Drawing of Lawrence Laodmery

Lawrence Ladomery

Opus in digital artifex cum XLVIII

Online newspapers need their own economy

With crypto currencies and NFTs being all the rage and some very interesting applications by publishers, I'm reposting a piece I wrote back in 2011.

Here it goes:

The question shouldn’t be ‘how can we engage readers to the point they are happy to pay for content?’ but a much more ambitious model where users can earn, spend, invest and speculate as part of the experience.

Google has just confirmed that it is working on a micropayment system for the Newspaper Association of America based on Google Checkout. This is good news for the industry and not-so-bad news for consumers if pricing will indeed be ‘micro’.

How about ‘micro earnings?’ If user-generated content becomes core content publishers may well start reward schemes enabling people to gain from their efforts. For example, a reader that posts 100 insightful comments earns premium access for a month.

I know little about economy but these seem to be the basic ingredients of how markets work. So why not make things a little bit more interesting and allow that economy to develop? Here are a few ideas that may or may not work for an online newspaper:

  • Establish a currency (eg. the New York Times dollars – $NYT) can be bought and sold and perhaps even tied to the value of the newspaper in terms of real $$$
  • Allow members to earn $NYT by contributing content and posting comments (different rates would apply) and spend them buying access to content, features, games, etc… or even exchange $NYT between themselves
  • Allow members to pool together and invest in the production of special reports and earn a % of the revenue the reports generate
  • Establish affiliate schemes members can earn from
  • Prize giveaways

This doesn’t sound too far-fetched if you’ve tried Second Life. If you haven’t, have a look at their market data.

Newspapers would generate revenue from selling content as well as taking a small % of every transaction. I wonder if this scenario would help create a stronger bond between the brand and the user too.