Micropayments and the ‘too-small-to-meter economy’ of online content

The problem with mixing money and online publishing, it now appears with 20-20 hindsight, is that dollars simply represent the wrong economic paradigm: they are the medium of impersonal, low-resolution transaction economies, not highly personal, high-resolution relationship economies.

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Micropayments and the ‘too-small-to-meter economy’ of online content

The problem with mixing money and online publishing, it now appears with 20-20 hindsight, is that dollars simply represent the wrong economic paradigm: they are the medium of impersonal, low-resolution transaction economies, not highly personal, high-resolution relationship economies.

– Venkat Rao, Ribbonfarm blog

We have already covered ways publishers are trying to monetize online content with Bitcoin micropayments or straight up subscription fees payable in Bitcoin. But writer and consultant Venkatesh Rao, of Gervais Principle fame, suggests cryptocurrency might offer an entirely different paradigm for content monetization.

“‘Charging’ for true online-native content is like charging for all of Linux instead of just for the value added through packaging and support of the sort Red Hat offers. Or like constantly going out for dinner with friends and always free-riding without ever offering to pick up the check.
From the reader’s point of view, the fair price is close to zero not just because there are so many excellent free substitutes for any given piece of content. It is also near zero because paying a more-visible-than-others individual for the output of a larger, invisible and uncredited group of participants in a conversation seems unfair (as it should).”

This was lifted from his annual post calling for sponsorships (past results of this campaign: “$2250 in 2011, $3750 in 2012, $2625 in 2013”). (That last sentence compels an interesting meta-narrative of its own, by the way.) This year, Rao has switched to a Coinbase tip jar to experiment with Bitcoin micropayments as a better alternative, which he explains:

“So far, there’s never been an economic model capable of capturing the complex nature of how all this works. Content has been free so far because the right market mechanism for it did not exist.
Now it does. Bitcoin, and more generally, the underlying technology known as the blockchain, have the expressivity to accurately reflect the socio-economic structure of creative production under conditions of abundance.”

You can read the rest of the post here. Scroll about two-thirds of the way down if you just want to read the section on Bitcoin.



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