Like most of you, I have become more and more worried about the state of the world. I fear that humanity has two main challenges - a hardware challenge (Climate change) and a software challenge (preserving a free, liberal, fact- and science-based society). The first is about life itself; the second is about the quality of the life we live.
To remain (or become) a society with the free exchange of ideas and a democratic system that represents the people, we need access to truthful, fact-based information. As someone who subscribes to 8 different publications, I have grown frustrated by repeatedly hitting paywalls and being “locked out” of reading opinions different from those I subscribe to. This is a problem that over 40% of Americans often encounter, as 76% of American news publishers have launched a Paywall.
As a believer in open networks, the move to closed, Paywalled Internet scares me. Whether the Facebook ecosystem or the New York Times Paywall - closed systems create a situation where “The Truth is Paywalled but the Lies are Free.”
Journalism must be profitable for high-quality content to be created, but that shouldn't come at the expense of access to truthful content. Content does not need to be free, but it needs to be accessible and affordable. That is why we are launching this test: can we find a business model that is inexpensive enough for consumers to use daily yet profitable enough for Publishers to invest in quality Journalism?
I believe that the current subscription only model is bad for both consumers AND Publishers. Consumers are locked out of truthful content, forced to pay multiple subscriptions, and have to share their personal data with every publisher just to read one article. Subscriptions are pushing Publishers to create content for the single-digit percentage of users who subscribe to their service, missing out on monetizing the vast majority of the users who try to access their content. Only 20% of Americans subscribe to any news site, with 66% of them subscribing to only one publication.
The scramble to increase subscription revenue has created terrible user experiences on Publisher sites. Where else on the internet do you encounter so many pop-up ads, autoplaying videos, email capture forms, confusing temporary offers? Why pay for a truthful, expensive, horrible user experience when you can get free lies on social media networks with a great user experience telling you what you want to hear.
The industry itself is getting highly concentrated. The top 3 US publishers (NYT/WSJ/WaPo) take over 50% of the subscriptions, leaving the rest of the news ecosystem fighting for what's left. The “Big Three” are getting stronger and faster than the rest of the publishers and will infringe on any part of the ecosystem where people are willing to pay. No independent news source is safe in the long run.
The Australian news debacle is an excellent example of everything wrong in the News Business. News sites are not getting “destroyed” by Facebook and Google. They are getting tremendous traffic from them. They just don't know how to monetize this traffic due to a defensive/follower culture, lacking innovation and experimentation. Journalism needs to be profitable on its own, not by extorting rent from other companies, nor from Billionaire contributions or government taxes. They have the most valuable asset on the web - consumer interest and engagement - now monetize it!
Sounds perfect. Why a test?
My theories and excel sheets don't matter; the only thing that matters is what you, the consumer, think and do. Will you pay enough? For which type of content? Will it be significant enough for the Publisher? What kind of content are you willing to Tip/Donate/Pay for? The goal of this test is to learn that from you, the consumer of news content.
We are thrilled to have Dan Rather as a Creator testing our system. Check out his launch post here. As a distinguished Journalist, he understands better than most the challenges Publishers face. Now, as a Creator, he is producing his own content via News and Guts and sees these challenges first hand. You can read his thoughts here. If you are a creator or publisher who believes the same, join Dan and us in this test, and let's figure it out and make it work together, for everyone. email us at email@example.com
This is a test or an MVP (Minimum Viable Product in tech vernacular). We know we are missing features, we know we have bugs, and our user experience is not perfect, but we wanted to get something in front of you, the consumer, ASAP to see if our model makes sense. We have not taken any external funding and are not sure that we are building the right solution or if this model even works. We want and need your feedback! Based on what you do and what you're willing to pay for, we will learn if we are on the right track.
How can you help?
If you are a consumer, please follow Dan Rather, pay for and read whatever content you find interesting. As other creators join, check out their content as well. By using the system, you are teaching us what works. If you are a Creator, Newsletter writer, or Publisher - please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let’s discuss how you can help. Want to stay in the loop? Follow us on @PaygoMedia, and we will keep you up to date on what we are learning.
Want to learn more and try out our Micropayments Paywall? Check out these articles below: