2009-11-06

Pay Me

I like micropayments. I like their idea a lot. It's nice to see that cheap virtual content is actually making money, too. People are getting less afraid of spending money online. Yay! The Internet might be able to thrive still more yet.

People buy music online (wow!), people subscribe to video download services (waiting for Netflix to come to me), people buy an insane amount of applications for their cell phones (software that I find to be much more limited than their PC counterparts, which people would often be SHOCKED, SHOCKED to pay for!). Old properties like 1990 video games even generate money anew through consoles' online stores and emulation. Wow. Some people even buy books.

It's nice to know that people are willing to exchange something and not just take it. I'm surprised when I find people who are still perplexed by why they should pay for something. Sigh! In some ways, though, I wonder why such things didn't take off still earlier.

For instance, gutenberg.org has millions of classic texts available for public consumption, but in some ways it doesn't seem as successful a resource as, say, the Wikipedia. Lots of people I know do not know about it, but know about Google Books. Perhaps it's the technical interface? (Hey, it looks better these days.) Or perhaps people really just want to read modern literature. Ugh :(

Lots of Open Source software offer ways for you to donate to its development. I think most never see much more than a dime, though, unless they start promoting it heavily or in the context of some strong need. GNOME is a major project, huge, and they have a donation-based project that, to me, is surprisingly under supported. Well, at least they have private sponsorship to make up that massive shortfall :)

Newspapers are in dire, need I guess, for a successful revenue model that goes beyond advertising online. Lots of payfor magazines and stuff have, if they survive, seem to more subsist. If they lock all their content away, then they end up having to survive with much reduced reach, too. Is it more important to make money off your content, or for your content to obtain maximal distribution? I suppose the mixed-model with pay-for premium content and free regular content isn't that bad, though I stopped visiting IGN for that reason.

As micropayments become still more popular, and in the traditional sense, with readers being willing to pay 2¢ for an article and not think twice about it, I think a lot of traditional funding problems will relax. Many websites would thrive off 1¢ per visit, which is a very minor expense for a user who enjoys any of the content. Imagine the profitability potential for webcomics. If a consistent and regular model and interface was available for open source projects beyond the Pay Pal button, things might improve there, too. I'm sure copyright holders will be happier when YouTube starts generating still more revenue for them (they actually share money off the ads right now and purchases of their music prompted by YouTube).

I think micropayments could be made still easier if they could somehow be facilitated by the browser. I don't think browser makers want that responsibility, though, and extensions and toolbars are limited in their reach. Perhaps mashups will help instead. It would be nice to, without being redirected to a completely different page to make a purchase, have a small widget that indicates how much money I have (but which is not available to the site hosting the widget), and offer me a two-click process to spend a small some to reward or access the content.

So, yah, I think people are becoming more and more comfortable spending money online. Content exists that people are proven to be willing to spend money on. Now for it to become more trivial to spend small amounts.

The downside

Oh, of course there is one. The success of many businesses online is a very damaging threat to businesses offline. I dare say a threat to the very economy!

When Netflix, which is now moving onto all the major consoles, I read, and services like it hit critical mass, why will people still visit the video store? Eventually, the video store as a popular destination must die. I'm sure some might still exist, but in general, at some point, people will turn to their computer to watch it on a cheap monitor or to their game console to watch it on their TV, like they would if they inserted a DVD into it. Sure, Netflix and its competition will be new business and will hire people, but will it need to employ as many people traditional brick outlets? I don't think so. In theory, it should be incredibly cheaper to operate a comparable business online rather than offline, especially in the human resources department. Ah well, having people drive to get their movies is bad for the environment anyway, and high unemployment will reduce consumption which is bad for the environment anyway.

I imagine it will take longer to migrate people away from paper to digital books. Current ereaders are repulsively ugly and awkward. However, in theory, people might accept a digital board to do all their reading from. If library systems can manage to implement a loan and share system like in the brick world, that'll be an additional blow. I wonder how they'll manage it, as it seems like it could really undermine commerical models. Manufacturing thousands and millions redundant copies of books, many of which can go unsold, is bad for the environment anyway.

I suppose any information-based item that can be shipped over the Internet, or physical object that can be constructed with a 3D printer, signals the impending demise of a previous industry, increased efficiency, and, perhaps, high unemployment and reduce environmental impact. I suppose all the unemployed can make their living off huge global audiences reading their webcomics, anyway.

Here's to the future!

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I am aeronautical, vanship-style.  I am olympic and mythical.  I rest on my laurels.