If you look at our blog entries individually, you will see a “Welcome to reader-supported content” balloon toward the bottom of the page but above the comment box. This balloon and the badge underneath is part of a “micro-patronage” system that is currently under development to help content providers (newspapers, blogs, etc.) earn revenue so that they can continue to create and publish what their communities value: quality content (e.g., journalism, random thoughts about the universe, niche markets, pretty much anything that user communities value online). The problem and challenge for content providers to stay afloat in the digital age is well-known (prompting even our government to hold press conferences and hearings on the future of journalism). As Steve Farrell, the creator of payyattention explains in his own blog post:
As the decentralization of media continues, readers will play more active roles in evaluating, spreading, promoting, republishing and adapting information. As they do so, they will identify with it more, and their success will be further intertwined with the success of their media. It makes little sense to restrict these readers’ behavior by making them pay for information. The goal should be to enlist these readers to help buy an increasingly valuable resource: attention.
Newspapers are cutting back and shutting down across the country. Their stocks are falling, perhaps encouraged by the recession but mostly because the print business model cannot adapt to the Internet: although they used to earn a great deal of revenue from ads in their print sales, these companies no longer have the leverage to demand high return from online advertisements. It is a losing proposition.
payyattention, I believe, provides an interesting approach to this challenge for newspapers and for other media and content creators on the web. While we are piloting the system and it is currently “invitation only”—if you are interested in it and want to get involved, please contact me.