Selling shovels to News diggers

Mad Scientist's UnionI had a fun idea tonight (patent pending) that occurred to me after reading about the Newspaper’s accelerating collapse, the Talking Point Memo’s membership experiment, and the recent report on reconstructing journalism.

I can’t recall ever reading about or debating my new journalistic business model, and I’m not sure if its crazy, brilliant, or evil.

Has anyone ever thought about charging newsreaders to express themselves?

Micropayments for comments, not content?

Seriously, how wild would that be.  Pay to comment. Maybe pay to vote, rate, like/dislike. You could even sell different priced foods for people to throw at the journalists (and at other users), provoking foodfights in the newsroom. People would pay to mad men themselves, if you allow them to customize their avatars so they could rant in style.

Now, I recognize it might sound like a step backwards, or slightly anti-democratic, but not long ago there was no commenting at all.  And folks can pick themselves up and have a conversation anywhere on the Internet if they want to. But, you are offering the readers the spotlight of attention… kinda like, advertising!  The dating sites have finely tuned the market dynamics of charging users to communicate. Would these comment stamps reduce or increase the spam?

Maybe the scales are all wrong – it’s probably something like 1% of readers that ever participate, but if fashion (and flickr and  Second Life) is any indication, people dispose plenty of their income expressing themselves in public.

So, Mr. Murdoch, tear down this firewall.  Everyone knows the real money comes from the souvenir and concession stands. It’s better than free.

9 Responses to “Selling shovels to News diggers”

  1. October 27th, 2009 | 6:44 am

    Gotta get in my free comments before Murdoch buys this space!

  2. October 27th, 2009 | 7:13 am

    But souvenir & concession stands next to what passes for the ‘real’, right? In this scenario I can easily imagine an even greasier spiral down to comments-baiting pseudo-stories. The rush will be on: not to be right, but to attract the crowd most motivated to sound off — the squawking flock of any opinion, who cares, as long as the meter moves.

    Glad I got that off my chest. Now I feel I owe you coffee!

  3. October 27th, 2009 | 9:30 am

    You mean we might face a future of sensational media that desperately seeks our attention? 😉 Seriously, journalists are already watching their individual article’s traffic numbers, and some are even getting paid by the eyeball. Is provoking commentary all that different from provoking interest? Surely alot to take into consideration and balance, but I’m not even sure if this idea has even been experimented with yet.

  4. October 27th, 2009 | 10:38 am

    This doesn’t seem practical, outside of certain narrowly drawn news communities where members are sufficiently committed to the mission of the site that they want to connect with it and its authors. (And even then, I don’t think TPM is a sufficiently *unique* political site that readers won’t shift away to Daily Kos or some such alternative, rather than micro-pay for exclusive TPM content.) If, say, Big Newsmedia Site A is charging for comments, then readers will simply go to Newsmedia Site B instead, or some internet entrepreneur will set up a free comments forum for the articles on Site A.

  5. October 27th, 2009 | 10:47 am

    For sure. Sites clamoring for attention would have a hard time profiting from this scheme, but sites that already have it might be squandering it.

    There is nothing practical about butterfly wings or dragon tails in Second Life either. The dating sites just get you to purchase a bunch of tokens which are redeemable for communicative (and sometimes communicable) transactions. Not that different from a subscription, its just you get to actively do stuff, not just passively consume stuff (see my reaction to last week’s report ). Maybe newspapers could publish the curated “best of” aggregations the next day in print.

    At the moment I am most curious if this idea has been discussed or experimented with before, not if the idea is good, bad, or practical .

  6. Kate Fink
    October 28th, 2009 | 8:06 am

    Here’s something about the idea:

    And a less useful post, but other evidence that someone’s been thinking about it:

    I think it’s an idea that’s at least worth exploring… the greatest resistance would probably come from entrenched journalists who think it’s anti-free speech. I think paying for some preferred comment status might be a reasonable compromise. That would at least offer a chance to separate the more insightful comments from the spam. I know I often don’t even try to read the comments because of the high junk/insight ratio.

  7. November 16th, 2009 | 12:30 pm

    The journalism business model game is still in its first round, so the more ideas the better, even if they sound counter intuitive. This idea is interesting, but I think sets up the incentives backwards between producers and consumers to work as a general purpose model for paying for content. It feels better to directly reward good content production, rather than indirectly through the pay-to-say system.

    With that said, I could imagine that certain niche sites could benefit from asking their commenters to pay-to-say. I’m sort of surprised that talk radio–or something with a million people that want to comment–doesn’t do this already.

    The part of the idea I like the best is the acknowledgement that some parts of the page might be more valuable than others to some classes of readers. (In this case, some readers value the ability to comment more than others.) The system I’ve been advocating gives tools to content producers to easily carve out sections of their sites that are blessed as “premium”, requiring a special (paid) access pass. The reason that I might want to buy the access pass could be different from the reason that you want to buy the access pass.

    Anyway, keep the ideas coming…

  8. E
    December 17th, 2009 | 1:21 am

    Accountability would exponentially increase as well. Like.

  9. Michael Glass
    February 22nd, 2010 | 5:31 pm

    What prevents a user from using third-party comments? Technologically: I don’t see this as being viable.

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