the archives, too, because you'll want to see what we've had to say about sports over the years. Also, with some of the articles, it makes for damned great research material, and some folks like that stuff.

    Do I expect to make scads of money? Nope. I could make a shitload more, likely, if I got $5 CPM text ads in my various ezines. If you think that isn't a chunk of change, start running numbers of subscribers in the tens of thousands for a daily ezine--not bad work if you can get it [and run three to five ads per day]. But that's not what I want to do--I just want to cover costs and have pretty toys. If I wanted to work as a "professional", I'd have gone to journalism school.

  • If micropayments come up, I would start the Napster sharing model on said contents.
  • Ya, i think a vast majority of the web content would disappear. Things like CNN and /. may go, but i think online stores and stores with an online presence would stay, and probably academic sites.

    I might pay a small ammount for a few sites, but if every site started charging, i probably wouldn't use the internet as much. A buck here and a buck there ads up real quick, and with the millions of content sites out there, i doubt many sites could get enough subscribers to stay afloat.
  • ? I will always churn out my half-assed attempts at web entertainment for no pay - I haven't seen a penny yet. Do it for the love, baby.

    That's precisely the point. Very often what you get for free is worth pretty much what you paid for it. Few of us want "half-assed attempts" at content, so much as we want content -- and, quite frankly, not so many of us are all that interested in content. TV is still a very cost-effective medium for delivering content the hearts and minds of customers, and until the web turns from a cutesy giveaway of feeble stuff into a true, viable means for delivering content, the advertising dollars will go elsewhere -- the the well-entrenched "standard" media and the next "hot" new medium.

    With all due respect, the market has a way of punishing bad content and rewarding the good. Not all of us share the whim of the market, but the problem with free content, particularly on a quality basis, is that it isn't subject to traditional market forces -- which is why we have so many "half-assed attempts" at content on the net.
  • What you say implies that there is at least one content type for which people are willing to pay: new and timely information.

    This is consistent with what is done with quotes from the stock exchanges: the delayed feed is available for free, while the realtime feed is a for-pay option.

    But I think there are other areas for which people are willing to pay. One example: quality. If there's a significant quality difference between the free information and the for-pay information, then at least some people will pay for the latter.

    This quality comes in at least two forms: the presentation of the information itself, and the organization of - or easy of locating - the information.

    For example, I pay for a subscription to "The Economist". I do this for all of the above reasons.

    But micropayments raise a completely different issue than just "will people pay for content". I pay for subscriptions (ie. The Economist) based upon a fixed rate. It's a kind of "fire and forget" model.

    If I had to pay for each article (which is the possibility introduced by micropayments), I end up doing a lot more work to read, just in the process of deciding whether or not an article is worth the fee. That work - which involves time - is a cost over and above the actual cash payment being made. It is a cost paid for each and every article, WHETHER OR NOT I DECIDE TO BUY.

    That's a disincentive to review a site for possible articles, and will therefore bring readership down. Note that this is before we even consider whether an individual piece of content is worth the price being charged.

    That is not a good sign for the "pay per view" model on the Internet.

  • by Zach978 ( 98911 ) on Monday February 26, 2001 @11:03AM (#400686) Homepage

    I already pay a monthly fee to get access to this content. It's that little monthly fee that the broadband provider charges me.
    I allready pay for gas in my car, but I do expect to have to pay for the newspaper when I drive up to the local store. I don't really think that 7-Eleven cares too much how much I paid for my car last month, I'm going to have to pay for my damn newspaper. Just as a content provider doesn't give a damn what you pay for your internet access. Remember how usless your broadband is without content...
  • Jakob Nielsen [useit.com] writes a very good column on web useability, he's a common-sense standard you can use to evaluate good and bad web design against. Just about the only thing he's gotten wrong is his predictions of micro payments.

    His arguments are that current web models for raising revenue don't work. In this case I think he's talking about web pages that don't sell a product, and have just content. Most people have a blind eye to banner ads, and I don't know anyone who doesn't close popups before they even finish loading.

    He's been saying for years (completely incorrect every time) that micropayments are coming, probably for those very special sites like Yahoo, that fulfill a functions that few have matched. Probably something like a dollar or two a month.

    Most recent article on the topic [useit.com]

    Personally I don't agree with him, and if it weren't for that fact that I respect so many of his other predictions and theories, I'd probably ignore it. I think that some people want micropayments to happen because they want the web to thrive, and this is the only way they can think of for it to continue to function economically. They might be right in that it's the best way (I don't know), but I don't think that means that it'll happen.

  • Sounds like www.fairtunes.com to me.

  • The Internet isn't really an advertising medium. Insofar as it relates to buying stuff, it's for providing information about stuff you're already interested in, and taking care of the details of ordering and delivering it. It's good at that, and a lot better than printed catalogs.

    But general advertising on the Internet has been a flop, and probably will continue to be. And that's OK. All the catalogs, brochures, and ordering sites will stay online. All the search engines will stay up, powered by placement fees and kickbacks from the ordering sites. Print and TV outlets will maintain their online sites as adjuncts to their main business. And the few sites that charge (the Wall Street Journal and Consumer Reports) will have very high quality content. Pure online content sites will be low-budget operations run as sidelines of other activites. (Think Slashdot, not Excite@Home).

    As for the Internet infrastructure, you pay for that with your $20-$50 per month or so to your ISP/connectivity provider. And the technology gets cheaper all the time. The free ISPs are on the way out; there has to be some revenue to pay for the service.

    And that's the way it is. No problem.

  • other alternatives: you could restrict the number of hits you allow each day, maybe serving a "you would be able to see this page if you forked some cash you cheap bastard" message.
  • On one hand, I like ads. Ads don't cost ME anything. Ads show me products that I may be interested in buying. Targeted ads are better, because then there's more of a chance for the 'oh cool!' reaction, which will cause me to go buy something which I may not have known about before, but which will make my life better/easier... (although I shouldn't have brought up targeted ads on Slashdot, because now all the privacy nuts will get their panties in a wad.)

    On the other hand, micropayments seem like a good idea. When people are actually paying for a service, there's more of an obligation for the creator of that service to produce a better quality product. There's also more of a chance for the creators to get money. These are good.

    HOWEVER, there's one major problem with micropayments, and that's that the user has to have MONEY. Now, what happens to the people who can barely afford to pay for their internet connection (that need it for, say, school), but won't be able to pay all the little micropayments (they WILL add up). Or what about schools that suddenly get hit for HUGE amounts because of all the payments they need to make for their students to access sites required for courses (IE blackboard.com).

    I'd like to stick with ads (non-java ones please... thank you.). They seem like the best overall choice... but they apparently are not working out... :/

    -- Dr. Eldarion --
  • There's an interesting possibility I've thought about, and while there're many details which would need to be worked out for a successful implementation, in theory it could work.

    Each user pays an additional amount (say, 10% added to the ISP's monthly fee), and this money is distributed among web pages. The way it is distributed is controlled client-side, and can be overriden by the user, but defaults to being in proportion to the number of hours viewing (decided by the browser, based on number of hours with a web page opened and in focus). Web pages which already require paying for content are excluded, web pages on free providers are excluded, web pages from which no *ML or TXT files have been downloaded are excluded (no banner providers, web bugs, etc).

    If, for example, in a month I spend 6 hours reading Slashdot, two hours reading User Friendly, and do no other web surfing, then of the $8 extra I'd be paying my ISP, $6 would go to VA Linux and $2 would go to Iliad.

    There are many benefits to this sort of system. First, it provides an incentive to provide content. It allows people to control where their micropayment money is going, encouraging quality content. It provides far more funding than banner ads, so annoying banners are no longer necessary for web pages.

    Obviously, a potential problem with this is abuses, such as people manually setting all this money to go to their friends (and receiving from them in return). Certain anti-abuse measures could be put in place; ie, a web page which has had less than 100 unique viewers is not included, and users don't default to giving to web pages where they have spent less than, say, half an hour. The system would have to be carefully designed to protect privacy and security. The client's decision on how to distribute payments should be visible only to the ISP, and there it should be immediately pooled with all the payments and not logged separately. The data stays encrypted (private key/public key) during all transfers, and other normal routine security precautions are taken.
    A picture is worth 500 DWORDS.
  • I love my dose of Slash-irony.

    Today, ist this article, wailign and bemnoanign the possabiltiy of having to PAy soemthing for web sites, right under the one wailign and bemoaning that ads might get more intrusive.

    Make up your minds folks. You aren't a charity and noone is interested in feeding your entertainment habit out of their own pockets.

  • Set up two Slashdot servers -- one like the current system, free for all and subsidized by ads, an ad-free server that only paid subscribers (say, $10/year) can access, both connecting to the same database on the back end. The paid-by-subscribers server could also be permitted more database connections per user than the paid-by-ads server, so that it would be more responsive, and thus people would have an incentive to pay for a subscription instead of simply running Junkbuster to block the ads.
  • Would you pay for content if the infrastructure was secure, inexpensive, and allowed the content to prosper?"

    In all actuality, I like many other /. readers I imagine, would pay a small amount each month to keep /. going.

    The thing is, I realize that this site provides value to me and I have been to an extent taking a free ride since I have never purchased anything that has been advertised here. Also, I realize slashdot is likely not bringing in nearly as much money now as when ads sold for $34 per 1,000 banner hits. I'm not sure what the going rate is now(anyone?) but I know ads don't make nearly as much as they used to.

    Given the fact that advertising is starting to really suck as a revenue model, and the fact that I really would like to see this site keep going, I would be happy to pay a small amount each month as a subscription fee. Especially if the subscribers got some perks the freeloaders didn't.

    I am sure many readers wouldn't pay. However, if that was a veiled question, Hemos, I am also sure that many of /.s readers would ante up. I say go for it.

  • With all due respect, the market has a way of punishing bad content and rewarding the good. Not all of us share the whim of the market, but the problem with free content, particularly on a quality basis, is that it isn't subject to traditional market forces -- which is why we have so many "half-assed attempts" at content on the net.

    That all depends. The way things are set up now, good content *IS* rewarded. Good content causes more people to tell others about the site. Other people come to the site, increasing ad views. More ad views = more money. Also, if your site becomes sufficiently big, then you have a chance of being bought out for large sums of money (like Slashdot).

    I'd hardly say that people aren't being rewarded...

    -- Dr. Eldarion --
  • What happens to free web servers like Geocities that depend on ad revenue to stay alive? If micropayments replace ads, say goodbye to them...

    Would YOU pay a certain amount a month to view geocities pages? I know I sure wouldn't. 99.99% of them are utter crap. There are a few gems out there, and I'd hate to miss them because I didn't pay my geocities fee.

    -- Dr. Eldarion --
  • ...if micropayments will take off.

    Recently someone sent me an invitation to join their "payment based" web page group - basically a group of web popular gaming web pages would be accessable only by "paying customers" (folks paying $3-$5 a month for access), then share the profits according to who was the most popular.

    I'm still keeping my eye on that one (because you never know), but for now I'm rejecting the idea. Mainly because the Internet has fostered an attitude that "Information wants to be free" - an idea that I support. (That's why all of the info on my site is free - you can contribute if you wish, but you don't have to).

    But because "Information wants to be free", the other idea is "So why should I pay for information?" Micropayments will help a little, but I'm guessing that a majority (over 90%) won't ever pay. It's just the way it is (as Napster recently proved - how many people were downloaders as opposed to uploaders?).

    Micropayments and subscriptions probably won't work with the massive amounts of people willing to volunteer information (look at the number of computer gaming fan sites). I'm not saying its a bad thing - it makes us all compete that much harder. And I imagine that web-based advertising will come back in force - it will just take it a few years for people to a) grow used to the idea and b) businesses to get that you can't advertise Jock Itch Cream on Womengamers.com.

    Of course, I could be wrong.
    John "Dark Paladin" Hummel

  • The problem with micropayments and substriptions is that the net is huge. I mean really, really huge. If you are going to charge money or ask for "donations" you need something the users can't get for free easily somewhere else.

    This means you have to be different or better than the other guys.

    Ad you have to provide you're worth it to the users before they will pay. I will not shell out even a tiny bit of money for something on just a promise that it's cool. Show me first, maybe even let me decide if it's worth the money after I've already seen it.
  • by burris ( 122191 ) on Monday February 26, 2001 @11:20AM (#400758)
    We just need payments. Quick and easy, as simple as clicking a single button on your browser, mp3 player, movie player, etc... The key is that it should be voluntary If you read/listen/watch something and you hate it, you shoudn't have to pay for it. That's part of why Napster is such a success. The current model of selling music where you can't listen to it before you plunk down your money (or you only get to listen to a small part of it, only to find that the rest sucks) is what people are rebelling against. Sometimes it takes a while before a work sinks in and becomes enjoyable. How many times have you bought an album that you thought sucked on first listen but eventually grew to like considerably? There needs to be a system in place so when that moment of comprehension hits you and you think "Wow, this is great stuff, I want the artist to produce more" you can just click that button and enrich them. No matter where you got the work from, especially if you got it from your buddies or off something like Napster.

    The problem that "Micropayments" have is the name carries a lot of baggage. Usually people interpret it to mean metered compulsory payment (albiet a small payment) of every page you hit. This will never work because people just don't like to pay for anything before they know if it's worth paying for or not. In a world where infinite copies can be made for nothing it just doesn't make sense to pay for information up front.

    Voluntary payments are the revenue model of the future. It's how artists were compensated before Copyright, it's how it'll work after copyright. The difference now is the entire world can potentially toss coins into your hat and you don't have to actually stand on a street corner performing to collect the tips. Artists will find that the most revenue will be made by letting your work spread as far and wide as possible while at the same time making it as easy as possible for your fans to enrich your no matter where they get your work from. The ones that try to lock up their work and force people to pay for it in advance will fail.


  • I note that the author of this article links Stallman's Free Software philosophy with socialism, and in the same breath makes quite plain that he doesn't know a thing about RMS or the meaning of Free as applied to software (this I infer from his linking to www.stallman.org in the following excerpt):
    On top of that there are idealists galore that, while living under the umbrella of educational welfare (i.e. career students and professors) or enjoying the benefits of a capitalist society while superimposing their socialist idelologies, like to wax poetically about how
    everything should be free [stallman.org] as in beer, or water, or whatever the silly saying is.

    Now, I don't know RMS's opinion on micropayments, but I doubt that he's against worthy content providers being reimbursed for their expenses. I don't know of a single instance where he has claimed that anything should be free as in beer, period. Free as in freedom, yes.

    Obviously, someone has made some fairly rash generalizations about these ideologists.

  • fewer and fewer
  • The author specifically states that the customer authorizes micropayments on a per-merchant, per-time and per-amount basis. If a merchant did this to you, all they would get is the amount you authorized them for, money you were willing to give them anyway. But you're not going to back after they pull this scam, so it's not profitable.

    Nice try, but you're going to need a more substantive objection to micropayments than this minor technicality if you wish to convince me of its inadequacy.
  • You are currently paying for is the service of delivering the data to you. What we are talking about is paying for the creation of the data.


  • Actually that tip jar has been up at PA for only a week this coming Wednesday. Pretty good results for so short a time, but then as Tycho pointed out on one of his posts, PA get's something like 30,000 unique hits on strip days. I'm guessing not many web comics can say that.

    The guys who do Goats [goats.com] strip are doing the Amazon/PayPal tip jar thing as well. There up to about $1400 through the Amazon portion so far, probably more through PayPal. I suspect we'll start seeing a lot of other web comics start doing this pretty soon.

    I for one hope this tip-jar thing sticks around. For PA, I plan on giving a dollar or two probably once a month. It's a lot better than any form of subscription service, as it allows me to choose when and where I want to pay for the content or not. Plus, it in theory allows the creators to give us a better product. Privacy I don't really see as that big an issue. It's no different than any other credit-card transaction I've made over the web the past 2 years. And according to the Amazon site, the creators you donate too don't recieve the identification of who's donating in any way.

    The cut Amazon takes out is kinda steep (15%), but they do make it very easy for both the customers and the site creators to set things up. Amazon's been psudo-evil in the past with 1-Click and target pricing, but on this one I think they've done things right.
  • ... that is, that it went to the content creator and not an agent, distributor, middleman, or some other breed of fuckwit five-percenter

    As a (hopefully) non-fuckwit (but definitely) less-than-five-percenter, let me suggest that you consider using my favorite currency (e-gold) and others that don't rely on making any merchant/consumer distinction. If you want choice on where your money goes to, that's got to be what you want, whether it's us, PayPal, or whoever fails next -- (probably Amazon's little scheme, if you ask me).

    I'm hoping that sites like www.fairtunes.com catch on soon for more than just music, and I can simply put a free e-gold tipjar anywhere with www.two-cents-worth.com (but I've gotta go now!).
  • To attract traffic you let search engines index your site.

    You present snippets and precis of your content. It shouldn't cost too much. It will establish your copyright or ownership.

    To break-even with your site, you charge a micropayment for any hit onto something useful on your site.

    If they surfers aren't already using a micro payment service provider, you spawn links to services like BTarrray, et alia so your prospective customers can make their purchase.

    Those who are interested enough to pay the ten-cents will get their info. Those who aren't won't have cost you an arm and a leg.

    Sounds reasonable to me.
  • When I've pinned the meter to the max on my credit card, will my access to the internet go away? That would suck. What about access at work? I'm sure that my employer wouldn't want to pay to have me surf.
  • No.

    Lengthier explanation:
    The whole infrastructure of the net is such that if one person charges for information, someone else will likely put similar information up for free. Or alternatively, an entire "infowarez" culture could start.

    I don't think people will pay for *information* alone...
  • I think the micropayment idea is good. Goats.com uses it and it seems to be working ok. And I, for one, would give a dollar or two every month to sites I really enjoy useing. For example: /. and PA. I'm talking about voluntary payments here. Not "Have to pay to use" sites.
  • by cOdEgUru ( 181536 ) on Monday February 26, 2001 @10:42AM (#400777) Homepage Journal
    I wonder why Hemos chose this topic today.. hmm.. nope... I am not planning to pay to keep Slashdot up and running, if thats what you ask me.

    however I have heard that M$ pays handsomely for sites that choose to display their "Freedom to innovate" ads.. That would be so cool, to have slashdot to display that ad. :)

    Dont moderate this up or down..just leave it as the way it is.
  • The cost is typically higher, because you're not buying a subsidised bulk package.

    (Also, micropayment systems out there are 100% incompatiable, and this is unlikely to change.)

    Instead of buying "less", maybe the model that's needed is that which the Internet as a whole uses, which is to not buy any "thing", but rather a certain slice of computer time, bandwidth, whatever.

    (The more efficient you are at utilising the resouces purchased, the more you can get from them. So, instead of paying $0.02 for someone's opinion, you might pay $10 for a million clock cycles on some opinion server, and you can access all the opinions you want, within that clock cycle limit.)

    Also, the Galactibanks refuse to deal with small, fiddly change.

  • You are paying your ISP to move bits around; that money isn't intended to pay for content.

    However, I think micropayment systems that allow charges to be added to your ISP bill might have a better chance of survival because the ISP already has a billing relationship with the user.
  • Yes, the IEEE Computer Society's on-line library is very useful. But if it is a sign of things to come, we should all be concerned. The IEEE doesn't pay authors, editors, or reviewers for their work, yet in order to publish through them, you have to transfer your copyright. The only reason they can get away with that is because, by historical accident, publication in IEEE journals is important for academic careers.

    I very much hope that the IEEE is a temporary aberration when it comes to on-line publishing, because a model in which a few on-line publishers can dictate on the basis of their market position what they pay content creators and charge subscribers is not desirable.

  • It seems as though most of you are missing. You wont be forced to make micropayments.. the information is free as always there is no place on PA [penny-arcade.com] that tells you to make the donation because thats what it is A DONATION, just like your local museum its open to the public people put a buck or two in the plexiglass bin and look at the art others walk past it, some even walk up to the desk and offer gobs of money. point is those places and this structure has been around long before the 'net came about. it seems to provide enough dough to keep the (super expensive) art coming it could probably provide a better subsistance to websites than banners ever would. if you need more proof PA has been running their "honor system" for about 5 days now and they have already raised this much [amazon.com]. i think the honor system is a great idea and as soon as i get a credit card i will be supporting my homies, gabe and tycho and help them to pay the bills, just like a buck in the plexiglass, a few clicks and i help out something awesome
  • Bandwidth providers charge you for access to the network. They also charge the sites for access to the network. Who benifits in this senerio?

    Obviously, the bandwidth providers benefit.

    Now, if there's no content, no one's going to buy bandwidth. So bandwidth providers have a vested interest in seeing that content is out there. A random thought - maybe they should act as patrons?

    Tom Swiss | the infamous tms | http://www.infamous.net/

  • ... if it were sensibly implemented. Many of the objections here (and elsewhere) mention the danger of stupid abuses that any sensible micropayment system disallows.

    My favorite example of a site that needs micropayments is The Oxford English Dictionary [oed.com]. It was and is hugely expensive to reproduce, and if it can't generate revenue, it will die. As a dictionary of the English language, it stands head and shoulders above anything else. If I had access to it, I would look up words in it by default; nothing else comes close.

    But I don't have access. Currently you can gain access to the online edition by paying an annual subscription fee of $550! Who's going to do that? Academics and a few professional writers and editors. At that price, it's useless to me and most of the other people who might use it. Worse (and more to the point), it could be generating a lot more revenue if it were available to a larger audience through micropayments.

  • Would you pay for content if the infrastructure was secure, inexpensive, and allowed the content to prosper?

    The content would have to get a lot better. Would you pay for Salon.com or Wired.com? I read parts of these sites every day, but I wouldn't pay anything for them. The content just isn't good enough. What about OldManMurray.com (IMHO the best site on the internet)? They would have to actually update more than once a month.

    The business model isn't invalid, it just can't support massive amounts of waste. Remember reading about the indoor slides between floors at Excite? How cool! I wonder why they don't have those kind of things at Random House? Because Random House is evil, dammit! They don't care about our freedom and personal amusement, they just want to make money.

    Which is, of course, what all businesses are required to do.

  • Ever since those idiotic banner ads started showing up I've been using proxy filters for Web browsing. This breaks some services, and I live without them. It is now breaking fewer services than my unwillingness to run Java does.

    The idea that ad delivery costs browsing time, and that ad creators are willing to make me pay with time in advance to see the ads, is all I ever needed to know about them.

    Advertisers, instead of advertising/annoying people, spend your money making a -usable- Web site without a lot of 'experience management' crap. When I want to buy something, I'll come to your Web site if you have it -but try to get me to sign in or have a username/password pair and I'll leave. Show me a "x-shockwave-flash" error and I'm gone. Insist on cookies, Java, Javascript, ActiveX or whatever and I'm history.

    And don't spam.

    Once you've got through all these criteria you have a site from which I'll -buy stuff-. There aren't many. Amazon spams, so does Elstead Maps. They're two of my former suppliers. McMaster-Carr and Mouser Electronics meet all the criteria above (well, OK, for McM I'll turn on Javascript) and they have been selling me stuff for years. Textbooksource.net is beginning to look good.

    So - do you want sales, or do you want to create a user experience? If you just want to sell stuff, get on with it and lose the cute graphics. If you want to create a user experience, forget it, because -my- experience is going to be locate, purchase, leave. If you want a 'relationship', forget it. We'll have one if -I- say so. I'm the one with the money, remember?

  • Have any idea how much the average porn site rakes in in a year?

    There's a lot of money out there to be grabbed at a nickel a shot (pardon the pun.)
  • While in some regards I would mourn the passing of Geocites et al., I would welcome the releif from the flood of spam pointing to [low grade porn|get rich quick|Find anyone fast] sites hosted on "free" suppliers like Geocities.

    Furthurmore, the assumption that a web site must cost a lot to run is questionable, at least. Bandwidth is cheap, disk is cheap, CPU is cheap. Setting up a web site needn't cost a arm and leg if people would just band together. I know several people who got together, bought space at a coloc, and set up their own server for US$50/month/person. And that was only for 5 people!

    That said, I would support advertising supported sites if and only if I get value for my money. I don't want to see any form of auto-billing - as has been pointed out, this is too easy to abuse. I don't want to be ripped off by content that I could get free: but if I could get known trolls blocked from my viewing of /. for US$5/month, payable via Paypal or Visa, TELL ME WHERE TO SIGN UP!.
  • I am going to take a trip back to my formidable years, when I was BBSing at the sweet age of 13. And I will disregard the fact I was pretending to be much older.

    I remember my favorite sites: the people, the interface, and the online games. Those sites were all free and they rocked. You dialed up in you were in. It wasn't too complicated.

    I also remember the other sites which charged a membership fee or some other gimmick to attract people and get them to pay. But I don't remember those sites as much as the free ones.

    I know some people did pay the monthly fees but I never stayed on a BBS which did. Maybe it was because they didn't offer the things which I wanted. Or didn't offer a sense of community which I felt on the other BBSes. Plus when you are 13, you spend your money on other things of great importance.

    I remember my favorite BBS had get togethers in the park during the summer and we could meet the people behind the aliases. It felt good to belong to such a group. The closest I feel to a sense of "belonging" nowadays is Slashdot. And they don't even have TradeWars.

    Sites, as BBSes, will come and go, but it is what you do with them which will create the fondest memories. And being free don't hurt either. If fact it probably helps a lot. Not to say micropayments won't work, but I am from the old school and the best things in life are free.

    I think /. needs to have a annual barbecue somewhere. That would be nice.

  • by Chess Piece Face ( 247847 ) on Monday February 26, 2001 @10:44AM (#400805)
    Micropayments = Bad. If that kind of system goes into place, my web surfing stops cold. Why? Because it's too easily abused. Pop-up windows for one. Click to a page and suddenly ten windows pop up, each with its own micropayment. The user will get screwed by this and even more involved scams. The cable TV system is a better approach. Pay for content, but pay one bulk rate for a wide selection of sites (channels). Instead of 50-500 TV channels, one micropayment network could have a stable of 1000-5000 sites all under the same fixed payment umbrella. Who knows? I will always churn out my half-assed attempts at web entertainment for no pay - I haven't seen a penny yet. Do it for the love, baby.
  • by levik ( 52444 ) on Monday February 26, 2001 @10:46AM (#400808) Homepage
    I think that micropayments are a more profitable avenue to raising funds of r a quality sites than advertisement is. If you think about it, your average sites get about $1 - $2 per 1000 page views, which is pretty little. Asking a user to contribute aronud 50 cents per month for access to the site, isn't asking for too much, and if the process was somehow automated, and made into a one-click proposition, I don't think a lot of people would object to paying the fee.

    If you think about it, such a small payment will add up to large monthly sums for the sites that carry content users are really interested in. This will also result in a "survival of the fittest" kind of an atmosphere, eliminating a lot of fluff sites out there.

    So I say, bring it on.

  • I ain't paying.

    I access content on the internet because it is free and readily available. Start charging for that content and it will be back to the old public library for me.

  • There's always Amazon's Honor System [amazon.com] which allows visitors to "show their appreciation" by giving you cash.

    A little blunt, if you ask me - but an option.

  • Movies are already easily copied onto tape, yet people still pay to rent them, buy them, and see them in theaters. Music is free on Napster, yet CD sales are at a record high.

    The only downside of this model is that some industries will probably not see the same profit margins they currently enjoy. Instead of making $171 million, a movie like The Matrix might make only $100 million. Oh well. Nobody said any industry is gauranteed to maintain profits at a certain level.

    If anything, a subscription based service like I outlined can serve to offset potential revenue losses from digital piracy. 500,000 people each paying $1 a month to get to the premium movie web site will more than make up for lost box-office revenue. The idea is to build a community around the product that can't be had anywhere else, and that people would be willing to pay a small fee for. You'll never stop outright piracy of digital content, but the real value isn't in the content. It's how the content is aggregated into a bundle of services and other products.


  • The term "micropayment" generally relates to the fact that a merchant cannot perform a credit card charge against any major credit card without incurring at least a ten cent charge (for most mechants its more like fifty cents). This is a serious inhibiting factor towards financial transactions of small amounts, such as the dollar amount that one might equate with the value of a song from www.mp3.com/pixal [mp3.com] or similarly low-value content. This is where all of the interest in a micropayment system originates, it would be used for transactions of less than a dollar or two.


  • I don't think we're too big for "the old days".

    If Linux or BSD can be coded and given away for free, then someone can type in some text without including half a megabyte of useless graphics.

    Some people really do want to make a job out of their former hobby, and I applaud this. In this situation, taking on advertisers or charging fees makes perfect sense. How else will you make money from your work? Consider, however, that this is actual work, not a hobby. When something moves from the realm of being a hobby to being work, you usually expect a certain degree of skill, professionalism, and (in this context) content. Most web sites seriously lack in all three areas. I think that there will be a great shakedown (that's just such a cool phrase) in the number of useless web sites in the coming years.

    Why do we need GardenKnowledge.com, GardenPower.com, GardenSecrets.com, and GardenPlus.com, when they all suck royally and have dozens of annoying ads? Will anyone ever miss them? Nope, I don't think so.

    p.s. Those are all just example domain names. No offense to actual web sites if they truly exist.
  • ...assuming you have good competition in the market you are paying for.

    Let's say Billy sets up a gaming review website and charges a small amount of money for each of his articles. If enough people like his articles, he could quite his job or take a part time job and spend all his time creating better content.

    Now Billy starts overpricing his content and slacking off on the quality of his content. This is where Bob steps in. Bob sees he can give better quality content cheaper and make a living off of it. If Billy doesn't start producing better quality content, he's not going to get enough money anymore and go back to his day job.

    This is basic economics (which a lot of Slashdotters seem to try to ignore), but on the Internet it's a little bit different. Unlike the real world, all the user has to do is click on over to another site and pay them if they have better quality content. This can cause some extreme competition and with money involved people will compete as hard as they can for the consumers money.

  • I always thought of the web, whether it's a dumb geocities page or something truly useful like mapquest and imdb is "give". You give content to the web for everyone else to enjoy and you surf everyone else's content.

    Why does there have to be e-commerce involved all the time? Yes, I know severs and bandwidth costs money, but let's not have banner ads and such for ALL web pages. I know C$erve charged extra for "premium content", and that's no longer. I still don't see myself paying monthly for a website when there's most likely hundreds of other equivical sites for free.

    I guess popularity( for web sites) has its price.
  • Micropayments won't work. Even though I visit a handful of websites consistently, none of them are so indisposable that I couldn't go somewhere else (even Slashdot can be done away with) for similar content. Even pure voluntary payments will create NPR/PBS style pay your dues banners and splash pages. Although, that isn't that bad of an idea. A website is one of those odd things that can get sunk by its own popularity. It can become so popular, the owner can't afford to pay the bandwidth fees. Some alternative method needs to be developed. I'm not smart enough to figure out what it should be, but the advertising model is failing, at least at the low level scale. I'm willing to display Coke,Pepsi, Holiday Inn, 7-11, and Pep Boy banners on my site, but for some reason they don't advertiser on the web.
  • Haha...I love that horse on Ren and Stimpy!

    Don't you dare moderate me off-topic...
  • by RareHeintz ( 244414 ) on Monday February 26, 2001 @10:51AM (#400833) Homepage Journal
    Would you pay for content if the infrastructure was secure, inexpensive, and allowed the content to prosper?

    If it meant that I got to choose who the money went to - that is, that it went to the content creator and not an agent, distributor, middleman, or some other breed of fuckwit five-percenter - then yes, yes, a thousand times YES!

    I don't think the problem is that - as one poster put it - that the 'Net will become one giant pay site - content creators should get paid for good work. The problem will be keeping scumbag content-control freaks (Sony, RIAA, MPAA, the U.S. Congress) from mucking it up and taking a cut.

    I think it would be the ideal way, though, to pay for good independent content like Penny Arcade [penny-arcade.com], Sinfest [sinfest.net], and even Jennicam [jennicam.org] - and all the other content-based sites I like, but for whom I'm not willing to enter into an expensive revolving subscription agreement.

    We'll see if it actually happens...

    - B

  • ...I both want and need micropayments to become a reality. Why? I look at the Consumer Reports business model--no ads--and see something that should easily work on the Web. However, I don't think that our sports content [totk.com] is good enough--yet--to merit charging CR-level prices. And in trying to go lower, we will get up by transaction fees and be in the same position as we are with Flycast.

    Soon, I think a whole lot of DIY e-publishers are going to be with us. We love what we're doing, and we don't want to become rich sports boors [say hello, Mr. Sheffield], but we would like to cover costs and maybe even take a little home one of these days...


When you make your mark in the world, watch out for guys with erasers. -- The Wall Street Journal