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A question about the future of the world wide web

(This is the preamble to a complex open-ended question, below the fold. Bear with me ...)

Back in 1994-96, during the Big Bang era of rapid expansion as the world wide web expanded into the outline of its future shape, there was considerable discussion of how best to pay for everything. Back in the early days of the internet NSFNet basically forbade commercial use of internet connected systems — this went out the window rapidly once the world wide web caught on as a publishing medium.

There were two contenders for the funding mechanism in the early days: micro-billing (in which you pay pennies, fractional or otherwise, for access to web pages) and advertising (in which the page is nominally free but you pay the bandwidth overheads of downloading someone else's idea of what they want you to see). Advertising won out because in the long-ago era of modem-based downloads micro-billing was expensive; you might only need to exchange a couple of KB of data to fund a transaction, but when many folks were still using modems that topped out at an asthmatic 9600 bits/second, the bandwidth cost was just too high to support microbilling.

So we ended up with banner ads and spam, and then by a hop, skip and a jump today's hideously bloated ecosystem of ad exchanges, trackers, ghost cookies, third-party javascripts that download megabytes of libraries to figure out who you are and who is willing to pay the most for a few seconds in front of your eyeballs ... and so on.

Now we get to the post-2007 era of multitouch smartphones and tablets and monetization/funding strategies. Google -- or should I say, DoubleClick, the world's largest advertising agency -- is reasonably easy to understand: they want their OS (Android) on as many devices as possible in order to funnel ads at the customers. Apple is somewhat less scrutable: they're best understood as a hardware company (although they also have diversified into a variety of fields, including content sales) and they want their hardware in as many hands as possible, which means providing a slick end-user experience. Both firms support an appified ecosystem in which the public web isn't so much locked out as rendered increasingly irrelevant. And Apple has taken the next logical step by permitting ad-blockers in their standard web browser (as of iOS 9).

(Warning to Apple-phobes: you may not like Apple, but current sales of iOS devices outweigh the sales volume of the entire PC industry. Apple won the race to be the first post-PC consumer electronics company, and now occupy a niche roughly analogous to Sony's in the pre-personal computing consumer electronics world: a premium brand and market maker with enormous clout. So for "Apple" read "everyone else in the post-PC device world, sooner or later".)

A lot of self-identified content creators are quite irate about the rise of ad-blocking; they've grown accustomed to their writing being funded by advertising sales. But to those of us who earn our crust from writing without ads, and who pay the atrocious bandwidth and performance bills imposed by the advertisers, it looks like the current state of the ad-funded web is a death-spiral and a race to the bottom. Casual information consumers won't pay for access to paywalled sites, and a lot of the struggling/bottom-feeding resources on the web are engaged in a zero-sum game for access to the same eyeballs that are increasingly irritated by the clickbait and attention-grabbing excesses of the worst advertisers.

Anyway, this leads to my question: is there any way to get to a micro-billing infrastructure from where we are today that doesn't involve burning down the web and starting again from scratch?

So: are there any promising distributed microbilling payment platforms out there on the horizon, other than the Google and Apple company stores? And if not, what is to be done?

(NB: anyone who says "Bitcoin" will be banned for stupidity. Non-BtC applications of the blockchain are another matter: but BtC itself is no more a solution to microbilling than stockpiling gold bullion is a solution to high-interest-rate credit cards targeting the poor and those with bad credit records.)

361 Comments

1:

Is it possible to estimate the revenue lost by blocking all the ads on a page? If you could handwave to some standard page value, maybe someone could combine an adblocker and micropayments - it removes the ads and punts 0.0001 cents from your account into a kitty for the domain. "ethical adblocking"...

2:

I don't know how to do it, in a practical way that folks would tolerate, without restrictive metering that would result in "chilling effects" on reading, unless we have platform/client or infrastructure support.

One way would be to build it into client apps. You do something like a mobile app that, from a user experience point of view, feels like an RSS reader or something. The app acts sort of like a reseller. Various bits of content flow through it, and it tracks that, and figures out how much a given content source is "owed".

The person doing the reading just uses the app and reads whatever they want, but is paying some basic fee to get in at all. It has either a completely fixed rate or a hard cap. Maybe the user has the option to turn on local eye-tracking or some other measurement of attention in order to lower that rate, I don't know. But the reader reads and has a simple payment structure for everything, the app infrastructure figures out who gets credit for the stuff of value to the reader, and the payments go out. No explicit "I'm going to pay for this" step, no problem of accidentally falling asleep while reading and finding out that you're bankrupt.

The other way I can see it working, and I do *not* like this one, is that the ISPs build that tooling into their network layers, and tie it to their subscriber billing.

An app-based one would allow side-by-side comparisons and free market forces. An ISP-based one would end up with cable-industry-like lock-in and content bundling and other heinous crap.

3:

The first problem that comes to mind is how to avoid elbow jogging the punter while not actually picking their pockets. The answer may be as simple as small-enough up-front payment.

Actually, paypal works pretty well for me, for low-value painless transactions. Whether it scales down well is another question.

4:

One of the problems with scaling down payments (speaking as someone who used to work in payment processing) is that the structure of the fees imposed by the processing networks is often something like, if your payment is for "n", they charge "x" + "y%" of "n".

No matter *what* "x" is, scale down far enough and it dominates. And if you don't charge a per-transaction rate but your infrastructure has per-transaction *costs*, then scale down far enough per-payment and the transaction volume will go so high that you're out of business. So you can get away with "x" being zero if there's a minimum for the "n" to which the "y%" is applied, but that also prevents scaling down beyond a certain point.

If you look at how Apple actually runs payments right now, you can buy a 99¢ app here and a $2 movie there, and if you do a bunch together, they're aggregated before the money flows. That saves them money in processing/infrastructure fees, even though it raises the overhead because they have to track all of that and have well-separated approval/clearing steps.

You want it to scale down to small enough transactions, you have to aggregate in some form or you'll *eventually* get drowned in whatever costs you're not recovering. Or at least, back when I worked in the industry and with the little bit I've continued to pay attention to it, I've never heard of a realistic alternative.

5:

It really depends on the reader.

For example, I'm not a customer you can advertise at. If I become aware of a product or brand being advertised obtrusively at me I boycott the product because excessive advertising implies that the product isn't good enough to be worth buying on its own merits.

(There are a few exceptions for high profile items; but, for example, I don't buy Apple electronics products because of the ads, I buy them because I'm a satisfied 25-year returning customer.)

6:

...and in case people thinking that whole "x + y% of n" thing is just people being greedy, making the money flow really usually does have costs that scale with number of transactions (eg. the actual packet transmission for the payment protocols) *and* costs that scale with the *value* of transactions (eg. the stuff related to fraud management).

If the infrastructure has both of those costs... if they're low and you're not trying to scale down to micropayments, you can hide that fact and whatever you're hiding gets lost in the noise and you ignore it. Or if the per-volume costs can be covered by a per-transaction fee, that creates a financial overhead that in a practical sense kills microtransactions anyway. (If your fee is 5¢ + 0.0003%, nobody will run a 1¢ transaction through that.)

7:

I've also noticed that adverts suddenly become very relevant after I've purchased the item I want to purchase, which is a bit pointless. "Buy this stuff" when I've already bought it and won't need to buy any more for 5 years is a bit pointless.

8:

Heh, I'm also a customer who does not tolerate advertising and who responds those I can't block with boycotts. It's to the point where if I can't block a YouTube ad or something, I will literally hold up a sheet of paper covering everything but the timer, and also mute the system, until the ad is done.

The ad economy (in its current form) is *eventually* going to die (if for no other reason than the wars of escalation between attention-grabbers, fraudsters, blockers, and hijackers like those using ad CDNs for malware delivery).

It can't happen soon enough for me.

9:

(Hey, Charlie? This might be a fun chat to tap Krugman for, once you've let us hoi polloi rant and gibber for a while.)

10:

There are two options that would probably work.

The first is that the major content providers get together and create a network that anyone can join. Subscribe to any one site in the network for $10 per month and you get unrestricted ad-free access to the entire network. It would need at least the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Economist, New York Times, Washington Post, the Times, New Scientist, Scientific American and National Geographic to be on board from the beginning (and probably a bunch of sports and TV sites that I have no interest in). Then everyone pays $10 per month to subscribe to their favourite website, and gets a vastly better net experience. Total revenues to split between the content creators end up at maybe $400 million per month (assuming that 10% of the English-speaking world eventually subscribes).

The second is for the ethical ad networks to get together and create a really really good ad blocker for all platforms that only blocks unethical ad networks. "Ethical" here means at a minimum no movement of any kind, no audio of any kind, no Flash or PDF, nothing that looks like a user-interface element, no click-throughs to malware sites, fully honouring the do-not-track flag, and so on. Then they push that ad blocker as the ethical way for users to block unacceptable ads while still supporting the content creators.

I don't suppose they will do either of these, but since the option exists, my sympathy for them will be quite limited.

11:

Various sites that require a login (such as dating sites like OkCupid) offer a 'no-ads' experience - if you pay a small fee, you get no ads. If you use an adblocker, the ads are replaced with a picture of sad looking employees of OkC asking for money... Doesn't work very well, but there you go.

How does tangentially related income work in here? By that I mean crowdfunding (Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, Patreon) and sales of merch (Topatco, Charlie's mugs, etc). It's not ad based, and it's not microbilling...

12:

Monetas(.net) is trying by doing (from what I can tell) blockchain + notaries to improve speed and scalability and they seem to have

Alternately, the growth of Patreon and Kickstarter help alleviate the need for so much microbilling by financing content creation up front. See also: http://www.indelicates.com/worthless/

13:

I have no sympathy for the alleged need for "funding" and think they should never have abandoned the ban on commercial use.

I pay about a sixth of my monthly income on the hire of a server which runs purely non-commercial websites. They make no money and carry no ads. The proportion is so high not because the server is huge, but simply because I have fuck all money but use lots of bandwidth. I do it simply because I like doing it, and if I can do it anyone can. Especially since most people aren't going to want to serve gigabytes of video off their own server, but just text and images and maybe the odd youtube embed, which can be done for the price of a couple of pints of beer a month. Or even for nothing if you have a decent ISP who gives you a static IP and doesn't block port 80.

There is a strong inverse correlation between the proportion of interesting and useful content on a site (and also its ease of use and lack of bloat) on the one hand, and the degree to which it tries to serve ads and/or bleats about how hard done by the operator is on the other. The best sites are those which let the content speak for itself and don't care about commercialising it. Personal sites run by knowledgeable people, sites run by university dons on their university's server, Wikipedia, and the like. Sam Goldwasser's laser FAQ, for a single example. The sites of Linux distributions. And not forgetting this site which as far as I can tell Charlie runs on much the same basis as I do. These sites either don't care about funding (the smaller ones) or arrange it behind the scenes in some unobtrusive and specialised manner which does not involve ads or otherwise hassling the user (Wikipedia, distros).

Losing the commercial stuff wouldn't affect these sites, it would just mean the loss of a vast tranche of utter dross, like the Daily Mail site (which deserves to be taken down for the good of humanity), or the innumerable garbage sites which pollute google results with scraped content that doesn't even work to get people to see their ads.

Generalised, sure, but still applicable far more often than not.

14:

Several of the content producers I follow online use a freemium model: good quality free content but the promise of more to paid premium members. This seems to work quite well but it's hard to see how every site could use it. Smaller sits could form networks and apply the same model, so this blood could be linked with that of similar ones and paid extras added with the profits pooled.

Beyond that if we're allowed to go really speculative could we enter an era where most websites don't bother monetising? In the era of cheap, low powered ubicomp how expensive would it be to maintain a website? I genuinely have no idea but if the answer is negligible then I guess there would be three types of site:

- Those that make money by selling, like Amazon with its products and this site by advancing the brand
- Those that make money with premium services, YouTube content creators, social media outlets
- Those that don't bother with making money because the negligible payment to maintain their site is worth getting their message/community/cat pictures out.

15:

What I fear is that something like Mike Scott's suggestions come about, which is terrifyingly similar to ASCAP and the other copyright clearinghouses for music publishing, in which money comes from the delivery side of things, goes to the clearinghouses, and then pretty much sits there, very little of it getting to the creators.

Now, there's some differences, since the content creation is (unfortunately) more concentrated, and we're trying to get payment from the customer instead of, say, the radio station or performing arts hall. However, the introduction of middlemen will serve well to separate the content creation and content remuneration systems extremely well.

16:

Ha, yes, I do the same. In fact I take it a stage further and run ad-blocking on my visual input. Supermarkets doing that thing where they move everything around to try and make people see different stuff and buy it affect me only by making me annoyed that I can't find things any more. I know what I want to buy before I go in there, and the things I don't want to buy I literally do not see: I only perceive the specific items I'm after, and the rest is just blurry blobs.

I am reminded of EE "Doc" Smith's scene in which the first point of sympathy between Tellurians and Rigellians is the mutual discovery that members of both cultures do this.

17:

There is a Google experiment in this direction - http://www.google.com/contributor/. Basically lets you pre-pay the advertisement $$$.

Of course, this only covers one ad network (Google/DoubleClick). It might be the largest, but it's far from the only one.

(Full disclosure: I work for Google.)

18:

Maintaining a low-volume simple web site has been so cheap that nobody truly needs to monetize it, going all the way back to when I started running my own, back in the early 1990s... as long as your *content* is free.

The techies here thinking about that are missing that the content has to come from somewhere. I have a web server in my basement (really, self-hosted, no colo) that costs virtually nothing to run. (Sure, it wouldn't stand up to being slashdotted or something, but I don't care, if that happened I'd just unplug it until the noise went away.)

But that's of no use unless I have something I want to publish and make my money elsewhere... which is actually true for *me*, but is of course not true for a content producer like a writer.

Don't think of this as "how do we make sure the lights stay on in the server room?". Think of this as "how do we keep the next Walter Cronkite or Hunter S. Thompson from starving to death in the streets?".

19:

"In the era of cheap, low powered ubicomp how expensive would it be to maintain a website? I genuinely have no idea but if the answer is negligible..."

Oooo, look at the coincidence, you posting that at the same time as me :)

The answer is already "negligible". From a couple of pints a month down to zero if you have a decent ISP, assuming your site is not huge and doesn't have craploads of bandwidth-heavy content. The trouble is at the moment that either people don't realise this or are too greedy to care.

20:

"Think of this as "how do we keep the next Walter Cronkite or Hunter S. Thompson from starving to death in the streets?""

Universal dole, Basic Income, or whatever you like to call it. Remove the assumption that in order to be given the resources not to starve to death in the streets people have to be made to do something regardless of what that something actually is or whether it's useful or not. Indeed this would do a lot to mitigate an awful lot of the things that I have seen discussed since I started reading this site.

21:

Okay, so if I understand you, you're saying just make sure nobody has unmet basic needs, and we do completely away with the concept of professional content creators.

Now, just as a thought experiment, please pretend we're in a world where that's simply not going to happen, *and* the ad networks are going to collapse.

Just for fun, humor me: in *that* world, how do you prevent the next Victor Hugo or George Orwell from starving to death in the streets?

22:

Is it possible to create un-blockable ads?

Here's one stupid idea. Make your whole webpage be a single image, text and all inside. The ads are part of the image, alongside the context. Good luck blocking them.

Well, of course you can block them, but now you need a more powerful blocker, that can pattern-match on sub-images and cut them out.

Then the advertisers can start randomizing the ads, to fight the ad-blocker. Yay, a new arms race! Another step towards the strong AI that will classify us all as ads and block us from existence!

23:

Give up on un-blockable ads now please. It's not going to work. Dead end.

Either I'll come up with an ad-blocking concept that'll work (and I have a few for the ones you mentioned already), or I will simply stop consuming that content entirely (just as I've refused to consider Hulu Plus). You'd never get 100% coverage of all content everywhere, and so you'll never be the only game in town.

In fact that's the opposite of workable. You're talking about making the ads impossible to ignore. The way to prevent the advertising death spiral for as long as it can be prevented is to make ads that are so *innocuous* that nobody will *bother* to block them. What you're talking about isn't that.

If it prevents a blind person's screen reader from accessing the content at all, you've gone too far. If it doesn't, the ads can be stripped out.

24:

Don't think of this as "how do we make sure the lights stay on in the server room?". Think of this as "how do we keep the next Walter Cronkite or Hunter S. Thompson from starving to death in the streets?".

Fair point (and interesting post). I like Pigeons answer of BI but really all that shoots to mind here is that the next big thing needs to sell something. But I don't think they are the typical website that needs addressing here.

If you maintain a website to host content then automatically you have a product. You just need to figure out how much you can sell and how much to keep free to attract traffic. Whether or not you can make a living off this depends on a bunch of factors.

25:

Just for fun, humor me: in *that* world, how do you prevent the next Victor Hugo or George Orwell from starving to death in the streets?

You know, barely anyone dies from hunger in the streets in the First World today, without any Basic Income.

26:

You do know overblown rhetoric when you see it?

27:

The way to prevent the advertising death spiral for as long as it can be prevented

Why prevent it? It's fun to watch.

28:

For certain types of content "payment optional" seems to be a sustainable business model. Patreon has completely revolutionized how some types of creators make their living, shifting them from being at the fickle whims of advertisers to having a much more predictable and secure source of income. Some even make enough from their donations alone to make their creations their full-time work.

Of course this business model only works for certain types of creators and creations. I think your work would need to fill three requirements in order to be sustainable under this model: 1) it must not require large capital expenses up front (unless you pay for them out of pocket), 2) the barriers to consumption must be very low, and 3) you must produce content on a highly regular basis, at least a few times per year but the more frequently the better. These requirements are based on the need to attain a critical mass of followers in order to get enough who will donate to you to make your work a sustainable enterprise. Looking over my Patreon account all of the people I am supporting are either web comic artists or Youtubers except for one podcaster, though this probably reflects my personal tastes more than anything.

Additionally, one aspect of Patreon I personally find critical is that it shows you the current level of funding a creator is receiving. For creators that are well funded it makes me feel like I am helping to sustain their livelihood and for those who aren't as well-funded it makes me think about increasing my donation to help them out. I don't know if I would be supporting as many creators as I do for as much as I do if Patreon hid or obfuscated how much the creators earned, though this is highly subjective.

Patreon isn't the only site using this business model. Twitch.tv streamers can earn a lot of money through Twitch's built-in donation feature. Rock Paper Shotgun, a PC gaming news site, has been offering subscriptions for over a year (in exchange for the occasional exclusive article) due to almost half their readership blocking ads. Crucially none of these sites require payment upfront to access the main content.

Also, this business model is very similar to how public broadcasting works in the US. For most public radio and television stations viewers/listener donations represent the largest share of their revenue followed by corporate sponsorships and grants from non-profit foundations, and then distantly by government funding. Most government funding for public broadcasting goes towards rural stations which don't have the critical mass of viewers/listeners in their broadcast area to be sustainable.

29:

"Is there any way to get to a micro-billing infrastructure from where we are today that doesn't involve burning down the web and starting again from scratch?"

No, like a forest fire, burning needs to occur to keep the forest healthy. A comment you made is key:

"Casual information consumers won't pay for access to paywalled sites, and a lot of the struggling/bottom-feeding resources on the web are engaged in a zero-sum game for access to the same eyeballs that are increasingly irritated by the clickbait and attention-grabbing excesses of the worst advertisers."

There is only a certain amount of money that can be extracted from "casual information consumers", and there are currently way too many information producers pursuing those eyeballs. That underbrush needs to go, and mobile ad blockers may just be the lightning strike that does it. Let's be completely honest here: while we all have our favorites, exceptions, and/or guilty pleasures, most of what gets produced in the "casual information" economy is utter crap.

But like with all forest fires, life come back faster and better than one might expect. When it does, there will be three layers in the information economy:

1. Stuff that is produced and distributed for free. This is what's left of today's ad-supported model. Ad-supported content will never be able to pay enough to provide content creators with any reasonable income in and of itself, but you probably can make enough to pay for your distribution costs because conveniently ad revenue and distribution costs both rise with the number of viewers. Still, people will create content in this space for various reasons other than getting paid. In fact, they may actually pay for the privilege of doing so. Your blog is good example of this: you do it because it promotes your projects that DO pay, and also just because you find it to be a useful/enjoyable thing to do. This level of content will be populated by (a) enthusiasts who just want to share info with each other to further their passions, (b) stuff that fills up third-party networks that survive by selling their members data (Facebook), and (c) the lowest level of commercial content creation aimed at people too dumb to install an ad blocker (the "penis enhancement" level of advertising). Outside of some decent enthusiast content on niche topics, most of what lives here will continue to be utter crap. Like spam email, it will live on, but everyone will do their best to minimize it and most of it will never see a live eyeball.

2. Decent casual content that is supported by micro payments (and maybe some small subscriptions). This is where most casual, mainstream journalism will occur. Someone will figure out micro payments. I don't know who, but someone will. It will probably take some kind of large entity to act as a fully automated middleman, so my bet is on Google/Apple/Amazon. (I guarantee Google is thinking about it with the new Android pay app, and Amazon is gradually sliding down the slope of payment scale with the Prime/Kindle set of tools. $.99 ebook? How about $.50? $.20? $.00125 for a snippet? Or just included with Prime?) Whatever it is, micropayments will be involve (a) users paying the middleman some amount of money up front that is large enough to not need a microscope, (b) tracking and automated aggregation of everyone the user owes money to over a certain period of time (probably monthly), (c) appropriate caps so that the middleman isn't stuck with too high of a bill if the user flakes out on payment (e.g. "We will not accept any charges more than $.05 per transaction from content creators, and we'll notify users when they've hit $20), and (d) an automated periodic settling of accounts with content creators.

3. Non-casual (technical) content. I work for a publisher that creates content for people in technical fields (law, accounting, insurance), and we're doing reasonably well with this, but we know that we have to put out stuff that is good enough that the readers really feel that they need to have it to do their jobs well. If you can play on this level, you can charge the type of money that can keep you in business as a publisher (~$100+ per book or book-like electronic equivalent). But our economics are completely different that those in the casual information economy (including fiction/genre publishers). Even with charging what we do, our authors do not expect to make a living by writing. They make their living by doing the technical things they write about, and the books are way of enhancing and developing recognition of their talents. And we still have some ads, and battle piracy, and all of that isn't easy.

So that's what I think we'll see in 3-5 years: Free stuff produced by amateurs and scammers, professional but casual content supported by micro payments, and technical content supported mostly by subscriptions. And of course, the boundaries will always be kind of fuzzy.

30:

So, the mix of free and paid content can work for some. It's fragile, but it can work.

The puzzle as I see it, as related to Charlie's original question specifically about microtransactions, is that whole "mix of free and paid" stuff comes about *because* we don't have a good micropayment infrastructure today. (I mean *real* micropayments, like paying 1/1,000,000 € to read a page.) So you have content below a cost threshold that you round down to zero, and you have content above a cost threshold that you round up to a for-real grown-up non-micro payment.

Given the reality of the true costs of transaction processing, I don't have a clue what to do about that.

The scale *can* be driven down over time so smaller and smaller payments become feasible over time, but I don't know how to build a system that lets that scaling down in individual transaction value (and "therefore" scaling up in absolute transaction count) be driven by market forces and the like as opposed to technological advancement. Which is the magic I think we'd need for truly completely viable microtransactions.

32:

Anyway, this leads to my question: is there any way to get to a micro-billing infrastructure from where we are today that doesn't involve burning down the web and starting again from scratch?

So: are there any promising distributed microbilling payment platforms out there on the horizon, other than the Google and Apple company stores? And if not, what is to be done?

What is the problem with micro-billing anyway, besides laziness of the potential customers? Is it still too expensive?

I think we are just sitting in a bad spot of the Nash equilibrium. Consumers got used to crappy content adorned with ads, and don't demand anything better, and Producers can't afford to create better content, because they can't support it with ads. It's an endless circle of crap.

33:

"micro-payments"
Trouble is, once you've established that as a system, someone/some-group will start jacking the prices up & ripping everyone off.
Then what?

34:

(Incidentally, back in my payment processing internet startup days, when I was living and breathing this, I did brainstorm and daydream about an eventual hyper-advanced payment infrastructure with arbitrarily low overhead that would "lubricate" all manner of transactions as much as anyone wanted. I got to the point of imagining a system where any time anyone took an action that made your life a tiny bit better or made you a tiny bit happier, some very small floating point value was automatically and without deliberate action added to their running balance. I ended up calling the currency "Karma". I don't see it ever becoming practical.)

35:

As a user, my concern would be twofold:
1) how do I monitor how much I'm spending?i.e. how do I know the cost of that webpage for me, and how do I make sure I don't spend more than I'm willing to spend on webpages per month while keeping the internet lifestyle I'm accustomed to(I read a lot on the net)? Technically this problem is easily solvable, but I'm pretty sure it's a hard solution to implement from a social POV

2)If the cost is deducted automatically, how do I make sure I don't click a link that refreshes automatically every 10 minutes and demands, say, a dollar per refresh?And what happens to auto-refreshers if I forget the tab open while I leave the computer running to do calculations or work on other stuff?(yes, rebates are a possible course, but they tend to be a pain)

36:

Then buy from someone else?

37:

I have been pondering some of the same questions over the last four or five years.

The closest service that provides some way of rewarding content creators is Flattr where each user presses a flattr button on a site supporting it and sets aside a pile of money to spend each month. The money is distributed among the sites, based on how many times you have flattr'ed them in the last month. (Disclaimer: I have never used Flattr, the above is from memory of description.)

Alternative venues of income are things like donations, premium memberships, paywalls or selling stuff.

The area of micro payments is an interesting alternative. Given that your global IP address comes from your ISP, it would be possible for any site to bill ISPs who could forward the bill to you (or include it in your subscription).

However, such a service could result in a lot of abuse. Aside from clickbait, we also need to set a price. Should the price be set by the site, some treaty or your ISP? What if a piece of malware starts accessing a high-price site millions of times? What about ISPs who refuse to process payments? When is the ISP billed - when the first request is given or when a page is loaded?

38:

Not particularly on-topic, or at all.
Okay, I'm a day behind due to iPad update-fuckuppery. Only took 24 hours to get it done and working--not counting over night trying to ignore it. 8 hours yesterday to download and then freezing up during restart, and then wanting to be plugged into itunes, which said it would take from 18-76 hours to download over multiple attempts. So put it away.
This morning downloaded in 2 hours, and was successful. I was worried it would restore original settings and I'd lose a bunch of docs, but that didn't happen. What did happen was that my old word processor app no longer works--disappointing, but not a total surprise. Fortunately I had back-ups of my novels, and was able to make copies of the rest of the files via itunes, so nothing lost. Phew. Anyone have suggestions for a new writing app?
Haven't had a chance to check out all the new bits.

Now back to read the comments.

39:

not forgetting this site which as far as I can tell Charlie runs on much the same basis as I do

Actually, this side is an ad.

It's just that what it's advertising is my writing. (If you like this stuff, you might want to buy some books ... and so on.)

I've lately broadened out into sharing the soapbox with other folks, mostly writers, but again it's on the basis of them having something to say that is probably of interest to folks who want to see what I have to say, not actual product advertising as such.

40:

The second is for the ethical ad networks to get together and create a really really good ad blocker for all platforms that only blocks unethical ad networks


AdBlock Plus is actually doing just that. Aside from the usually discreet ads on the google search page, the response from advertisers and ad-funded sites have been accusations of blackmail.

41:

I signed up for Google Contributor when it came out. I signed up for a monthly contribution of $10. So far they've paid out $0.12 to rotten tomatoes, and also paid out to some other sites for amounts that are too small to report, whatever that means. The total number of ads I have skipped using this is 62 between 9/12 and 9/18.

So to me this looks like a stunning failure, but there are some interesting tidbits. First of all, it seems likely that $10 would pay for a lot of surfing. Second, for whatever reason not enough sites that a (if I do say so) discerning Internet reader visits advertise with Google. For example, Wired apparently does not, and consequently has gotten no revenue from me, since I block flash and all their ads are flash ads. Same with boingboing and engadget and slashdot. So a lot of money is being left on the table.

42:

Here's one stupid idea. Make your whole webpage be a single image, text and all inside. The ads are part of the image, alongside the context. Good luck blocking them.

Well yes, except that images are really bandwidth-hungry. There's a large body of empirical research that says if a user spends more than a couple of seconds waiting for a page to load they'll hit the "back" button without waiting; trying to load a 2000x2000 24 bit color PNG or JPG image of a page -- probably running to megabytes in size, even with compression -- ain't gonna fly.

Basically, ads consume bandwidth -- which is paid for by the viewer, not by the advertiser. Your workaround just shifts the stage at which bandwidth is consumed slightly. It doesn't do anything to force the public to look at your site, and if anything it deters them. Oh, and you know something else? It falls foul of disability law and it's not going to be indexed by google or the other web search engines because they'd need to OCR your page image ...

43:

Here's a stupid, non-tech answer: in Africa, they're using their phones to pay for all sorts of things. Basically, the amount of money in the phone account is something like a debit card, at least as I understand it.

Now, if you can couple this with a packet sniffer that identifies the origin of each data packet the account user consumes, can charge the consumer's account for consuming that packet, and can transfer some part of that charge to the content provider (taking the rest as a cost/profit on the transaction), then you might have a working system. You could even theoretically reuse all that adware bandwidth to this purpose.

Now, how you get there from here, I haven't a clue, any more than I know how to stop a man-in-the-middle attack on such a revenue stream keeping the payment from reaching the content provider, or bogus consumers ripping off accounts to feed fake content providers.

Still, if we ever go to a more African-style "pay for everything with your phone" system, this kind of microbilling might become more feasible.

Of course, it also means that packet sniffers become part of daily life...

44:

Decent casual content that is supported by micro payments (and maybe some small subscriptions). This is where most casual, mainstream journalism will occur. Someone will figure out micro payments. I don't know who, but someone will. It will probably take some kind of large entity to act as a fully automated middleman, so my bet is on Google/Apple/Amazon.


One annoying feature of the subscription model is that you have to sign up and log in ... ugh. I, for one, would not mind subscribing to a few decent newspapers (I currently subscribe to one), managing all those bloody user accounts is a chore. The notion of subscribing to middlemen (like Flattr or Google/Apple/Amazon/Facebook) who give access and pay content creators is interesting, as it allows me to manage the subscriptions in a centralized and convenient manner. However, I am a bit conserned with them becoming groups of cartels. Or rather, I would be if Google/Facebook/Amazon weren't getting pretty close to that, not to mention the empire of Rupert Murdoch.

45:

One thing the current advertising model does much to enable is 'content laundering', in which content is either copied verbatim or minimally re-written before being published on a site with the kind of social reach necessary to make the content go viral. The original author gets nothing, but because the advertising revenue stream is indirect, we don't really perceive the injustice. If I had just paid to read that content, I'd be upset if I realised that my money was going to a re-publisher and not the original author - there's a visceral sense of injustice that doesn't exist with advertising revenue.

So, a micropayment system might help here. One could imagine a blockchain system whereby someone publishes something, and records the checksum of their content in the blockchain. Wherever that content is reproduced, others could immediately make a micropayment to that person (I handwavingly assume some kind of content-addressable storage where I can look up the author using the checksum of the content). I presume that with sufficiently smart blockchain tech a person could sell a share of their future revenue to an investor/employer in return for regular or upfront payment, so this might preserve something similar to the existing spectrum of writing for hire, publishing contracts, advances and so forth.

The checksum obviously helps us to identify illegitimate copies, though it would be trivially easy to adjust some punctuation and get a different checksum. I'm not sure how I feel about the countermeasure of copyright violation bots that would scan the available content-space for such tricks - at a high enough level of sophistication they should even be able to detect entirely rewritten copies that nevertheless violate the original copyright. There's a reductio ad absurdum in which if I repeat some anecdote or phrase you once told me, I get a micro-bill of 0.00002 ETH from your copyright agent bot or something, but aside from the absurdity of the notion it's quite hard to see what the philosophical objection to that would be. Just imagine how much we all owe the first person to use the words 'mansplaining' or 'bae' in back-payments for their innovation!

To go back to the original question, I don't think that this involves burning down the web. The underlying protocols are OK - not great, but also less bad than many others. Nothing I've described is made impossible by the architecture of the web, so it doesn't have to die in order for micropayments to happen. There are other good reasons for the web to die, but this isn't one of them.

46:

this is somewhat what i was thinking about - a way to make me, the reader, the person who pays x. because then *i'm* the system's customer. not the content provider.

47:

Yes, we can add micropayments to the web without burning it down and starting again. There's even a "402 Payment Required" HTTP status code reserved for future use.

One way: server is configured to know which pages are free, and which (if any) require payment, and how much. When a browser makes a request for a paid page, the server would respond with that status code and informational headers which indicate what payment gateway(s) are supported, what the cost of the page is, and a blurb of partial content to show to the user (so they can decide whether to pay or not).

The browser, on getting this response, prompts the user whether to pay or abort viewing the page. If they decide to pay (and it could remember this choice for a site, if you wanted to just automatically pay in future), the browser can submit a payment transaction to one of the specified gateways/companies where the user already has an account set up (like Paypal... who are in a good position to be the first company in this space) and get back a confirmation token which is then submitted to the original publication site along with the request. The server then verifies that token with the payment gateway and serves the page.

The process looks a lot like a 401 Unauthorized response, where the browser has to resubmit the request with additional information (in that case, authentication info; in this one, payment info).

C.

48:

Saying the options exist is not causing them to really exist. The "Join our network" kind of thing can work, and work reasonably well. AOL was that kind of thing. But to get all the parties that you listed to agree...well...

The one about "only ethical ads", however, is totally unworkable. There are too many divergent opinions about what ethical means. And management always reserves the right to change policy, and they listen very attentively to marketing. Even simpler approaches don't continue to work. E.g., I have refused to install Flash, because it's a security hazard, to HTML5 has come along and includes many of the features of Flash that I find objectionable. So far there's been no large movement towards using them, but it's purely a matter of time. (Currently most browsers don't support HTML5.)

Now as to the first option, again, the one of multiple providers getting together to form a subscription site, I see that as magazines redux, and I wouldn't expect there to be only one. The problem is that you don't encounter them on the drugstore checkout line, but that may be soluble by "trial subscriptions".

49:

Silvio Micali and Ron Rivest's company "Peppercoin" offered a micropayment system circa 2002 that also solved the "fixed billing overhead" problem. Trouble is, they were literally 10 years ahead of the market.

Wikipedia has a summary, and the technical papers are online at MIT.

As for a magical means of switching from the present mess to a new one, how about an ad blocker that threw micropayments at stubborn ad content to make it go away? We already have ad blockers where you can opt to view certain ads so that the hosting site doesn't block your blocker...

50:

Amazon (apologies) recently launched "Underground" https://developer.amazon.com/public/solutions/underground

Essentially, part of a PRIME members' subscription, content providers (game/app developers at the moment) are paid by Amazon according to the amount of time a subscriber spends in the app/game. The rules are that the app/game has no in-app payment (so essentially the entire, highest value game or app is delivered at the outset, or at the very least optional components are included for no additional charge)

I'm unclear if this is a net positive for smaller (non blockbuster) developers, who have generally had to rely on an ad-supported or freemium model anyway. As a consumer, I love that I have access to apps without ads.

This is similar, I suppose, to the Kindle Unlimited model, which has some drawbacks (especially for established authors), but which I have used as a consumer to read back-list titles and new (to me) authors. It hasn't stopped me buying books!

However, the rapid switch to subscription based media *has* resulted in me no longer buying DVDs/Blurays - I either get it from Netflix or RedBox on disk (rental), or I watch it on demand (fixed period rental) or via my subscription.

51:

Cory Doctorow proposed a similar "reputation currency" called Whuffie in his debut novel: "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom:

52:

for example, I don't buy Apple electronics products because of the ads, I buy them because I'm a satisfied 25-year returning customer.

And the Apple advertising leads head for the door, switching off the lights as they go saying "Our work here is done."

You're the target for the advertising you think you can and do ignore. It's not as crude as "Buy more Veeblefetzers!" blaring from the radio every five minutes but advertising hasn't been that crude for half a century and more. One of the abilities of top-rank advertisers is to get their consumers to believe deep in their hearts they aren't influenced by advertising while paying again and again for their short-life consumable product because of their advertising.

53:

There's one alternative that's quite famous in the UK that's neither of the above the options. The BBC runs a HUGE website with all kinds of content. There's obviously the news and sport, but it hosts a gigantic amount of educational content, recipes and much, much more.

This is, to use a phrase from elsewhere in our culture, free at the point of demand, but supported in effect by an annual or monthly subscription in the form of TV licensing. Somewhere in the blurb that DCMS has produced about charter review it talks about how much bbc.co.uk costs - but of course that cost is amortised across every household and many businesses not just users.

Would this work for other things? People subscribe to Sky Sports, Sky Movies and the like - not me, but Sky TV, whatever they're called these days, rely on this business model to survive. If they gave you free subscription to curated ad-free relevant web-content as well... I can imagine that working. If they gave suitably cheap add-on ad-free web-content, I'm less sure but then I'm not the target audience.

I AM, however, the target audience for the iOS content blockers. I've just bought one for my iPad. It's nice not to get spammed by adverts yes. But it's wonderful to see an iPad load nearly all webpages in 2-3 seconds again. Some pages it loads faster than desktop computer, despite the fact the desktop is wired in to the router via an ethernet cable. The desktop still downloads all the advertising banners and stuff.

I'm not sure about a micro-payment system. Technologically I'm sure it could be done I'm not sure I'd go for it culturally. If Google's model of advertising is dying, and Facebook relies on that too, Apple offers a curated walled garden model. So do things like Netflix in a different media environment. I happily pay Netflix £6/month even if I happen not to watch anything in a given month (although that's rare) and if I watch a couple of hours (I rarely watch that little) it's cheaper than a cinema ticket. I haven't seriously thought about the amount I'd pay for a "Newsflicks" or a similar service (and a lot of what I read is author's blogs and the like that come essentially ad free anyway) but perhaps a monthly subscription into a curated walled garden is a more realistic system than a micro-payment system?

54:

@ 9: This might be a fun chat to tap Krugman for...

My thought exactly, but you got there first. This should be up his alley, unless it's too micro.

55:

I have some experience on the subject, as I worked on the subject while at France Telecom circa 1996. At the time, FT made about a billion euros a year in revenue from the Minitel, which was basically a glass terminal with a 1200/75 modem connected to something like a premium-rate number. We could see the writing on the wall for the service, but there was a whole ecosystem of content providers who needed to be moved, kicking or screaming if need be. The first order of business was convincing them that billing by the minute made no sense whatsoever on the web.

We ended up making a system that routed requests for paid content (on a per-page basis) via a proxy server that used network authentication to identify which account would be billed, along with provisions to not bill the customer again if he reloaded the page, ways to ensure the customer did in fact agree to pay for the content, and so on. The charges would be put on their ISP bill. We also got patents for the system. That said, it had modest adoption, and 5 years later when I went to visit my former colleagues, I found out they made a modest million euros per month or so, mostly from selling ring tones.

The technical mechanism is unimportant. The real issue is that micropayments impose mental transaction costs that end up being prohibitive. Prof. Andrew Odlyzko has excellent articles on the subject: http://www.dtc.umn.edu/~odlyzko/doc/case.against.micropayments.pdf

Advertising is going down the tubes, micropayments are too exhausting and most people are cheapskates who refuse to pay for content (economists have done experiments that show when people buy a dead-trees newspaper, they literally pay for the paper and value the information contained therein at zero). The conundrum of how to fund journalism is not going away. The reality is there is simply too much content, most of it generic commodity and of low quality, and the market won't reach equilibrium until a good many publishers go out of business so the survivors can start charging again. There will still be free "content" of the Faux News ilk, used to further a political or lobbying agenda. Premium high-value content will remain subscription-based like today, and a lot will be bundled as a loss-leader by platforms like Facebook, Google or Apple News who make money somewhere else. Finally some journalism will be funded by non-profits like the BBC, Grauniad or the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Another excellent article boy Odlyzko, "Content is Not King": http://www.dtc.umn.edu/~odlyzko/doc/history.communications2.pdf

56:

Another note on subscription vs micro-payment. Like others here I support some creators through a Patreon subscription (currently larger than my equivalent Amazon/Netflix costs). I don't mind subsidizing those folks who get to see the content for free, mainly because *I WANT TO SEE MORE OF THAT CONTENT*.

It's enlightened self-interest.

Unlike renaissance patronage, this is a form of micropayment (I believe it can be as low as a dollar or so a month for some folks), and it' one that lots of people could live with. At $5 a month, it doesn't take too many patrons to be able to eke out a median living (at worst).

57:

Casual Information Users can only be super-stingy because they're still on a web where content is mostly supported by advertising (including illegal sites scraping content like Rob describes). In a Web/App Ecosystem where the only free stuff they'd have access to consists of

1. Non-profit apps/pages
2. Sponsored content pages
3. Freemium access

They'd have to open their wallets to enjoy more than a limited slice of the Web. I imagine they'd probably favor "bundles" of access built along a subscription or Patreon-style model, rather than tons of micro-transactions.

In fact, a No-More-Ads Web might just bundle the costs for a lot of sites into your broadband subscription - or at least those that can negotiate that, which would almost certainly include Facebook, Google, and a host of other major platforms.

58:

Here's some people making micropayments work - by proving articles from many, many, many publishers:

https://medium.com/on-blendle/blendle-a-radical-experiment-with-micropayments-in-journalism-365-days-later-f3b799022edc

I wish they'd expand to the UK. I'd pay them happily.

59:

Let's say the minimum unit of micropayment is 1 credit. It's a SFF site, after all. It's the amount that a content provider is paid for a packet of data, say, although there's no reason providers can't charge more.

One could also specify that each carrier in the chain (the cable companies, the ISPs, etc.) each charge one credit for the packet to go over their chunk of the Net.

The final charge in credits comes out of the consumer's account with her end ISP. When she accepts the charge and opens the content, credits flow back down, paying each packet carrier and the ultimate provider.

That's my simplistic mechanism for how this could work, although you'd need quite a blockchain to make sure each credit ended up in the right account.

You could even run a web server with a little dashboard that told you how much you were spending to view content, and you could have front pages that told you how much it would cost you to view something before you got into it. Probably this would be like the health meter in a first person shooter, and probably it would annoy old school users like me, but it might work.

Of course, how many credits per dollar is a key question.

Note that this approach favors local blogs over foreign video, so the political roadblocks come from both content providers and consumers who want to stream huge files like foreign videos, while those doing research on documents will get by fairly cheaply. Actually, the whole academic publishing industry might oppose this too, because it devalues their content in comparison to, say, soap operas.

But again, how do you get there from here?

60:

Micro-payments have been successfully implemented within the context of closed (or mostly closed) systems, such as MMOs. I believe that Second Life was the first such platform to go all in for micro-payments. What all these MMO micro-payment systems share is that people don't pay in "real" currency, but instead use real world currency to purchase special in-game currency, where each "point" of currency is worth from half a cent to a few cents.

Based on this, I would predict that an effective online micro-payment system would first emerge from a closed system such as the Apple iOS. There is a lot of money to be made as the virtual central bank, if you have nearly complete control over the ecosystem.

A bit of a rant: I block ads. I block ads because a significant portion of them are full of bad code that slows down my system significantly (whether through malice or incompetence, I can't tell) and others start flash, audio, or video streams without my permission. When I see one of those sites that used to crash my browser with their ads, posting messages like "we detect you are using an ad blocker, please consider...", I just roll my eyes. I was fine with ads until they started breaking my internet experience.

61:

Advertising is not going away, the only reason Ad blockers work at the moment is because the Ad content is easily distinguishable from the "real" content. While the lost revenue from ad blockers is less than the amount of effort required to break the ad blockers the status quo prevails. At some point the (and ad blocking going mainstream in IOS9 could be the tipping point), the advertising companies will invest in new tech to make the ads indistinguishable from the content (think product placement in tvs and movies).

On the tech side this is pretty straight forward to do, they will just need to server the ad content from the same servers as the non-ad content.. most probably a reverse proxy layer in-front that fetches the non-ad content then just inserts the adverts. If that layer lives in the advertising companies network there is nothing really for the content producers to do except update their DNS.

62:

Two other thoughts on micro-payments:

Could some of the net neutrality laws and regulation in various jurisdictions prohibit some types of micropayment systems?

The internet is world wide (the first two "W"s in www). Consider that what we in the west think of as a micro-payment could easily be a several hours labor for an internet user in a developing nation.

63:

I do think we can get there. Advertising won't go away because some people will prefer it to paying, but eventually there will be choices for those who don't want ads. Lots of current micropayment efforts have been described above. I don't think any of them get things quite right so my research group is releasing a new one called Tipsy ( http://tipsy.csail.mit.edu/ ).

There's an important distinction to be made between (forced) micro payments and (voluntary) micro donations (Tipsy does the latter).

For micro payments, you have to manage authentication, carefully check whose allowed to see what, and prevent circumvention. I think it will ultimately be done through a payment network, where you sign up to a system that tracks your usage, bills you once, then distributes the proceeds to the sites you visited. Single sign on handles the authentication part; sites will then check if you are someone who's paying into a network and, if so, let you see content. Lots of privacy problems here of course. It's much harder to deploy than micro-donations.

I'm more excited about micro-donations. I'm an optimist about Internet users' willingness to pay, and think that the only reason this hasn't taken off is that it's still too complicated. Tools like Flattr make you click buttons (after deciding if you like something enough to click). Others make it hard for you to manage your budget (how much content am I going to consume this month, so I know how much to give for this one). Others have real trouble with micro-consumption: if this is the only article I ever read on this site, I'm not willing to spend the time to make a 2 cent donation. And all of them require significant work on the content provider side to integrate the system with the providers web site.

We've tried to address these issues with Tipsy. All a content provider does is put a small text file on their site listing their paypal or dwolla account. Tipsy is a (currently chrome only) browser extension that looks for those files and, over time, total up the amount of time you spend on each (in you browser, so it stays private). Periodically, it presents you with a statement describing how you've divided up your time and recommending how much you should donate to each provider. It builds a page with paypal (or dwolla) buttons to let you make those payments with a single click.

We're just beginning to recruit content providers for tipsy---right now, Pro Publica is the only one participating. But I'd love for you to install and play with the extension, and welcome feedback on the extension, the idea, and the site.

64:

Anyone remember the early days of Google, before they merged with Doubleclick, when they specialized in small, unobtrusive, low-bandwidth, text-based ads! The Internet went crazy with support. Heck, even Slashdot was pro-ad for a change. (And that was before Slashdot got bought by Dice.)

I'm not entirely sure, but it seems like there might be a clue to a reasonable way forward there. Assuming anyone on either side is interested in or willing to work towards a reasonable way forward.

I could imagine, say, a low-level negotiation between browsers and servers, where the browser tells the server how much bandwidth the user is willing to waste on ads, and the server responds by telling the browser how much of the content will be available in that case.

Of course, there would always be cheaters (probably on both sides; certainly on the advertiser's side), but it could be treated like spam. Do business with spammers, and your reputation goes in the dumper. The idea of automatically calculated reputation scores isn't outside the realm of possibility.

65:

it's difficult to see a future without advertising: what else would berks do?

No, don't answer that.

Try this: picture a world in which 40 or 50% of the content is paid for by subscription by the few and micropayments from the many. Then 60%, then 70.

As advertising gets squeezed, it gets nastier: flashier, noisier, more intrusive and more dangerous.

You would think that the retreat would become a rout, and advertising would disappear. And in a logical world, you'd be right.

But in the real world, there will always be something to sell, and a repellent berk with the gift of convincing people that giving money to berks is the key to selling it. They will succeed in this as long as advertising works.

And adblockers are the game changer here.

I doubt that adblockers will ever be 100% effective, so advertising will continue to work, and there will be an enduring economic niche for berks. But it will be a small one, and the ad-supported space will be tiny...

Perhaps no more than 30% of all space

...And toxic: because bottom-feeding and free-riding and flat-out larceny will never disappear from an economy of manipulative liars.

66:

We seem to be well on the way to multiple micro-billing infrastructures without burning the web down.

"Gamification" of apps is trendy in the mobile app space, and those are basically micropayment systems. I'd guess that there is very serious money at stake, since Game of War: Fire Age is currently bombarding Aus TV viewers with very expensive TV ads despite the game itself being a free initial download.

And the other thing that's trendy, at least in the iOS development circles which I follow, is turning Web sites into apps. Facebook have an iOS app, and they also have their new content distribution scheme.

Phones are either the dominant form of Internet access for most people or soon will be. What we're seeing with ads on the web is a dying ecosystem.

67:

BitCoin isn't the answer but...

Microbilling systems seem to very accurate identification of individual internet users and very accurate tracking of individual web requests. (Maybe not foolproof, but if it's too easy to falsify either, it will not succeed.)

Yes, governments can and do extract such info from the web systems we have today. But this is going to make it really, really, easy for them :-(

68:

Phones are either the dominant form of Internet access for most people or soon will be. What we're seeing with ads on the web is a dying ecosystem.

Outside the twitterverse and social media, how much content comes from people's phones?

I suspect we're seeing a diversification of the internet. Consumption is phone-driven. Production still relies on computers. We're not quite at the Stand on Zanzibar point where someone can reprogram the web through their phone, and somehow, I doubt we ever will be.

The interesting part is that there's a social divide here: those who have only phones are limited to consuming and transacting. Creation depends on more complex equipment. I wonder how the privilege of owning a keyboard will play out, socially and politically?

69:

"...how do you prevent the next Victor Hugo or George Orwell from starving to death in the streets?"

It's not much of a stretch to say that Orwell did, by his own choice. (OK, not the "to death" bit.) Hugo ate the animals out of the zoo, but apart from that episode I don't think he ever had much to worry about. Well-off family, pension from the king, tremendous popularity...

Both of them were around long before anyone had the idea of supporting your writing with advertising, and both of them survived...

70:

Yes, but it's not too far off - you provide interesting content at your own expense, you obviously wouldn't do it if you didn't get some enjoyment from it, and any financial benefit it brings you is pretty nebulous and unquantifiable.* It's still close enough to my idea to count for what was in any case a pretty imprecise point :)

* At least, I assume so in default of any reason to think otherwise. I wonder how well it works? I found this site through Google, and only had any reason to google you because I already liked your work. I don't think I'd have found it eventually through general browsing anyway. The website that did make me think your work would be worth checking out in the first place was TV Tropes.

71:

Thanks for bringing up Odlyzko's work. I'd remembered the gist but forgot the source. It's worth a read.

I suspect bundling is probably the best answer. I wouldn't pay much for an old movie, but Netflix sets a reasonable price for thousands of them. Similarly, a $5 charge for, say, 100 downloads from a large selection will probably go down better for most people than individual transactions at $0.05 a download.

The biggest problem with micropayments is always going to be in the name. They're micro. If an artist has a few thousand followers, it's a pittance. An artist with millions of followers can probably either raise prices out of the micropayment range or make better money on auxiliaries (convention speeches, t-shirts, etc.).

72:

Anyway, this leads to my question: is there any way to get to a micro-billing infrastructure from where we are today that doesn't involve burning down the web and starting again from scratch?

Yes.

It's called taxes.

They already pay for the internet.


Anyone who pretends that the vast networks of fibre cable, that stretch across the entire earth, wasn't built by governments is an idiot.

Sure, there's some private investment in there, but the legality, the diplomacy and the initial drive was done by governments.


Trolls. Rentiers. Scum.


Oh, look - there's SOPA again, being pushed on the end of a bill regulating beetroot fungi levels!


p.s.


If you want an insight into this, grab hold of a map of the undersea cables and so on, then wonder why Svalbard (population: about 40,000) has two (yes TWO) of the largest pipes known to man when New Zealand (population 4.4 million) has only a single one, and it's not comparable in bandwidth.


DERP.

73:

I don't think the technology of some sort of plugin is a challenge, it's leveraging an existing relationship to get payment info from the user. Mobile seems like a better ecosystem to focus on.

Facebook is an obvious option - you could do InstantArticles with ads, or for payments.

Most of the top mobile apps (MAUs) are owned by Facebook, Google, Apple.

Amazon could definitely do this. Heck, they could roll it into Prime or something.

NetFlix already has payment info. Seems unlikely to me, too much of a stretch for them.

Any of the payment processors could jump in. Stripe just launched their Relay API which, among other things, lets you complete purchases right within a tweet. Braintree (now part of PayPal) could definitely jump in.

74:

I am gonna decompose the post into two bits

First, advertising death spiral, adblocker, total fantasy not even close to happening and will never ever happen. Year over year spend continues to rise by around 18%. Ad blockers are almost irrelevant as the revenue streams are moving quickly to mobile anyway, and even for web if the adblockers ever start becoming a problem (they aren't curently a problem, they are increasing and being wached but not a problem) they are dead easy to disable and very very hard to re-enable, the arms raise is totally on the side of the content producer

Is there a lunatic fringe that might stop using the internet or certain sites over disabling ad blockers? Sure, but they are way too small to matter. Especially given that as advertising gets better and better it becomes very difficult to tell it from content

Now micropayments, sure, why not, tons of easy ways to do that and there is certainly a market. The main blocker is legacy financial institutions and their ridiculous markups, however easy to work around those if really needed. Most likely people to do that is PayPal, especially given they are now freed from eBay

75:

The government pays for a lot of overseas fiber but don't think it is close to a majority anymore

Inside the US the government pays for almost none of it these days, hence the entire net neutrality debate.

Regardless using it for commerce is just like using a road the government pays for

76:

Micropayments...

Apple might be able to do it. If they wanted to. Don't charge per-view, do a Spotify-style model instead. Apple could acquire free access to content when accessed via iOS from a large majority of the top 1,000 non-porn paid sites in the world (and ad-block the rest). Tout it as an advantage of iOS "What you want, when you want, without fees or ads", instead of that nasty ad-ridden Android thing.

Microsoft could possibly do the same, and add it into the subscription cost for the Windows OS. But you'd never get the enterprise market buying it, and I don't know how much of a lifespan the home PC has.

(Why spotify-type subscription and not charge per view? Because no-one wants a waiter standing behind them at a restaurant charging them 50p every time they take a bite. People want to pay and then relax and enjoy.)

77:

So, no Amazon or other online retailers? Count me and everyone who lives outside central markets out with a vengeance.

When I was 14 Amazon was started, and even with shipping costs, the ability to browse and order books online without having to rely on my closest retailer to decide they might have a buyer and order it for their English language section was..revolutionary.

78:

I think micropayments have all the problems tiered telecoms pricing does; people are willing to pay to know what their bill is going to be ahead of time. It's totally not a question of technical ability, it's that any kind of micropayment model will collapse into basic cable.

People in general do not agree that content creators, as a class, ought to get paid. This is because most of the content out there is worthless to any particular person. (Look at the successful webcomics; it's at best a couple percent, and generally way less, of the free viewership who buy stuff. That wee fraction is sufficient to making a living.)

The consumer wants an accurate labelling system; the seller doesn't, because accurate labelling reduces overall sales. ("I want a book like a Patrick O'Brian novel"'s honest answer is "good luck with that", rather than "try this stuff that involves at least one mention of a violin".)

Plus there's a whole bunch of drive to parasitize because cheap replication makes parasitizing so easy.

"Ecosystem" in computers is "the cost of going somewhere else is high"; the app mechanism destroys interoperability because interoperability is bad, it facilities a desire to stop giving you money. (Think of how often phone number transfer had to be legislated very specifically.)

So, really, to produce a solution to the "ads, threat or menace?" problem, you need something that reduces everybody's insecurity; people have to be able to get to what they want, the content creator has to be able to get paid, and the intermediaries... well, we can't entirely do without them, there has to be a viable business model, but we need some way to keep them from pulling all the benefit out of the system, and some means of structurally enforcing that or you get farming. (Farm productivity in Anglo NorAm since 1950 -- roughly tripled. Farm income in constant dollars, same period, roughly flat. That's what a robust intermediary does.)

I'd totally socialize it. Give the various national archives and copyright offices something to do.

Content creator uploads the thing; citizen and residents download the thing. Total usage gets tracked, legislated rates get paid at the legislated schedule, generally as a "this much for art/share of pie" thing. Cross-border can't be any harder than the existing tax treaties. Grant funding for collective projects can come out of overage, official "tenner to vote" fundraising contests, permit the content creators duration-limted time-delay limited access setups so they've got something to sell on the kickstarter-or-equivalent, it really wouldn't be hard.

And it would be a reason to think about socializing the network infrastructure, which it really ought to be.

79:

Might help if Charlie can give some idea on what kind of service would need to be microbilled?

80:

AdBlock Plus fails on a couple of counts. First, their criteria for an acceptable ad say nothing about do-not-track, which is crucial. Second, they charge money for getting your ads listed as acceptable. The EFF's Privacy Badger is doing better along those lines, as it won't block ads from websites that state that they comply with the EFF's do-not-track policy.

81:

Maybe I'm just getting old but it seems every time a new system comes out to capture money from us punters, within a few days, someone comes out with a way to circumvent it. Thinking regional DRM, online ads even - many of the comments above are arguing which adblocker is better and their respective merits etc instead of looking at the underlying premise that they were created as they filled a need. People don't want crap thrown in their face.

I honestly can't see any kind of micro payment system being any different. I don't mind paying for quality content adfree, but hell will freeze over before I pay money to Google *not* to receive ads (not the least due to their international tax dodging strategies - CD makes a very important point above governments - ie taxpayers, you and me - already paying for the infrastructure)And to the commenter who wrote about the U.S. not paying for infrastructure, well not paying tax on revenue in the U.S. IS a payment to that corporation.

If a site is too ad clunky, I don't bother with it irrespective of the content. Life is just too short. I don't watch commercial TV or listen to commercial radio for the same reasons very often. 37 minutes of content and the rest of the hour ads? (The point about respective incomes worldwide was also on point)

A micropayment system might last for a while and even if they only capture 30% of the market, they'll still be ahead but warez and piracy didn't come about because the system was working well in the first place. Disclaimer - I generally pay for content of any format happily (ad free only) although I have been blessed with a regular income for the last few years so have been able to afford to do so. In the leaner years, I do without, borrow from libraries or create my own.


82:

What "someone else" ??
It would, inevitably gravitate to a monopoly or a cartel, I'm afraid.
Like electric power supply in the UK, or the dominance of MS in OS's etc ....

83:

Yeah, right.
And, if you want to read most newspapers without paying a sub, then you have to go "incognito" & your ad-blockers do not then work .....
Sorry, I'm paying an ISP, I'm paying an electricity bill, I'm paying for anti-virus ... why the hell should I pay any more?

84:

but hell will freeze over before I pay money to Google *not* to receive ads

Personally, I'd like it if there was a Search company that provided paid service and didn't depend on ads. This way I could be sure their primary concern is providing good service to me, not to the advertisers. I don't like to be a product.

85:

YES!

( See how easy it is when you post comprehensibly? )

You are ferpectly correct (as Obelix once said ) .. it's paid for by guvmints ...
And any attempt at micro-billing will, IMHO end up in the hands of the greedy sharks, plus, of course the ultra-panopticon scenario envisaged in # 67.

Shall we all agree, just not to go there?

86:

"Think of this as "how do we keep the next Walter Cronkite or Hunter S. Thompson from starving to death in the streets?""

The costs of good content production go way beyond those of simply paying the writers, *especially* in journalism. Investigative reporting is *expensive* - never mind the const of reporting from war zones and the like.

A universal basic income would enable amateurs to create content based on publicly available materials, but that's filler stuff - little more than processing press releases. It'd kill decent reportage completely (even assuming that talented journalists would be happy with what would basically be a subsistence-level income).

87:

Did I just read this?

"...hell will freeze over before I pay money to Google *not* to receive ads"

No shit. And, indeed, no way in hell.

The incentives are perverse - it all ends up at "Tax the rat farms".

88:

The problem with micro-payments isn't technical; it's human. We have a built-in bias for anything that's free. For us, free is different from cheap. It's even different from very cheap.

The bar for free stuff is really low, and the bar for paying anything up front is much higher. All kinds of sites are able to persuade people to pay attention. But only the most valuable publications (such as the Economist and the Wall Street Journal) are able to persuade people to pay money.

The problem isn't getting people to pay a lot for what they read. It's getting them to pay anything at all. And micro-payment technology doesn't help with that.

89:

It's hard to imagine the majority of the public going from "free" (with adverts) to paying for something - just like piracy has demonstrated with video for many (albeit this is restricted to the more technically savvy)- if you people had to pay for content (once seen as free) people will pirate it. Adblockers could be seen (from the content producers perspective) as "piracy lite" - bypassing the mechanisms that derive their income to get to the content.
Now I don't personally feel this is a fair statement (although in a parallel universe where web adverts were called something other than adverts it would be interesting to see if the loss of the semantic association with TV and radio adverts would make people view "cross network commercial web content" (my new term for web adverts!) would affect our attitudes) - but it's an interesting situation to be in.
As a UK TV license payer, I'd be happy to see such a system for the web - everyone pays (probably at the ISP level, or cell phone provider) a set amount to pay for content that is useful but hard to fund directly (news, etc) and the other content is created by artists who seek to create for the sake of their art.
Realistically, such a system could never be put in place (changing the status quo is too difficult) but I suspect microtransactions, subscriptions, pay for bonus content, etc are all too difficult to transition to from free too...

90:

only the most valuable publications (such as the Economist and the Wall Street Journal) are able to persuade people to pay money

Combining this idea of people being willing to pay only for high-value content with the success of crowdfunding suggests a possible way forward for media publications - maybe. Which is differentiating between different types of content *within a publication* and crowdfunding the most added-value stuff in advance. So a newspaper, say, could crowdfund the higher-value investigative journalism.

This could make readers/funders feel involved, committed, and responsible for something great, while not (seeming to) turn them into subsidy providers for the majority of content (which is low value). The current model that the Guardian is trying is to make people into sponsors; this means the upfront payments are high, and the emotional returns are low (you're paying for everything, like it or not, and not just for the things you want to feel part of).

Dunno if it'd work. This is just a thought prompted by your comment. It'd definitely interest me, though: I'd love to feel a sense of (emotional) ownership over big and important stories like the Snowden papers, investigations into Thai slavery, stuff like that. In contrast, I've zero interest in funding press-release or newswire recaps - let alone CiF columns by patronizing priests explaining why I'm an Arrogant New Atheist and suchlike.

91:

"And, if you want to read most newspapers without paying a sub, then you have to go "incognito" & your ad-blockers do not then work ....."

You must be doing it wrong. I read the Graun, Telegraph and Mail for free and with no ads showing, as well as adding my comments in their feedback sections. [The secret with the Telegraph is to wipe out its cookies every few days]

92:

I never see any Google ads - are you guys doing the adblocking right?

93:

In no particular order...

The Erfworld web-comic writer reports that he conducted a search-and-destroy mission on "bad" intrusive ads on his site, but they were the best paying advertisers

The Grauniad offers a subscription only version of its shiny new ap,(which sucks) with no ads. So far the ads are insufficiently annoying to make me pay up.

The NY Times site is payable, although you can get a limited number of articles for free. Krugman alone is sufficiently interesting that I did pony up.

94:

I never see any Google ads - are you guys doing the adblocking right?

Why are you asking me? I'm not affiliated with any ad-blocker. If you are using Adblock Plus, there is an option to allow "non-intrusive ads", which include the ads on Google Search.

95:

Others have mentioned things such as patreon above though I must confess I'm not a fan of things like that. Patreon (Pa*y*treon?) is just yet another paywall that I'm seeing is increasingly being used by artists. I do wonder though if that's the right thing to do - namely "If you want to see my stuff you have to pay, otherwise tough". That's discrimitory on people who can't afford to pay and stops people just "randomly" finding an artist, just stumbling over them by accident. Not convinced patreon will work for most people.

Maybe one answer is to just let people pay whatever they want to but without spying/ads/tracking/popuyps/paywalls/digital locks/commercial junk and soforth? Just a button that says "give this peson £x", where x can be any number, including 0.

As to how we got to the current mess today didn't it start (I forget exactly) back in the late 90s and early 2000s when ISPs started to ban "servers" -- when you could place something on your own systems back in the early days and that was that? Once "servers" got banned, big money came in and that's the start of where we got to today.

ljones

96:

Others have mentioned things such as patreon above though I must confess I'm not a fan of things like that. Patreon (Pa*y*treon?) is just yet another paywall that I'm seeing is increasingly being used by artists. I do wonder though if that's the right thing to do - namely "If you want to see my stuff you have to pay, otherwise tough". That's discrimitory on people who can't afford to pay and stops people just "randomly" finding an artist, just stumbling over them by accident. Not convinced patreon will work for most people.

Huh? What are you talking about? Patreon is a donation platform, used by artists who can't or don't want to sell their work.

97:

Linden Dollars.

98:

Huh? What are you talking about? Patreon is a donation platform, used by artists who can't or don't want to sell their work.


It becomes a paywall if said artist(s) remove their art in its entirety and focus only on patreon, which some appear to be doing. Do you really want to have artists remove all their galleries/uploads and simply display patreon adverts instead?

It's also (yet another) nail in the coffin of the once free internet ....

ljones

99:

Read this yesterday, after this post.
Why the maker of a chart-topping ad blocker just pulled it off the App Store

He yanked it "citing concerns that it was hurting companies who rely on ads to stay in business and "don't deserve the hit.""

100:

Maybe another way to look at all of this is that we are all arguing over the wrong model. Prehaps the whole pay/commercial thing will *never* work and what we need is some new system for the internet? Answers on a postcard please....

Or alternatively would a big "shake-up" of the internet work? I mean if you were to image the whole of the internet as a person overall that person would be a 500lbs white male who does nothing but eat junk food and watch TV soaps and reality shows. Very, very over-bloated and could do with a diet - at the very least.

Let's flag down a taxi and head for real street here. Who honestly cares about if a huge amount of junk websites or stupid cat videos vanished? What useful purpose do they truly serve? I mean really - am I going to look at videos in 5 years' time and find endless videos of people (and not much else) who think their own belch is the funniest thing on earth? You know, the sort of thing most of us grew out of at age 4...

At the very least though surely making the internet less abusive of us and less discriminitory (so those who have nothing can access it) can only be a good thing?

ljones

101:

Suggest that a network of providers doesn't work if only the content providers are involved. Ultimately subscription to a microbilling system is most efficiently handled as part of your contract with your ISP. They should have the network with the content providers, or organisations that represent them. Governments are already mandating all sorts of things for ISPs, I'm not sure where this fits into the net neutrality "debate" and the concept of an ISP is getting more nebulous. But there's a lot that's only really practical with more integration.

102:

Prehaps the whole pay/commercial thing will *never* work and what we need is some new system for the internet?

Replace "internet" with "economy" in this quote, and you get communism. :-)

103:

Comments from a non-tech poster ...

Off Yahoo answers : 'Germany is currently (since January 2007) charging a fee for any PC that can visit Public Radio and TV stations because it is legally a new Radio/TV receiver :-( So You cannot legally go into Internet without paying that "tax". Owners of traditional radio/tv receivers always payed that fee. All ppl that did not yet pay for a traditional receiver, have to pay now.'


There's been an increase in 'content provider' pays, i.e., increase in ‘free’ online science journals including the biggie (Nature).

Charlie 42: ‘… Basically, ads consume bandwidth -- which is paid for by the viewer, not by the advertiser.’ Okay so we have a rational basis for costing/billing here. Need to sort out what makes money for the web throughout its distribution chain and build on that. Key point is ease/simplicity for the end user.

Internet real estate … several years back there was some concern that the Internet/Web was about to hit a wall, that is, run out of ‘space’. Don’t recall the tech details aside from it's been fixed. What’s the likelihood of something like this happening again – where/what along the distribution chain? What’s the maximum load/carrying capacity of the interweb?


Fazal Majid 55: ‘The technical mechanism is unimportant. The real issue is that micropayments impose mental transaction costs that end up being prohibitive.' - Mostly agree


Advertising as content…. Cosmo magazine was/is purchased for its ads, editorial is second. Plus, most sales are at full retail, and only about 10-12% of readership was/is subscription based.


David Karger 63: ‘I think it will ultimately be done through a payment network... total up the amount of time you spend on each (in you browser, so it stays private)’ … What happens if you have several windows open at the same time? It’s unlikely that you’re reading all of them simultaneously, but how does the system know which to check and which to ignore?


NSA could probably come up with a payment scheme... they supposedly, even more than Google, know what/where/when everyone is watching online.


Jay 71: ‘bundling’ – Horrible alternative because it’s too easy to misuse. Example: Many products/services orgs do forced-choice marketing research testing (e.g., conjoint analysis) to see which attributes tied/bundled together best attract/satisfy the most/best customers. My perception is that cable companies have turned this upside down. Specifically, (some/all?) cable companies now maximize/spread out the desirable attributes/programming so that subscribers end up having to buy 3 or 4 tiers of cable services to get the programming they actually want. (Hence some gov’t reviews/wrist-slapping of cable company ‘bundling/pricing’ practices.)


Freebie/sampling as advertising … this happens in real-world and online. Every once in while I follow up a Google news story to a normally paywalled site. Benefit to that site is they get more eyeballs. Benefit to me is that I get a no-risk trial. If I like the site, there’s a chance I might buy in.


AskJarv 89: ‘ … if you people had to pay for content (once seen as free) people will pirate it.’ Therefore the 'solution' has to be universally applied.

While I do feel that the Internet is a public good, I also feel that the gov't has already paid quite enough into its development/infrastructure. The cable companies, ISPs, content providers and users need to pick up the tab going forward. Not to derail, but I see parallels with pharma ... as in the gov't/NIH does the backbreaking scut work while the private orgs pocket the money.

104:

OK, so ban me, but I will still say Bitcoin. But before you ban me, bear with me. I am the chairman of The Bitcoin Association of Sweden. This doesn't make me an expert in any way, but reasonably in the know, but of course also a fanboy.

Micropayments will work with Bitcoin. There are currently two proposals. One is called Lightning Network, the other Stroem from a company here in Sweden called StrawPay. They are not yet fully functional, but WILL do micropayments.

It is a bit sad to be prematurely called stupid. I take knowledge pretty seriously, and so should we all.

105:

I think flattr is pretty close to the right answer. A fixed amount,chosen by the reader/listener/viewer, each month split between the sites they visit.

I'd make a few changes to how flattr works though:

Rather than a flattr button this share should be automatic for participating sites if you view/interact with a site for more than a few seconds and don't press/click a 'freeload' button built into the browser interface (not the web page).

The share should be proportional to some sublinear function of how long you spent on the site plus how much you interacted with it.

Automatic top-up by standing order/direct-debit/credit card should be available (barring a crypto currency that actually lives up to the hype).

106:

I'm a bit late to the discussion, but I spent the last 5 1/2 years as the CTO at LaterPay (https://laterpay.net) solving that very problem. Getting publishers to "debundle" their content is one of the biggest hurdles to get real micropayments off the ground.

LaterPay bundles transactions across websites into payments once a payment threshold is reached (currently 5 EUR).

I don't believe in Flattr and other flat rate services as they all come with the added chicken and egg problem of having to acquire content to acquire users to acquire content. For the same reason I think that nobody but the biggest players (Google, Apple) will be able to pull of a prepaid wallet. However, that's not even the first problem for adoption of micropayment. one of the bigger hurdles we faced at LaterPay is to get content publishers to even try and create a business plan based on anything less than "every user pays us 29EUR per month, forever".

In any case, the current influx of ad blockers plus the problem of reliably tracking users across mobile apps will make this a much more prevalent problem for online content publishers in the near future.

107:

Agree on the business plan problem, not only do business frequently over value what they want to charge versus what people are willing to pay they often try to lock in monthly or reoccurring fees way too early

It is why it's good to root a discussion like this in some practical proposal rather then theory

108:

Setting aside any doubts about schemes of guaranteed minimum income or basic needs provision or the like, I can say that as a content creator that wouldn't work for me at all. I've been a tabletop RPG player since the 1970s, and I've fiddled around with multiple homegrown systems. But I didn't produce anything publishable until after I gave up on homegrown systems and went over to using published ones . . . and eventually started writing for GURPS. There were specific requirements for GURPS supplements, including consistency with existing rules, following certain style conventions, and having a focus that made sense to the publisher in terms of what people wanted to use GURPS for—and having all that enabled me to focus my writing and actually reduce a project to a definite form. And now it's fifteen years later and I've written a lot of GURPS books. But none of that would have happened without the publisher's input into defining my projects and feedback on satisfactory completion; and the publisher's incentive to provide those came about because they could monetize my work. If I were living on guaranteed minimum income, and no one could be charged for what I write, I might well not have written any of it.

109:

The real issue with BitCoin, and the block chain, as I understand it (someone knowledgeable about bitcoins, good) is that there is a maximum transaction rate.

Bitcoin wants to commit one block every 10 minutes, and there is a maximum size to a block; this means a maximum number of transactions per time that can go into the chain. This means that as the number of transactions that want to be committed goes up, there is inherent "only some can be committed" -- which in turn mean an unavoidable cost.

===

There is no way to avoid the transaction cost. Even if you say "You only go through the payment processor / money taker once enough micro-transactions have accumulated", you still have to deal with someone claiming "that transaction needs to be refunded" / etc.

Automatically refund, so no user intervention? Fine -- but you still have to record and store all your transactions for auditing, right?

So far, I saw someone suggest taxation and fundamental access. That might be the only solution.

===

Advertising: Advertising is not the problem. Print ads have been around for a long time, and support lots of stuff. They work.

They work because they do their job: They catch eyeballs.

They catch eyeballs because they don't interfere with the users: reading the articles.

Compare to internet advertising: Text ads that are just plain text; simple jpegs/gifs that just sit there. Versus: Graphical moving pictures that distract you. Javascript code that calls to an ad auction site and delays loading your page while sites bid in real time, and get the full referrer information (think search queries).

Do you have an ad that is just based on the page I'm looking at, that is plain text, since I'm reading text? Fine. Is it a simple picture that just sits there? Less fine, but ...

Or is it something that is based on _ME_, that wants to say "We know you, we will sell you"?

Let me tell you what does work, what did work, and what I happily worked with. Years back, Google had a news reader. Google's email could be hooked up to news feeds. You got about 4 news headlines for every ad line. I left that turned on, because I got information I wanted, and occasionally saw ads.

What was wrong with that? Well, for some reason, Google did not hook up their news reader with their email news selection. Yea, you had to select the same stuff twice, in two different interfaces, with no way to keep the choices in sync.

Then, they changed from 80% what you want, to almost 0% what you want.

The ads went blocked.

Later, Google had a "customize your ads" feature. I played with that. I had to block something like 150 ad campaigns that were of no interest to me before I got stuff that was.

The problem? It was too hard to block ads. New campaigns start up, outspend what I'm interested in, and I have to keep blocking them. Google's interface for blocking ads often would not show me the ads I did see, and give me useless choices for blocking.

The bottom line?

Ads are not the problem.

Ad networks that say "We will control what you see, and track you for our benefit", is the problem.

Plain ads that don't track me, based on the site? Fine.

Ad networks that let me easily control what I see, and give me additional things that are of use to me as well? Fine.

Right now, the ad networks have nothing of value to the end consumer. That means consumers want to block.

Worse, it means that there's now people trained to use blockers by default, because we've learned that advertisers are against us, and not for us.

Is there anything that can be done? Sure.

We need an ad network that can detect ad blockers, and put in an "Unblock this network, and here's why" statement.

It has to actually say that the ad network is concerned with what makes things better for the consumer.

Remember all those ads that would take over your screen, or auto-play videos with sound (because of course, all ads are visible on screen, and not down the page, and never load into a background tab, and never have more than one of these at the same time, etc), or lock up your computer, or steal massive bandwidth, etc?

Did you even notice that sites will basically say, "We have no control over the ads that play on our site"? Or "Bad ads come in through the ad network, all we can do is report them and wait for the ad network to remove them", or "I did block the nastiest ads, but they turned out to be the best paying ads"?

Right now, as far as I know, the only ad network that actually restricts bad ads before people complain about them is project wonderful -- and it doesn't show on many sites. Every other one seems to be "We don't verify that the ad is reasonable, we wait for people to complain later".

And these companies want me to let my computer, my electricity bill, my network data be responsible for their bad code?

There's a reason I've given up on working with advertisers. I tried it with Google. I do with with project wonderful. And those "non-intrusive" ads that Adblock Plus has vetted.

But as long as no one else that I trust is vetting the ads, I won't use them.

110:

novaliz@17: I was quite excited when that came out, and was all set to sign up.

Then I remembered that my main issue with web advertising is the tracking, and it doesn't opt you out of tracking. So I didn't join.

111:

I like the Tipsy idea.

The problem with micropayments is pricing. When using a market to fix a price it relies on the seller and the buyer to agree on a price. So you either have a paywall ("Content costs €0.005 per view. Access/deny?") or you have a fixed price that is valid for all pages. I don't think the first one would gain any acceptance and the second solution isn't better than taxes or making internet providers pay for content.

Anyway, why should the reader pay and not the content provider for getting attention?

112:

So, I've been lurking so far because I have no expertise to share, but I am a consumer and I have to say, I cant see myself paying for access to a site when I can just ignore the ads for free. The solution to the down-trending death spiral isnt micro-billing at all, it's better targeted advertising. They wouldn't have to bombard us with so much useless crap if we clicked more often, and we would click more often if the stuff being advertised was stuff we wanted at a reasonable price. An expert system that was actually able to direct me to things I really want when I want them would be added value to me, and a better way to pay for content, of which there is too much anyway.

113:

They wouldn't have to bombard us with so much useless crap if we clicked more often, and we would click more often if the stuff being advertised was stuff we wanted at a reasonable price.

Ah, but this gets to the core problem that wages are too low so people avoid spending.

(This is related to why so much commercial activity, focused around profit maximization, destroys value. Value is the ratio of benefit to cost; if people can't spend much, profit maximization must focus on reducing cost, which reduces value. And, per Vimes' Boots, does its best to make it up on volume.)

Admitting that wages are too low isn't even a heresy in terms of economic policy or corporate governance. It's still a large part of the problem.

114:

This is the dilemma for newspapers and other "political" media. The twin aims of making money and at the same time influencing the politics of millions of people can no longer be reconciled.

115:

I suspect it's not true that you can't make money and influence people's decisions at the same time.

The issue is more that the model by which people have been doing it for the last 50 years has changed like crazy in the last 5 and the print media haven't found a good new model that they like.

There's a free paper in London I believe that is thriving on adverts and not trying to have a particular political voice. Outside London The Metro is doing a similar thing.

But the old heavy-weights of the print media are facing spiralling sales and people not really signing up to their pay-wall environments in large enough numbers to replace the revenue. I suspect, like the GOP and, I would have said before 2015 the Tories, that's because their core audience is dying of old age, plus I suspect, newspapers are seen as a luxury and too many people don't have the money to spend on them.

And, of course, if you cut down on the advertising, you have to charge more. The broadsheets have always charged more and run less advertising... can the redtops afford to raise their prices. Economists would tell them no but nothing else they're trying is working...

116:

THe reason the print newspapers are facing spiralling sales is to a large extent down to their own changes in the 1980's and 90's, when money worshipping people took charge and aimed straight at profit maximisation. End result was a drop in quality.
So now why should you pay money for a paper that is full of pap and nonsense when you can get it for free?

117:

"There's a free paper in London I believe that is thriving on adverts and not trying to have a particular political voice. "

You must be joking. They recycle content from the Daily Mail.

118:

Hmm, could you explain what you mean by "too low"? There are at the moment, at least in the developed world, but it sounds like you mean endemically. In classic economic theory, wages are set by purchasing power, which is set by wages, which is set by...

119:

Perhaps not too .."micro " did you say?

Perhaps, rather, very, too much a .. Theological? ..notion that cry's out for True Believers?

".. is there any way to get to a micro-billing infrastructure from where we are today that doesn't involve burning down the web and starting again from scratch? "

Hum, .. every True Believer will Truly BELIEVE !!! That The WAY of The Great Gohd KRUG(man) is the Right - or the LEFT - one True WAY!!

Only BELIEVE ..oh and forward a modest amount of this Token Money Stuff ..a Micro Amount? ..to the Ghods Disciples and ALL WILL BE WELL!!

Too much of this reasoning/reasonable stuff hereabouts don't you think?

After all MONEY, as we understand it, is just a kind of collective illusion isn't it?

If not Why Not?

So, Money ..or rather Bandwidth on Broadband as paid for by ..whomsoever?

Is OUR Gracious HOST Charlie asking the Right ..or politically towards the Left ..Question?

Insert Political Interview of the Ferocious Journalist Facing Towards Politician of your Choice? QUESTION!!! .. and then answer ..from politician ? " But that isn't the important QUESTION!! " .. and insert answer of Choice .. Journalist repeats Q ? Repeat a variant of Your Answer ..rinse and repeat..ad to infinitude - and the real people will forget the intent of the entire interview.

So much for the very famous British Journalist Jeremy Paxman's ever so famous TECHNIQUE ..

http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/tv/feature/a568149/paxos-stuffing-jeremy-paxmans-12-best-newsnight-moments.html#~poKWuSvxWYmGoo


So, advertising and The Internet and so forth? Its mostly a confidence trick.

An awful lot of the web was created by enthusiasts who didn't give much thought to how it could be made to PAY! Much the same can be said for the creations of the Nerd Community that followed the invention of the WWW.. Creative Process?

Think of Terrific Thing at Great Length in ones bedroom!! Shinny !! Eleventy!! and so forth!

Learn that other People - o,w.k. as Evil Bastards !!! - had similar ideas and had set out to make Money out of same - the Fiends! ..and had sometimes succeeded to an outrageous extent. This otherwise known as Face Book! How could this happen when YOU are so Worthy??!!

And so forth and so on.

So Micro Funding ..aka very little money per customer but lots of customers ? Sounds a bit like the good old fashioned idea of "Pile Them HIGH and Sell Them Cheap " doesn't it? And the future of the WWW?

Well it depends upon whether the WWW s future innovators are deeply humanitarian folks of a Socialist bent or Bed Room Dwellers who long for Recognition and MONEY ..

" why not ME as NEXT Security Consultant to Google and How to prove my Worth? " Or how to be the next Google/Facebook or whatever? Its a kind of Magic!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLxN0wpFoP8

Sorry about that ..cant think wot came over me!

Maybe even How to make the Peasantry Read/LOOK At, and be Entranced by, MY clients ADVERTS .. through the Magic of..MY .. Software might be thought to be a terribly innovative thought process by people who aren't accustomed to thinking very much?


Oh, and a motivational force multiplier for the WWWs future development that doesn't involve CAPITALIST GREED ?

Well, I wish you all well on that one, but, as an Idealization?

Ho Hum ..Its Mad, but ..how about the Good Old Fashioned Socialist Co Operative Movement?

The Co Op has lost much of its prestige in the U.K. in recent years thanks to the Good Old Co Ops well meaning naivety being thought to be the ideal role model for company/bank organization, but there may be room for the development of a Co Op ..or maybe a John Lewis Partnership ? ..pattern of future development for the WWW?

Start with one Nation and then spread the Idea Internationally.

Oh! It suddenly occurs to me that Our HOSTS Soap Box is an International Entity and thus the John Lewis Partnership might be a strange and Alien Idea, so ..to save you all strain on your WWW manipulative Mouse Clicking ..

" The John Lewis Partnership's 88,700 Partners own the leading UK retail businesses - John Lewis and Waitrose. Our founder's vision of a successful business powered by its people and its principles defines our unique company today. The profits and benefits created by our success are shared by all our Partners."

http://www.johnlewispartnership.co.uk/


Its a bit like Crowd-sourcing isn't it?


It would never WORK!

Oh, well ..back to my re-reading of " Making Money " which is a Terry Pratchett novel in the Discworld series ..

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Making_Money

120:

Not heaving read the comments so far, here's an idea.

I think on the assumption that we want content to be payed, but we don't want a panopticon.

So: We have conten-cartels, Each cartels operates a public ledger of transactions, we explain the transactions in a moment.

All content is published but encrypted.

You, as a potential reader, do the following: you create a private-public key pair and send it to the cartel.

You wire some money via an anonymous or not so anonymous way to the cartel, with the note 'this belongs to public key X'. This transaction us published on the ledger: so-and-so much money, paid by X.

When you want to access content, you request what you want and sign it wqith your private key, the request gets on the ledger.

And the key for this content, encrypted with your public key, is added to the ledger. Content is open to you.

This gives all participants freedom in several ways: the reade can stay pseudonymous. The cartel is very free in which ways it subdivides its content. Maybe you get one week worth of news, or one book at a time. The cartel can say 'oh, this one is actually behind with his payments but has been a steady customer so we let him pay later.' The cartel could shaft you, but everyone could see and the ledger could be checked automatically by some client software if the cartel always delivers (of course the cartel could send non-working keys, but a ripped offreader can simply publish his pribvate key and prove he was ripped off. afer all, if a cartel is dishonest, the private key is worthless). This is important as it offers you, dear reader, some protection even if you want to stay anonymous.

This does not solve copyright. If publishers fear for their content, they can create specialized apps that contain a private key and have DRM embedded. Else, all readers can choose their clients from a variety or maybe even write their own (I'm not a programmer, but i think the hard part is maintaining the ledger, the rest could be doable with gnupg and shell scripts).

But if you are concerned about copyright, the biggest bulwakr against infringement in this system is that accessing content legally is convenient.
Not that I care much, but.

Now back to reading the comments, lt's see who had the same idea in better.

121:

Yeah, but classic economic theory never quite manages to acknowledge that anyone involved has objectives beyond the immediate transaction.

Think of it as society having a bad parasite infestation; with actual parasites, it's metabolic load. With economic parasites, it's availability of discretionary surplus.

Just like the metabolic parasites mess you up because your blood chemistry is wonky from tapeworm breeding secretions, economic parasites mess you up because they're after money, and have managed to get enough of it that you're underpaid relative to your effort.

This is very much policy; about half the relative wage decline since the Reagan/Thatcher reactionary revolution is the product of deliberate policy and not impersonal forces of change. (Never mind that the responses to the impersonal forces of change is *also* a function of policy and intent.)

So we're looking at a "consumer economy needs consumers" problem, and that in turn has three obvious solutions
-- forbid being rich; there are income and asset caps, everyone is moderately prosperous, the market economy flourishes inside its limits

-- move away from a general consumer economy to a distributed company store; pay just too little for people to stay out of debt, re-introduce debt peonage (only the hereditary component of debt is missing in many current jurisdictions) and extract all the surplus as profit. A small artisan class persists, making status objects. Some industry persists making militarily essential things and whatever is required for a corporate headquarters. (This looks like what we're getting. You can even argue for it on ecological grounds, less ecological footprint if the standard of living for most of the population collapses.)

-- some novel form of social organization made possible through artificial telepathy. Difficult to establish, but potentially more just and more efficient.

122:

I think the model I proposed above would if at all work for the middle tier.

123:

The explosion of content, ( much of it just a platform for ad revenue) should be driving its price to zero. I'm not sure what content is actually worth paying for. Even the subscription successes, The Economist and the WSJ are not that informative. Perhaps the idea of specialists generating content as a business doesn't make much sense any more?

When music piracy was rampant, teh suggestion was that music per se should be free and that revenue be made in other ways - live concerts, etc. Well known journalists make money from giving speeches.

So content can still be generated for love, and if you want to make money, it becomes a an advert for the creator to charge for something else, bespoke work, consulting, writing books, etc. In a perfect adblocked world, much of the crap that is made for mining ad revenue disappears, and possibly with it ad delivered malware.

If that model would work, then worrying about micropayments to reimbure content creators becomes irrelevant.

Making the internet more of a social utility, paid for by taxes might make sense in such a world.

124:

I like this idea - socialiszinh every thing - except that I don't like it: Basically you arrive at a huge bureacracy deciding which author/artist/journalist gets how much. Looking at the GEMA over here, I don't have much trust ...
But I could be wrong and building an organization that fairly distributews cash among artists within the existing societal gloabl framework is doable.

125:

It depends on how you do it.

Remember the iron law of bureaucracy -- it exists to get copies of itself into the future. (Like anything else; if you don't do that, you go away.)

And a lot of people with money and influence wouldn't want this; it would remove a mechanism by which they presently make money.

I'd think the easy way to make it work involves very public accounts, insistence on open formats and multiple regional data centres who back each other up and compete on efficiency metrics but which are free to innovate in terms of how they do the job (and who would be important employers in their political unit...).

You make it so you can't pursue a copyright claim unless your work is in the public system; if you're the actual creator as an individual citizen, you have the option of not making the work available when you do that. (You just archive it.) If you're a non-creator rights-holder of any kind, you don't; if you have a copy of the work in the system, it's available via the standard mechanisms. You don't have to put the work in the system and there's still a copyright attached to it (because of existing treaties) but you can't prosecute for infringement.

Make sure there are very public APIs; there might not need to be an official app (though there should be a good free one) for access, because you can sell apps this way, too. People will be moved to try to solve the various filter problems. If we let the National Archives Librarians at the meta-data and fund them appropriately, the filter problems get easier. (Citizen keyword feedback for data integrity -- you can complain if the work's keywords use "koala" instead of "sugar glider".)

People get paid based on downloads/views; there's a pot of money, amount set in the annual budget, and you get a fraction of that pot as a function of your popularity. (I would tend to want to do this more frequently than annually.)

Commercial content (which includes everyone from Sony to some film students with a kickstarter) can pay for distribution access to the system, provided they use the appropriate open format for the content, accept the standard pricing structure, and accept that it goes into the general access pile a set time period after initial release.

All the accounting and statistics are continuously available for download.

If you could get the legislation passed, it would work fine. I suspect you'd have a job of work to get the legislation passed, because most of the world is under the control of those who consider public goods immoral.

126:

I'm sympathetic to the notion of consumer reluctance towards (a) setting up yet another account with recurring bill, and (b) the mental transaction cost of managing micro-payments.

What if every internet-connected device incurred a small monthly access fee? These would appear as line items on one's ISP bill. This could be broken into tiers. Perhaps your computer costs $2, your smartphone $1, and your network enabled refrigerator $0.25. These funds are dispersed to whichever non-paywall, non-ad-supported websites you happen to consume.

Granted, this requires a top-down categorization of web sites, but this type of thing is already typical in credit card transactions. Every business has a code which allows your credit card bill to show that nifty chart of how much you spent on food, travel, clothing, etc.

127:

When I was working at RSA in the '90s we came up with a slight tweak on Chaum's eCash stuff on our own time. Jim Bidzos said he wasn't interested 'cause it wasn't our core business and he didn't want to have to deal with David Chaum.

But...

Those patents have expired and it should be pretty easy to speak eCash out one side and Vantive (or some other payment processor) out the other.

Assuming you have a content partner that wants to try it out, it shouldn't be _too_ difficult to set up. It would be "just one more API" the code monkeys would develop against. Identifying individuals who have paid for specific content is pretty straight forward. The issues would be the same scaling issues you get with paywall sites, though content providers would have to track which individuals have access to which content, but that shouldn't be *too* hard.

So... no. I don't think it would break the web. I think some people would balk 'cause they would have to use a new API, but if they were seriously worried about the coming era of the Ad Blocking Vril, they might be convinced to give it a shot.

If you have a VC or a content partner in mind, I can spin up a business plan & white paper in a day or two.

128:

One solution has been developed a few years ago : global patronage :
https://stallman.org/mecenat/global-patronage.html
"As a brief summary, network users pay a fixed contractual sum (not a tax in the usual sense) which is collected by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), then distributed to Copyright Collecting Societies (CCS) and Donation Collecting Societies (DCS), for subsequent payment to authors and artists. The network users determine how the payments are divided, not by the works they use, but by their appreciation of these works. Thus, each one becomes a patron. There is no need for intrusive surveillance (expensive and practically impossible) of the data flowing on the Internet, which endangers individual freedom,"
Sadly, Francis Muguet died, seemingly from a stroke, shortly afterwards...

129:

When I go to a webpage that wants me to subscribe or something what bothers me is that I go to many websites and don't want to subscribe to all of them, I just want to look at what I want when I want. Especially, I don't like to play with money and give credit card numbers and all that.

Also, I frequently comment on articles I find. Websites have set up a third party company to do identity verification or whatever for commenters, otherwise they would be mercilessly spammed. The one here is called "Moveable Type." The Huffington Post uses Facebook. My local news"paper" and many other sites use something called Disqus. All I have to know when I travel the web making comments, is my password to Disqus and I have access to all these comment threads.

So, why not model micropayments like that? To see the New York Times I would just sign in with my PayView password and the New York Times would get paid from what I pay PayView. Part of what has made Amazon so successful is that they sell everything and you only need to give one company your credit card number. PayView Incorporated could do that. Probably already exists and just hasn't caught on so my suggestion is silly.

Incidentally, I don't use an ad blocker, but I do have Internet Explorer prompt me before accepting any cookies. I manually reject or accept them, which is a lot of work until you have your browser trained. Don't know how that affects advertisers getting their money or whatever, but if you want to keep a record of something keep it on your computer, not mine.

130:

I thought that the web was going to target advertising to the individual and the article, but it actually delivers a lot more insulting garbage ads than print newspapers or TV stations ever did. I just caught up with recent Syria news using links from Google News. What's being advertised at the bottom of the page on the Irish Independent, CNN, and the Guardian? "Khaleesi is the Queen of Going-Out Tops," "4x4 Dodge Ram vs. Tree Stumps - Watch What Happens Next," "She Dropped Jaws in Her Dress at the CMT Music Awards", "16 Hottest Mugshots Of All Time #hotandbusted," "30 Female Athletes with Jaw Dropping Beauty," "$5 Bill Proves the Economy is About to Collapse", "10 Pictures That Scientists Hate Cause They Can't Explain Them," "1 Trick to Fix a Slow Computer (Simple Instructions)", "10 Women That Really Know How To Wear Lingerie".

It's like flipping through a pinup calendar while drinking rubbing alcohol. These are all news sites I've visited repeatedly, and I'm obviously not running an ad blocker.

131:

I think that's a consequences of cookie blocking. They have a default presentation for "strangers" ie people they can't read a history on, and sometimes it's the latest about Khaleesi. The default location appears to be Chicago because I also block location. So I get all this local stuff about Chicago. If somebody wants to drug me against my will, I'd rather they had a poor understanding of my biology. Give me the wrong stuff, man.

132:
Assuming you have a content partner that wants to try it out, it shouldn't be _too_ difficult to set up. It would be "just one more API" the code monkeys would develop against. Identifying individuals who have paid for specific content is pretty straight forward. The issues would be the same scaling issues you get with paywall sites, though content providers would have to track which individuals have access to which content, but that shouldn't be *too* hard.

That's precisely the problem which we centrally solved at LaterPay. Neither the API nor the scaling is the real issue. We whittled minimum integration down to a couple of lines of JavaScript, but we try to do it with centralized accounts and if possible without forcing users to log in or install client-side software by tracking them through cookies and alternatives.

Turns out all of this is not really the problem, but that basically all the people complaining about adblocking and failing ad revenue are also totally resistant to change even in the face of disaster and also some of them seem to be really unable to fathom a world in which they have to find out which part of their product people are actually willing to pay for ;).

133:

I don't block cookies either, so it's not that. Back before the Web print newspapers never had cookies or other detailed targeting aids but somehow their advertisements never tried to push genius pills, exercise pills, "weird tricks" that doctors/dentists/bankers hate, or just-barely-clothed photo collections of women.

134:

Well known journalists make money from giving speeches. ...
if you want to make money, it becomes a an advert for the creator to charge for something else...'

For journalism specifically this is a model that just plain can't work. As I said earlier, investigative journalism especially is expensive to do, and it needs to be paid for upfront. It is also often impossible to do without a huge infrastructure.

Plus, of course, how many journalists can be supported by a public-appearance-based economy? A dozen, maybe?

The model doesn't really even work for music, of course. And you'll notice OGH doesn't rely on panels at cons for his income, while giving away his books for free.

I can't see this as a plausible way forward.

135:

but somehow their advertisements never tried to push genius pills, exercise pills, "weird tricks" that doctors/dentists/bankers hate, or just-barely-clothed photo collections of women.

Recency illusion? Print advertising could be pretty bad. I cancelled a subscription to Discover because the ads in the magazine were so awful (and borderline scams in some instances).

136:

Advertising overlaps with telling the customer about the product, and I have a feeling that the dishonesty of advertising is affecting the whole business of selling over the web.

I've just had to replace the PSU on this computer. The old one was slowly failing, and when I checked I found that people were saying that the rated power was misleading. It didn't like running at full power, and when you look at the different outputs, the low-voltage for the CPU was rather low-power. You could only get the full rated power on the 12v line How many people ave over 700W of electic motors—fans and hard drives—in their computer.

The trouble is that the big-name brands do the same. though the 3.3v and 5v lines are a lot better provided for. Only the retailers don't bother to give you a full set of figures.

I probably paid more than I needed to to get a new PSU with sufficient oomph. I have a good margin over the rated load of this CPU.

tl,dr: Every wab page on a retail site is an advert, and economical with the truth.

Figure in inflation, and the cost per watt of a computer PSU has barely fallen. Maybe some stuff has become cheaper, but I doubt they are cheaper because they cost less to assemble.

And I reckon that would be one of the things you will be paying for with the Apple brand.

The old-style mail order catalogues are certainly advertising, but it's clear enough what they're doing. They rarely carried third-party adverts.

Every so often I look at some website doing something of dodgy legality. They seem to carry a lot of advertising for those lawful internet gambling operations. How long before the MPAA goes after an internet casino for funding movie piracy?

I think I might have done rather better buying stuff from China over eBay than getting the same things from some big-name UK retailer. Deliveries have been surprisingly fast.

137:

I don't think it's a recency illusion. You can see full scans of some newspapers archived by Google. Here's a daily paper from the beginning of the 1990s. I didn't live in Bangor but this is the sort of advertising I remember in my own hometown paper. No scams for magic pills, no slash-debt-fast schemes, no enticements to stare at boobies. There are lots of ads for ordinary retail products and services: cars, shoes, clothing, furniture, movers, dentists, banks... People still spend money on all these things and I see them advertised online too. The mystery is why even mainstream news sites also serve garbage/scam advertisements.

138:

He doe4sn't need to give away his books, as they are still sold as dead trees. eBooks, a different story.

The point is that journalist output may be in oversupply. Just how much good IJ is even done today by the major news media. Precious little, IMO. News media mainly produce fluff to surround the ads. Glenn Greenwald is effectively supported by a patron. Would I pay for good investigative journalism? If it was very good, perhaps bundled with a number of good pieces, I might pay the equivalent of a short eBook story or song track. Bigger than a micro-payment and easily doable with existing payment systems.

139:

"any attempt at micro-billing will, IMHO end up in the hands of the greedy sharks"
I pay ViewPayInc a certain amount every month. This allows me to view any site that associates itself with ViewPayInc. I go to a ViewPay supporting site, type in my ViewPay password, and get access to the site. In order to look at this one article I'm interested in (and the hundred or thousand others I view each month) I don't have to subscribe to the site, become a member, get on the spamming list, provide my card number, and marry a Frey daughter. ViewPay pays sites whenever I sign into them. I get only so many sign ins per month, so site owners won't sign up as ViewPay subsribers and hit themselves over and over to rack up payoffs from ViewPay. Nothing sophisticated or complex. So not a lot of room for sharks. Would this be a monopoly for ViewPay? Not at all, any more than when you comment on an article and they ask if you want to sign in with Disqus or Facebook or Twitter, or WordPress.

140:

As long as cars are built so that there are three pedals (operated with less than or equal to 2 feet) at the bottom of a hole that have the functions, press one go faster, press one and stop, press one and coast, and hundreds of people die every year because they're easy to mix up, I can't imagine this society ever doing anything new just because the old way is crap.

141:

Let's not get too rosy-eyed about the pre-Internet media being of higher quality. Investigative journalism has always been rare. The worry for this decade is that we might go from precious little to none at all.

I've read a couple of times that microbilling could actually make investigative and other "quality" journalism less likely, not more. The current subscription model is that you pay for the entire collection of dead tree pages even if you're just interested in the football and entertainment. Involuntary support of everthing else.

A microbilling system makes it very clear who is willing to pay for what, and I doubt there really are enough well intentioned people to pay for investigative journalism.

142:

I'd suggest that OGH is much closer to the right answer than many recognise. This site exists as one big advert - yet people visit it. Why?

Adverts are a problem because they are pain, they get between us and what we want with junk that we don't care about. As such we'll block them (and as an Android user, most ads have been blocked for a long time now for me). I've also noticed that my tolerance for ads, anywhere, is decreasing. As such I think ads as marketing know them are on borrowed time.

However, content that gets you to buy products, that is itself valuable content - well that's a different matter. Sponsorship and provision of knowledge which can lead to a 'thought leadership' position is a much, much better bet than splurging over everyone else's content - for the company.

And the other half is as the population online goes up, the probability of finding someone who will 'do it all for free' increases (eg cost goes to zero). As the Murdoch rags of this world have found, their value as news gatekeepers is actually pretty close to zero. Better content, elsewhere, for free.

The more interesting question will end up being who's the tail and who's the dog?

143:

Very close, but no cigar.

is there any way to get to a micro-billing infrastructure from where we are today that doesn't involve burning down the web and starting again from scratch?

Yes, but there's ways and means to it.

It's all predicated on who controls the architecture and so can charge the rentier fees.

Nine of world's biggest banks join to form block chain partnership

They're making a syndicate [old meaning] because they see the future in a particular light.

KS works in a different manner.


The idealized version is, of course, a decentralized system where the exchange system isn't purely "money" but other things (favor, kudos, Time, aggregated labour owed etc) and where the controlling party is entirely neutral, apolitical and has no interest in power. Oh, and it's not run for profit.


~

Host is being sneaky btw.


BIT...oh damn.

DODGECOIN!

Much Memes
For MILFS
And TV Hosts


144:

I was thinking about this the other day. Suppose there was a site that I could pay $20/month to, to not have ads. And whenever I go to a site that doesn't have ads, they get a slice of that $20 based on where I spend most of my time, minus a small handling fee. If I go to a site that has ads, they never get a slice of that action, ever.

As it is, I usually don't go back to a site that has ads. Partly that's because I think that having a website is a commodity, now - it's the information on it that's interesting and if someone wants to interest me they have to be cheaper, more accessible, and less cluttered than a book. The "more accessible" and "less cluttered" means that if I have to tune my flash script/blocker whitelist for a site - I just go away and never come back.

One way to push the transition would be for users to start to see how much faster sites that are content-driven can be. Ads don't just make bad/ugly sites, they make slow sites.

Richard Feynman once said that ads would vanish practically overnight if the consumers of the world were able to announce, "if you annoy us with ads we will boycott your products." Of course it's more complicated than that, but there's the germ of an idea there. I, personally, do not buy stuff I see in online ads. The only time I buy something in an online ad is if I google "sata 4tb hard drive" and it's clever enough to realize that I may be trying to buy one of those. Of all the web media value propositions, the only advertising proposition that makes sense to me is google's, because they are able to straddle that "you appear to be searching for a hard drive to buy.." observation. When I go to a political site I'm looking for political analysis and "10 foods that reduce your belly fat" does nothing to help me believe that the site offers anything but crap and fluff and click click I am gone.

145:

"This is very much policy; about half the relative wage decline since the Reagan/Thatcher reactionary revolution is the product of deliberate policy and not impersonal forces of change. (Never mind that the responses to the impersonal forces of change is *also* a function of policy and intent.)"

Well, sure, but here's the thing- to be sustainable, any institutional system has to be able to accommodate the differential distribution of power. Most people dont regard the rich as "parasites" because of a social contract which says- "You can acquire more resources than the rest of us as long as you maintain the infrastructure we use." The problem for the system is that elite class status is obtained and maintained primarily via rather confrontational methods- by and large you dont get to the top by being nice. Certain journalists have even noticed that, at times, the 1% is very nearly how society puts it's high functioning sociopaths to productive use. Given that any system that does not give a privileged place to an elite class is going to have a fight on it's hands, and will probably end up with one anyway (i.e. Communism).

So are wages lower than they "should" be? Well, from the perspective of the people earning them (you and me)- yes, of course they are. From the perspective of the high functioning sociopath class? They aren't low enough (and never could be). So we're left with deciding whether wages are too low for system sustainability. What does that mean? It means that the end result must look like a hierarchy, with the majority of societies wealth going to the top, but with enough going to the middle and bottom that mass consumption still drives growth faster than the population increases. Does it?

So far it still is, despite the setback that the '09 recession represents. According to Piketty, this is slowly changing, and sometime this century we will return to a level of wealth disparity equal to the Victorian Age and before (i.e., the historical norm). Obviously, this would be bad news for our humanitarian values. It might lead to a very destructive revolution of uncertain outcome. No one wants that, so what to do?

We here are mostly, I think, in the "technocrat" class, the highly educated upper middles who are expected to know how to keep the system running. We earn most of our wealth from labor, not capital, so we are obviously highly interested in finding ways to reward highly skilled and creative labor. Hence our interest in micro-billing. There are a lot of interesting and creative solutions being proposed here, some with beta testing attached, and who knows, maybe one of them could work.

But could "micro-billing" save the system within which it is embedded? I'm not sanguine about that. It seems to require that the majority of consumers give up convenience in the interest of fairness, and I'm skeptical about that. And the elites (i.e., "The people paying for the infrastructure") wont like it. Taxes can redistribute resources in a manner aligned with the interests of the greatest number, but they have to be forced to do that, it doesn't happen naturally, as a spontaneous output of the system. Something more is needed, I think.

Can Capitalism be refined and improved? Or must it be "burned down and redesigned from scrap?"

Let's hope the former, the latter involves bloodshed.

146:

A few other folks have mentioned https://www.google.com/contributor/welcome/, an existing micropayment system (in its infancy) built on top of the same infrastructure that distributes advertising revenue. So yay, there's that.

But the thing is, right now advertisers are paying web site owners a lot of money. Lots of these advertisers are big companies, and they have a big budget for this. If advertisers are cut out (due to ad blocking or any other reason) and that funding is going to come out of readers' pockets instead, can they afford it?

According to Wikipedia, Google AdSense paid web site owners (68% of $3.4 billion, or) around $2.3 billion in Q1 2014. I don't know what fraction of the overall ads market is AdSense, but pretend it's 10%. That would be $23 billion to web site owners in three months.

Even if micropayments were a completely solved problem, you'd still need to get, say, a billion people to voluntarily pay $10 every month. That seems like a really tall order.

If you squint, advertising pays out all this money as a sort of a tax on all money made on line — rather than everyone paying $10/month, a lot of money comes from people who buy cars and very little money comes from people who just surf news sites. That seems a lot more reasonable to me :-/.

Full disclosure: Yes, you guessed it, I work for Google.

147:

Also, this business model is very similar to how public broadcasting works in the US. For most public radio and television stations viewers/listener donations represent the largest share of their revenue followed by corporate sponsorships and grants from non-profit foundations, and then distantly by government funding. Most government funding for public broadcasting goes towards rural stations which don't have the critical mass of viewers/listeners in their broadcast area to be sustainable.

US public radio and television have had ads for years. Just not in the format of most TV and radio.

148:

It seems to me that any micropayment system needs to solve some basic problems:

  • I need to be able to read the content before I pay for it, because 99% of everything is trash. I don't want to pay for trash.
  • Lots of users (for example, kids) don't have any money to pay with.
  • If your plan is to scam the government into giving you money by hijacking my browser, I may not be too happy about that.
  • Obviously I'm going to be using TOR.
  • Existing payment systems fail because they turn into a war between the mobile carriers, Google/Apple/FailBook/etc., the banks, and me. Somehow I'm always the loser in this.

I think this basically only leaves us with a few reasonable types of possibilities:

1. Tip jars. The existing walled garden versions all suck, though.
2. Content networks. If they're big enough and high quality, I might be willing to pay for a subscription. But none of the existing ones seem to be curated "my way" if you know what I mean...
3. Social networks. I put the people I like in my list, pay Compuserve^WFacebook monthly, and they distribute. All content ends up hidden in some walled garden.

Of these, #1 seems like the best idea, and #3 the worst. Hence, #3 seems most likely to catch on.

149:

If you want an insight into this, grab hold of a map of the undersea cables and so on, then wonder why Svalbard (population: about 40,000) has two (yes TWO) of the largest pipes known to man when New Zealand (population 4.4 million) has only a single one, and it's not comparable in bandwidth.

New Zealand
The cable map I have shows 2 current and 3 on the way. One seems to still be in planning.

1992 1.2Gbps Tasman-2
2000 2.6Tbps Southern Cross
2016 est 30Tbps Tasman Global Express
2016 ? 25Tbps Hawaiki
2017 est 19.2Tbps APX East


Svalbard Undersea Cable System seems to be 1 cable.

The Svalbard Undersea Cable System is a 1,440 km (890 mi) fibre optic line from Svalbard to Harstad, needed for communicating with polar orbiting satellite through Svalbard Satellite Station and installations in Ny-Ålesund.

2004 5Tbps

Capacity seems more on when you get a cable than the desire to use it. Plus extra if you have big needs.

150:

"...the low-voltage for the CPU was rather low-power. You could only get the full rated power on the 12v line."

Certainly you do have to be jolly careful to check the rating per output and not just overall, but having most of the available power at 12V does have some justification. Motherboards these days which support high-power-consumption CPUs are increasingly tending to run the onboard voltage regulator for the CPU from the 12V line. (Mine does, and also has an extra 12V connector near the CPU to help supply it.) The reason being that designing an efficient high-power switch-mode converter to run off 5V is a total bear, and 3.3V is even worse.

A better example of blatant lies in advertised power ratings would be audio amplifiers. I have one which proudly proclaims its 500W output capability in great big letters on the front. But looking inside reveals that it runs off +/-20V power rails. It might produce 40W per channel into a 4 ohm load, if you're lucky. And with the titchy little heatsink it has for the output transistors it won't be doing that for very long.

151:

They wouldn't have to bombard us with so much useless crap if we clicked more often, and we would click more often if the stuff being advertised was stuff we wanted at a reasonable price.

Ah, but this gets to the core problem that wages are too low so people avoid spending.

BS. Most of the people I know always pick "free" over any form of payment no matter how low. Many of these are 10% or 1% or even higher income folks.

Sometimes after dealing with "free" (Google Mail) and some of the hassles for a year or few they start to consider paying under $5 for an alternative. These are 1% folks.

152:

BS. Most of the people I know always pick "free" over any form of payment no matter how low. Many of these are 10% or 1% or even higher income folks.

Do any of these people pay for cable? Netflix? Amazon Prime? Why pay for any recorded entertainment, when there's torrents and mega.co.nz?

Netflix currently claims over 65 million subscribers. Every one of them has the bandwidth to download content for free. It's really free only if your time has no value. I pirated a lot 10 years ago, when I was still a student on a very limited income. Nowadays it's not worth the time. I don't assemble a PC from components any more either. Or plan my grocery shopping around this week's coupons. Well before you hit the Western median income, paying for entertainment is a better deal than hours spent tiptoeing around malware trying to find free working links to the thing you're after.

153:

to be sustainable, any institutional system has to be able to accommodate the differential distribution of power

I think that's assuming facts not in evidence.

The idea that capitalism is anything other than a post-hoc justification is definitely facts-not-in-evidence. (Capitalism is the system that assumes people would rather lose than cheat. Whatever you've actually got, it's not capitalism. (Not without a near-perfect death penalty for cheating, which has never existed but makes a nice sfnal premise.))

Micropayments are obvious nonsense, not because it's technically difficult, but because it's a solution to a differential between "willing to pay" and "wants to be paid". (Things like kickstarter work because they're based on matching willingness to pay and desire to get paid, even if, considered as a platform for delivering successful projects, kickstarter is terrible.) Absent great coercive power -- that is, taxation -- it's not going to work. If taxation is required to make something work, you recognize that and socialize it, you don't lend the might of the state to guaranteeing some small group its profits.

We are at an interesting time in history because our food security is in the early days of collapsing. As food security goes, so goes social stability. So questions of internally stable social structures aren't really relevant in this time. If they were, the fix for the high-functioning sociopaths (which is something of a comforting lie; self-aggrandizement isn't high-functioning, though it certainly goes along with the norms of the inherited slaver culture) is easy; income and asset caps. Pick the general prosperity over the possibility of great wealth.

(You can argue that in, say, 1700, you couldn't educate everybody, the economy wasn't there to do it. So oligarchical collectivism was needed just so there would be an educated class and some concentration of capital so investment was possible at all. Can't accurately argue that today; it's very clear that replacing all that social mediation and mutual-favours networking with people working for accountant's salaries works better.)

Oh, and capitalism kills lots of people. Bloody revolutions tend to expand the number and alter the classes from which the corpses are being derived, but we're headed at one or more of those on the food security issue. Might as well at least think about cost-benefit in terms of outcomes.

154:

"BS. Most of the people I know always pick "free" over any form of payment no matter how low. Many of these are 10% or 1% or even higher income folks."

I have a disposable income in the thousands per month (at present). I do not own a TV. Occasionally I will go to the cinema to see a "special" film. Ditto concert.
How much would I pay to not pirate any other content?
Probably around 20p per item max, whether it's a song, a James Bond movie or an episode of GoT.
And what would happen if I could not pirate the stuff? Nothing - I could do without with extreme ease.

"But what would you do with all your free time now you are no longer criminal scum?"

Online gaming. Or getting a life. The last game I bought I got thousands of hours of entertainment from it. Maybe, 1p per hour?

155:

"I need to be able to read the content before I pay for it, because 99% of everything is trash. I don't want to pay for trash."

This is an ancient problem. Certainly the internet amplifies it, though. When you go to a movie you don't know in advance whether you will like it, but you know it's a movie. When you go to a website you don't know if it's one page of stupidity or a rich and rewarding website. The range possible is much greater. If there were a galaxy of metering services they would have to come up with a way to deal with this. One way would be for the service itself to act as a a reviewer/editor, refusing to associate itself with garbage sites, or allowing them to charge only miniscule fees. Another way would be a user review system. When you have to pay for something that prevents proliferation of disingenuous reviews. In order for the proferer to review itself positively a thousand times it would have to buy it's own product a thousand times. Let the default review be neutral, and give users an easy opportunity to make the effort to rave or pan. People will gladly do so.

156:

Minecraft 1.0.
Best 20 bucks I ever spent.

157:

The basic problem I see is that if the payment is too small to notice, then pricing will be strange for a long time because consumer signals will be very understated. Sites may declare themselves "premium" without justification and no-one will notice (they may blame their low market appeal on selective targetting).

As for yours:
* You're going to have to pay for shit. To be fair, you already do now when you look at sites with lots of ads and while you can block them, you still pay for the access and bandwidth. The upside in the future is that you will vote with your microdollars and not go back to the sites that charge you for shit.
* Users with access to the internet have gained it somehow and the micropayments will be embedded in the means by which they do. Think of access to websites being part of your mobile phone contract
* Governments already make ISPs do things you might not like: whether you like it isn't a major factor for them. Maybe you'd like to get involved in policy-making? It's not all just focus groups.
* Obviously while you are using TOR you won't have access to some content, unless you create a chargeable identity at the other end
* We are all captive to rent-takers now in some way or other

158:

A lot of the comments have focused on the technical side, either on how micropayments are fundamentally unworkable and doomed to failure or on how they're a previously solved problem. IMHO, the technical side is not so important. (Or, rather, it is, but the possibility of becoming a middleman to daily transactions by a billion-plus people is enough of an incentive that someone will take care of it.) It's much more of a sociological and UI problem -- the comments about the cognitive transaction cost being more important than the financial cost are bang on, as is the point that people tend to be cheapskates when given the option. So the really interesting problem is how to design a system that will let people make and manage micropayments without thinking about it -- and behave in a totally intuitive way so that they don't _need_ to think about it. Apple might be best placed to take that on, though I don't know if they'd actually want to. (Imagine the headaches that come with trying to negotiate who gets to charge how much for what content; you'd be turning yourself into a public utility.)

... but, on a more near-future-SF note: we should be careful what we wish for. Advertising is obnoxious, but it has the redeeming merit that it lets anyone see the content. (Maybe after slogging through pages of ads, but still.) In a micropayment world, what happens to the people who truly can't pay? Now, okay, there is no fundamental right to watch cat videos or read listicles, but it's easy to imagine a world in which, if you fail to top up your internet meter, half of the web suddenly goes dark. So whatever solution is put in place, it has to degrade gracefully, and it needs to be ensured somehow that it'll continue to degrade gracefully.

159:

Well...having read a lot of the above unfortunatly I'm not really seeing any solutions. Which is why I mentioned about creating some sort of new system above, and someone thought I was meaning communism (?). Not true -- there could be a new system out there it is just we haven't thought about it. And is anyone out there actually *trying* to do this? And why are people so resistant to dumping capatilism? Are people just scared?

It still dosen't detract from one thing though - if your bank balance (assuming you have one) currently reads £0.00 (or less) how do you pay for stuff?

ljones

160:

One possibility for how to put in a micropayment system that doesn't require much thinking about would be to have a flat pennies-per-minute charge.

In practice the way this would work is that every second you were on a website your internet meter was charged a certain amount of money, let's say this works out to 1/10th of a penny per minute. If you spend 6 hours a day online that's 36p a day or ~£10 per month. To identify which websites use this form of payment they could have a clearly defined "Metered" symbol next to them on search engines, perhaps with one on the website too.

But there are issues I can see with this:

1) The flat rate is to simplify things so users never have to think about it but it requires the industry to agree. I'm having a hard time seeing thousands of websites coming together with ISPs and regulators in multiple countries and coming to an agreement.

2) It might be technically very difficult to enforce.

Still if it could work I think I'd be quite happy with a metered system, providing the price was good enough. It could certainly help a lot of youtubers and artists. If you made a 10 minute video and got 10,000 views you would make £1,000. Or at least youtube would an potentially there would be something like the youtube partnership system in which you get a cut.

161:

“NB: anyone who says "Bitcoin" will be banned for stupidity.”
I was very surprised to read this. Because Bitcoin or its forks can answer the post question in the future. Coinbase (the largest player on Bitcoin market) does offer “Micro-Transactions With Zero Fees” since 2013. Another part of solution could be browser addon that automatically transfer money by user request to read full content instead of public available its part

162:

Part of the solution is going to be the death of zillion dollar epics. It surprises me it has not happened already.
Fewer LOTR and more Blair Witch.
And artists/musicians will have to go back to doing art/music for the sake of it.
As for mass media, I am never going to pay any amount in order to be fed "the company line" whether it's Fox or the BBC.
The future is games.

163:

But micro-billing is here - what are Apple Marketplace and Amazon's Kindle market? It takes being the only way of getting there, like the Apple's music devices. And now all the book readers. And others will come.

Real people turn to be absurdly stingy about 'free', why ads work. Including for me, except one early text-format cdrom ebook. Otherwise I've been gutenberg faithful online.

Repeating. it takes being the only way of getting there for an industry.

164:

Obviously I'm going to be using TOR.

I'd be wary about that. There are reports that TOR was pretty much compromised from its inception. The idea is that TOR was set up to allow CIA types to communicate online without host country eavesdropping; other users are allowed to provide cover traffic for the governmental users. There's probably no way to know if it's true, but it's plausible.

https://pando.com/2014/07/16/tor-spooks/

165:

Neither Apple nor Amazon microbill in a way I'd go for for reading web content though. I'm not sure what Amazons smallest non-free chargeable amount is, but for Apple it's 49p/99c. For an eBook or an app I'll consider that, for a read of your website ad-free? Fat chance.

Apple then chooses to sit on your transactions for a while to make a larger single transaction, I assume that's to do with their billing and transaction fees which would be another issue with micro transactions per read. What happens if I save them up and bill at the end of the month then you contest visiting the site?

166:

Posters mentioned several different payment methods ... so a couple of questions: (1) What is the exchange rate across/between 'currencies'? (2) Who negotiates these exchange rates? (3) Where is this e-exchange situated? (4) How safe is this exchange clearing house?

Gov't is the single largest buyer (consumer) in any geo-economy. Which gov'ts are already using e-currencies now? Why/what purchases? The U.S. is still the single largest economy, but given the cut-backs, not sure if it's the single largest gov't purchasing body on the planet. Therefore some polity other than the US gov't might set the 'e-dollar' standard. Assuming that digital currency usage grows, this might mean that other gov't currencies would rapidly devalue/deflate.

Before the smoke clears ... Gov't inter-departmental bickering is probably universal, so need to identify which dept is likeliest to have the most budget, therefore set the rules for the e-economy.

I'm guessing that regardless of payment transfer methods, it'll still be old-school GAAP debits & credits. So, still subject to the same embezzlement and frauds, just with a new look.

167:

There's a movement toward 'principle' vs. 'rule' based accounting. US corps are not exactly embracing it ... 'principles' may be tougher to game than 'rules'.


http://www.investopedia.com/articles/economics/12/impact-gaap-ifrs-convergence.asp

168:

40 messages after mine and none commenting about it?
(Or was I silently moderated because I gave a link?)

I guess that summary was too opaque, I'll copy here the declaration of principles :

"In general terms, the plan of the global patronage system is that

1) Each internet user is free to distribute on a non-commercial basis, copies of works already published by an author or artist who belongs to a Copyright Collecting Society Copyright Collecting Society (CCS) /or a //_Donation Collecting Society_// (DCS)./

2) Each internet user has the choice between

a) not subscribing to the Global Patronage system, and, in the case of countries or ISPs which impose surveillance or filtering to prevent sharing, paying a monthly fee to cover the cost of that system. It would be inequitable to impose those cost on those who subscribe to the Global Patronage system.

b) subscribing to the Global Patronage system, and paying a fixed monthly fee to the ISP for the support of authors and artists.

[One can envisage the system with or without the option to not subscribe -- rms]

3) Each internet user may freely assign parts of his/her fixed contribution to works that he / she chooses, up to a legally fixed maximum percentage.

4) Contributions not explicitly assigned in that way are allocated according to a non-linear function, designed to reduce the differences in support for between various artists and authors, in order to promote diversity and new talents.

5) /_Donation Collecting Societies_// (DCS) are created to enable the financing by Internet users, of digital works./

The legal scheme of the global patronage is based not on an exception to the exclusive rights of authors, but rather on public policy provisions in the various contractual relationships which are binding respectively:

a) Internet users with their Internet Service Providers (ISPs), b) ISPs and CCS and DCS that receive funds sent by the ISP. c) Authors and artists with their CCS and DCS.

6) Each ISP shall automatically compute the amounts of assigned contributions ; transfer the assigned amount for each work to its authors and artists according to established rules; then the ISPs optionally redistribute among themselves the amounts assigned to the same author or artist, so as to maximize his or her income in the next step (see No. 4).

7) Each ISP shall automatically compute a fraction of the non-assigned contributions for each author or artist, first calculating a weight for each person by applying a sublinear function to that author or artist's assigned sum, and then dividing the total available funds according to these weights. The function to use will be specified by regulations. One example of a suitable function would be the cube root.

8) Each ISP publishes the amounts of contributions assigned to each work and each author or artist, and the details of redistribution among ISPs, and the amount of non-assign funds given to each person, and sends these sums and the money to the CCS and DCS, which distribute it to authors and artists, deducting a management fee whose limit is set by law.

The CCS and DCS shall be required to implement the Global Patronage system, while authors and artists who are not members of a CCS or a DCS shall not be obliged to participate in the system."

169:

Oops, I guess that since I copy-pasted almost all the text of the page, I should have added this to the end too :

Copyright (c) 2010 Richard Stallman [and Francis Muguet ?]
Verbatim copying and redistribution of this entire page are permitted provided this notice is preserved.

170:
One way would be for the service itself to act as a a reviewer/editor, refusing to associate itself with garbage sites, or allowing them to charge only miniscule fees.

This is basically what I was imagining with "content networks."

You pay somehow to read anything in the network, and only things that someone thought were decent get included. This could be set up as a micropayment scheme if you like, where curated sites get to charge you 5¢ per article -- though for other reasons, I imagine a monthly subscription would work a lot better. In particular, I'm displeased if I get a $500 bill after letting a kid use my computer for an hour...

The problem is that things I think are decent (like Charlie's Blog) won't be included, while half the network will invariably be gawker or something.

171:
Users with access to the internet have gained it somehow and the micropayments will be embedded in the means by which they do. Think of access to websites being part of your mobile phone contract.

It is somewhat amusing to imagine a world where, instead of attempting to charge the content producers (Netflix) as well as the consumers, ISPs somehow turn around and start operating a payment scheme where the web sites with the most traffic get the largest portion of the ISP's monthly subscription fee...

... mostly because that's exactly backwards from how things actually work today.

Instead of trying to come up with better and better compression schemes for video, people will use raw RGB to increase their traffic portion!

What? Buffering problems? We'll just pre-fetch movies you might want to watch in the background to your computer. Fixed that right up!

Some company you've never heard of placing extra charges on your bill for goat porn via TCI Iran? We're so sorry to hear that! Feel free to call them and dispute the charges, we have no way to tell if they're valid or not.

172:

But Dirk, from the things you've revealed about yourself you're a far outlier in your attitudes and convictions, in your socioeconomic status, and in your lifestyle. Extrapolating from what pleases you and what you would or wouldn't do is not going to be a good guide to what is or is not viable.

173:

Another Googler here suggesting a look at Contributor. On my personal account, $5 in the last month removed 2177 ads. wunderground.com was #1 with $1.46. 20 sites received a penny or more (including $0.21 to "Anonymous sites") and about 20 sites received less than a penny. I replace ads with pictures of kittens, because kittens.

If it still requires invites (I honestly don't know) I've got them.

If you don't mind routing micropayments through a macrocompany, it's pretty clear Google can make it work. So in a crude sense, there's your answer, it's already done.

Two things potentially lacking (that your question did not specifically address) are (1) the ability to approve each expenditure, either on the fly or retroactively, and (2) the fact that the macrocompany has a record of your browsing, and you may not believe their assurances of privacy confidentiality etc. There's always the-coin-that-shall-not-be-named. My suspicion, having seen dozens of friends playing all sorts of information-gathering games on Facebook, is that to an engineering approximation privacy has zero commercial value (yes, I know people disagree. I invite them to contemplate the existence of Facebook and its commercial success. Neither you nor I may like that much, but there it is).

One thing that quickly becomes obvious is that there's more advertisers in the world than just Google, and that ads are targeted with (ahem) varying accuracy.

174:

What I have also observed is that there are far more people like me among the young (

175:

...ah be careful of "less than" signs...
What I have also observed is that there are far more people like me among the young (under 25) than the old, especially as regards to paying for stuff, watching TV, absorbing media etc.

176:

Hmm, Google just might succeed where Flattr (and some politicians) failed.
Well, technically Flattr didn't fail, but after all these years, I still rarely see it. It would seem that even Patreon is more popular nowadays...

177:

Do any of these people pay for cable? Netflix? Amazon Prime? Why pay for any recorded entertainment, when there's torrents and mega.co.nz?

Netflix currently claims over 65 million subscribers. Every one of them has the bandwidth to download content for free. It's really free only if your time has no value.

You assume these folks would use the "pirate" stuff. Most of the ones I know would not. We're talking surfing the web for the most part. But periodically one will ask me how they can get "all the movies" free. I tell them there is no such except for pirated that includes values of "all". They pass and pay for Netflix and/or Amazon Prime and/or Hulu.

The folks I know who will pirate. (High incomes.) feel that stealing this content is OK but not things like cars or personal property.

Both have a big aversion to paying in bits. A fixed monthly bill covering lots of things they are OK with. Paying for individual things they pause. A lot.

178:

There's a movement toward 'principle' vs. 'rule' based accounting. US corps are not exactly embracing it ... 'principles' may be tougher to game than 'rules'.

I'm in the States, and over here the feeling is that if there's any ambiguity in the accounting methods allowed, it won't be long before people overreach. Soon after that, a number of messy court cases will result in firm limits being established as case law. Since each case will be decided on an individual basis, often for a single state or Federal circuit, the result would be a real mess. It's probably better to just start with rule-based accounting.

Full disclosure: I just got a master's in accounting and am starting a job as an auditor in a few weeks. Hopefully the job market will be more stable than in my prior chemistry career, if not quite as well paid at the peaks of the market.

179:

My ethics in the matter, which I have previously outlined in this blog, is that I only pirate stuff I would not have paid for anyway.

180:

When did I comment on YOUR ethics?

181:

One problem with micro-payments is the imposition of rich-world norms for how much to pay for something.From our perspective, if you can afford a computer and internet service, then paying an extra 1p a page for content is possible.

If your total income is less than $2 a day, you are going to be far more reluctant to use those services. Yet is is among those people for whom the access to information is the most valuable. Examples are basic medical information, prices at the local market, what the local law actually says etc. All of which could be crippled by a penny a page charge, decided internationally with no scope to reduce to take account of local market conditions.

We should be very careful of blithely endorsing a payment structure that could lock essential information away from billions of people, because what we consider a trivial charge is not trivial to them.

182:

You're correct about NZ and two - apologies, I was working from memory & probably conflated the over-all bandwidth as a single entity being lower than Svalbard's. Or, geographically, they're on the same infrastructure.

But, not sure which maps you're looking at: Svalbard 100% has two >2.5 lines, and run in different locations.


Ho. Hum. I wasn't aware that was a secret. (Goes off to watch The Thing.


183:

I'm not especially arguing in favour of micropayment, rather that if there are micropayments they must be handled by the network provider.

In the general sense something more like a subscription model would seem likely - ie, An ISP has Plan A which gives access to Content Provider Networks 1 and 2 but not 3, for that you need to upgrade to Plan B. You have a 5GB download cap on all these networks, but Plan C means traffic from network 2 doesn't count toward the cap. You have a 1GB upload cap that you can't change. This isn't speculation, rather it's what is happening in some markets now.

So metering access to specific networks is already in the price model, just as an unutilised permutation.

Does it give the consumer choice and control? Probably not, but you might realise benefits in reduced prices. Building user pays into that is a separate exercise.

184:

A bit late to the comments, but I'm wondering how a micropayment system would work at a time of expanding access for the developing world? The wealthier nations can afford such things, but what about India and Africa?

And if there is a lower price or an exemption for developing countries, what's to stop people from using proxies to get around microtransactions in wealthy countries?

In the current system, advertising to wealthier countries is basically subsidizing the web for developing countries. Sure, they're forced to look at ads too, but it is the sales to people in the US and Europe actually paying for things.

185:

"When did I comment on YOUR ethics?"

No idea. The point is that the view I stated is quite common and will have an impact on the viability of any pay scheme.

186:

CD the problem with New Zealand is it has a small population, few interesting resources or neighbours, and is a really f*ing long way from anywhere useful.

Svalbard is a polar outpost of a western nation, much as Thule is, but much more convenient to an awful lot of people. It lets those that want to talk to all of the polar orbit satellites, and no doubt eavesdrop on the neighbours to the east.

The cable to there was ~1300km, and cost at least $50 million.

The Southern Cross, which is still the only significant data feed into NZ is ~8000km to Hawaii, and ~2300 to Sydney, which means unless it breaks, the Hawaii leg isn't being added to any time soon.
Tasman2 is effectively voice data only, and has been since inception.

They're finally building a new link to Australia out of Raglan, which will give us more data links through Asia, but that doesn't exist yet.

Until it does, NZ is still really the back end of nowhere as far as data goes.

187:

The developing world would pirate and nobody would bother to come after them. Sites might be almost totally replicated locally. But in my model there would be many sites that didn't charge: really simple ones, truly advertising supported ones, and inferior ones unable to charge but still up and hoping to catch on. The ViewPay services would each just be a collective pay wall, kind of like a receptionist shared between multiple professional offices. As with any pay wall, or with signing into Disqus or Movable Type, once you got onto a site you would be good until you left. The site would get paid once. In the developed world, we would just go to a site and get what we wanted, then leave, never minding that we didn't milk it for every penny worth, the way we subscribe to periodicals but don't read every article. In the developing world, there may be one device in the village, dedicated to being signed into each frequently used site basically all the time, milking that original charge for all it's worth. Like the library getting that one issue of a periodical and it getting passed around to a thousand people.

188:

You assume these folks would use the "pirate" stuff. Most of the ones I know would not. We're talking surfing the web for the most part. But periodically one will ask me how they can get "all the movies" free. I tell them there is no such except for pirated that includes values of "all". They pass and pay for Netflix and/or Amazon Prime and/or Hulu.

I am assuming that a lot of people will not use the pirate stuff, either because the legal options are so cheap and convenient (I am a Netflix customer) or because they are ethically set against it. If you have a net connection good enough for Netflix, it's good enough for piracy too, yet Netflix keeps adding subscribers. Torrent traffic is shrinking as a percentage of all internet traffic and legal streaming video is growing. The audiovisual piracy situation probably looks terrifying to copyright holders who just woke up after a 20 year coma, but it actually seems to be reaching a new equilibrium where works still make enough money to keep businesses going. There are enough cheap-enough, good-enough legal options now that a lot of people who could pirate are using legal services instead.

189:

OK, I'll sign it. Just let me see my movie.

190:

It lets those that want to talk to all of the polar orbit satellites, and no doubt eavesdrop on the neighbours to the east.

Well, yes.

Proves the point about Governments though. An extra 1k miles, let's call it $150mil, 4.4 million people all suddenly watching netflix. Someone (apart from Kim DotCom) must have done the economic modelling.


There's an interesting aside however ("Egyptian fishermen knock out Suez canal link"): my maps show Sva as having two. Apparently your maps show one.

How common is this? (Not just looking at dedicated HFT pipes across America, for instance).

Dark Pools in Finance; Dark Pipes in reality?

191:

Yeah, I was thinking of Thule quite intentionally, because there is a decent pipe going through Nuuk in Greenland, and I would be deeply unsurprised to find that an extra cable was quietly run from there up the coast.

Or more likely, that a cable had always gone up the coast, and was now given a bigger backhaul in both directions. Thule has been rather important to the US for a long time now.


On the c/b on a new cable - there's lots of benefits, but not a lot of profit in it (at least in the short term). The geography doesn't help either - the plates move a lot down that part of the world.
Hawaiiki is the latest proposal I've seen for a new high speed link to Hawaii and the fast US lines - honestly I'll believe it when it turns on, not before. There's been half a dozen fizzle out since 1996, and most of those were transtasman.

The new TGA one to Australia should make a big difference though, it's backed by all the main telcos.

192:

The geography doesn't help either - the plates move a lot down that part of the world.

I am reminded of the explanation for why there's no bridge being contemplated to Vancouver Island.

(~10 cm/year, that's why.)

193:

Thule is a far way off Svar.

Iceland is between them.

Those Arctic Stations and The Thing must have 'confused you'.

Note: there's a difference between pointing out things-we-know and the things that no-one knows.


Thule is on the West side, anyhow. Pipe location for Svar doesn't come from that direction.

194:

The Svalbard Undersea Cable System is a twin submarine communications cable which connects Svalbard to the mainland of Norway. The two optical fiber cable consist of two segments, from Harstad to Breivika in Andøy, and from Breivika to Hotellneset near Longyearbyen in Svalbard. The segments from Harstad to Breivika are 74 and 61 kilometers (46 and 38 mi) long, respectively, and the segments from Breivika to Hotellneset 1,375 and 1,339 kilometers (854 and 832 mi). Each consists of eight fiber pairs and there are installed twenty optical communications repeaters on each segment. Each segment has a speed of 10 gigabits per second (Gb/s), with a future potential capacity of 2,500 Gbit/s. The system is now the sole telecommunications link to the archipelago.


I'm messing with you.

But I'm not (c.f. references to NZ sharing same architecture).


The third one is much more fun (and, for reference, that's the one I was talking about).

195:

I am a bit surprised that nobody has yet mentioned the massive hostile reaction that followed when the music industry was pushing for a levy off fees paid to ISPs (and the same at an earlier point in time when they tried to get a tax imposed on blank recording media). I can't help thinking that most of the ideas proposed here would get a similar reaction. They may differ in their details but I don't think that would make much difference.

They are all also massively exclusionary by reason of the unquestioned assumption that payment by electronic means is necessarily trivially straightforward. It is not.

After considerable searching and expensive experimentation I have discovered ONE provider of electronic payment services that I can actually use. All the others are liars. They claim to not ask for ID, then after I have paid the sign-up fee it turns out they were lying and they won't finish signing me up without it. It took a lot of wasted sign-up fees to discover one that isn't a liar and I am still limited to £1600/year on it. It is also expensive as there is a £2 fee to top it up, you can only top it up in £10 units to a maximum of £90, and there is a £1.75 fee to aggregate separate topups into a single pile of money, so the tail-ends of the £10 units are difficult not to waste. It is inconvenient because I have to take the money down to the one local shop that can handle top-ups to this provider to convert it into electronic form in the first place. And it doesn't work with everything; I can't transfer it to paypal, for one, so I'm pretty much shut out of ebay.

And this is in the middle of the UK. Which is not a typical country of the world as a whole. There must surely be vast areas where either such services are hedged about with far more exclusionary barriers to access or simply do not exist at all. Places where what to me here is a pain in the arse would count only as a minor tickle. It's not just a question of a penny being a lot to pay, it's a question of not having any reasonable facility to do it in the first place.

As for torrents, I can't help wondering how much of their unexpectedly reduced popularity is due to the proliferation of NAT routers which block incoming connections by default and need awkward fiddling-with to get them to forward torrent ports which is probably beyond the average user. If we had had IPv6 from the word go, and had not suffered the proliferation of a hugely insecure OS which couldn't be connected to the internet for long enough to download an antivirus package without already being infected by the time the download had finished, I think things would be significantly different.

196:

I can't help but wonder why there are so many technological solutions in this thread proposed to solve what is a mostly a social problem. '-)

197:

Of course, all the above does tend to raise the question of who should be paying these micro-transactions?

Whilst I'm sure website content creators would love a way to get directly paid for their opinions, there is the other side of this, which is if you want me to look at your advert, you really need to pay me.

With adblockers etc. I really don't want or need to see those ads, so there needs to be a transaction that recompenses me for my attention. And I don't mean the implicit one in adverts in the first place, I mean a direct one where I get paid.

All of which brings me to the idea of a micro-transaction 'account' - where I can earn value by looking at/paying attention to an advert, and I can then donate that to content creators I wish to benefit. The value of my attention might be modulated by my value to the advertiser, or my interest set.

Mechanics might be a a button on the ad that has to be clicked to earn the value (thus proving attention) and something akin to the donate/tip jar for the site where value can be transferred.

The advantage is you can keep the real folding stuff behind the scenes - and the advertisers get measurably more engagement for their money.

198:

I'm sympathetic to the notion of consumer reluctance towards (a) setting up yet another account with recurring bill, and (b) the mental transaction cost of managing micro-payments.
THAT is the exact problem & why,with the greatest respect to OGH, this thread-subject is irrelevant.
And you nail it in your next sentence:
What if every internet-connected device incurred a small monthly access fee?
It already does.
We are paying our ISP's, we are paying for ant-virus, we are paying phone bills or connection charges.
Why the hell should we be asked to pay more, with additional complication & the fear of yet another bureaucracy &/or corrupt carte?
NO THANK YOU

199:

Also
What Elladan said @ #148 .....
The proposed "solution" (micropayments) is worse than the supposed problem(s)

200:

& also the previous comment ...
The trouble with "Pay up" is that you have to do it in advance.
Wyy should we?
We don't know, though we can guess, sometimes, how "good" or "reliable" or "worthwhile" the web-site we are proposing to look at is or may be.
But paying-in-advance for something that turns out to be a turd.
No thank you.
And it is going to happen - far too often.
Which is a. n. other reason this is a disastrous idea.
( You should have got my opinion on this subject fairly clear by now? )

201:

"Why should we" because "it looks like the current state of the ad-funded web is a death-spiral."
Your objection is that prices won't match "value" (whatever that is, I scanned part of an argument about it). Traditional market pricing systems won't apply properly. It is a design problem. Due to the blind date nature of internet browsing, how can the price asked for access to web based material approximate what the audience will actually consider it worth. There are many approaches being taken to this problem. Some are reviewer based (Amazon, Facebook) and some are based on samples (New York Times lets you see so many articles before you have to pay). There are attempts at professional site review sites also, but these tend to be stand alone rather than connected to the browsing experience itself, so you have to look them up rather than having them there as a filter. Creativity could turn up other solutions to the price/value problem. Stubborn conservatism is seldom a solution for anything.

202:

That's because social problems require more advanced technology.

203:

There are some basic assumptions about people and the internet that I'd like to challenge.

It seems to me that the common knowledge (that we have all accepted) is that there is "content" created by "producers" and accessed by "consumers" which then need to be rewarded by some fractional amount of dollars. And hopefully, his contents will be better than other contents and he will be getting a lot of fractional amounts of money.

Being this the model, it is no wonder that the internet has become a dumping ground of all kind of garbage (writings and the advertisement that literally surrounds it).

I personally would very much prefer an internet where the concepts are "reader" and "writer". If you feel so kind to let us read your well written and well thought ideas, I'm more than happy to follow you, if you don't that's also ok. But please, if you think that somehow you are owed something for using a public platform to say your stuff, and people should feel morally obliged to pay you for the privilege of reading your stuff, please, go and write a book.

There is a lot of people who want to transform the internet in a mall, I want to keep it as a library. Not everything in the world needs to be commodified and sold. Also, I am not a fucking consumer, I am a person, who happens to buy stuff, as everybody else, just buy speaking of consumer and producer you are forcing a very specific and narrowing point of view which does not allow to go outside of those concepts.

204:

But please, if you think that somehow you are owed something for using a public platform to say your stuff, and people should feel morally obliged to pay you for the privilege of reading your stuff, please, go and write a book.

That assumes that the content being produced is amenable to turning into a book and that the producer has the skill and will to create that sort of content. I think this is a big assumption.

Consider a youtuber whose product is 20 minute videos of themselves playing video games with funny commentary (a lets player). Should they abandon monetising their videos and instead make a film at some point to earn a living? Or does it make more sense for them to have adverts on their videos, premium content that only paid sponsors can see or belong to a microbilling network?

205:

I think you are somewhat missing the point.

Its a massive problem in your head - and evidence suggests very few others. You are a niche case of a person wanting to mix the convenience of online payments WITHOUT the inconvenience of having to provide ID.

Given you have to provide ID for nearly every service provider that provides a banking/payments function - why on earth do you think an online one would be exempt? Like it or not the whole of industry in the western world is fenced in by anti-money laundering laws where you have to be sure that you are dealing with John Smith, not El Presidente Smith of Embargoland.

More over the lack of protests over this suggest the majority of people (unlike yourself) do see this as a problem.

206:

So you (hypothetical you of course) want to be on a world facing platform, having your video possibly seen by millions of eyeballs (and this can happen only _because_ the current architecture of the internet is as it is), but at the same time you expect that everybody suffers the ads, because that's the only way you can make money out of it, to a point where you think that who does not like ads and blocks them is "stealing" from your just earnings.

To answer your question, yes, you should accept that you create nice things for passion, that are meant to be enjoyed by a vast platform of people, and it can absolutely be possible that you do not get a dime for it. Otherwise, you should really pursue a career where your skills will be paid upfront for the job you are going to do.

Internet advertising is a scam where only the top players are making profits, but they were able to lure a lot of people to think that "producing" "content" is the new way to get rich on the internet, that's just the "easy money" trope that has been re-purposed for the internet times.

207:

Charlie, does it have to be a micro billing architecture?

I do think there's a reasonable chance that ad supported web sites will shrink to insignificance. Apple seem to have decided that ad-blocking will be a competitive advantage for them. Yes they only have 10% or so of the mobile market, but they have the 10% with money to spend.

I don't think Apple want to kill off ad-supported web sites, but I don't think they care about preserving them either. Someone earlier pointed out that a best selling ad-blocker was withdrawn from the App Store because the author felt guilty. That won't stop others from writing them.

And ad-blocking is a savage kick to the groin of Google, because how can they respond? "See more ads with Android!" will appeal to nobody. Android manufacturers will install their own ad blockers even if Google don't.

But while I can see ad-supported web sites dying down, I don't see why the alternative is micro billing. I'd expect have a dozen major aggregators with subscriptions or aggregated credit card processing, three of which being Apple, Amazon, and Facebook. Would that be so terrible?

208:

I'd expect have a dozen major aggregators with subscriptions or aggregated credit card processing, three of which being Apple, Amazon, and Facebook. Would that be so terrible?

That returns the web to the central-broadcast model of traditional media. Which is to say, terrible signal to noise, no privacy, no interoperability that hasn't been effectively legislated which here in the 21st means "none", and no actual news, just narrative.

Which is fine for someone who wants the traditional rents, the traditional control of content, and the traditional pittance paid to anybody doing actual work in content creation.

The transformative possibilities of the web's historical anarchies, not so much. (The ability to make things like Snowden's leaks available, not so much.)

It's a loss.

209:

I bought Peace (the best seller you mentioned), I have since bought another Ad Blocker and I'm quite happy with it.

Part of the reason it was a best seller so fast came from two sides. The writer built on a well-known desktop ad-blocking database he was associated with. He also had a really solid record of writing iOS apps that people love and use. It gave it a massive support base. It was also better than any of the alternatives I looked at, although the one I've got now is close.

But the fact you can't search the App Store (or you couldn't on Friday anyway) for Content Blockers as a category and he had a lot of WOM and a lot of goodwill from those two sources undoubtedly shoved him way, way up in the rankings. And you actually still don't have to shift that many thousands of items to get into the top 10 paid apps. It's different for Freemium ones.

210:

Apple News isn't here (UK yet) but offers essentially everyone the chance to put their blog up for syndication. I'm considering offering my film reviews to them (but not the rest of my blog which is a bit random) when they do hit the UK.

We'll have to see what the rules are...

But I'm not convinced. The anarchies will still exist. They're out there WITHOUT the adverts still. The curated, advert free space as an alternate to the ad-dominated space will not replace the real anarchy of the internet, it might offer an alternative to crappy ad-ware though.

And honestly, I'm relatively OK with that. It's only if I don't have any access to the whole web there's an issue. But I'm happy with curated news without adverts thanks. I'm happy with content without adverts, search without adverts. I'd like IMDB without fracking Amazon Prime adverts on every page etc.

211:

So you (hypothetical you of course) want to be on a world facing platform, having your video possibly seen by millions of eyeballs (and this can happen only _because_ the current architecture of the internet is as it is), but at the same time you expect that everybody suffers the ads, because that's the only way you can make money out of it, to a point where you think that who does not like ads and blocks them is "stealing" from your just earnings.

It isn't necessarily stealing but if ads aren't viewed then there's no money in making the videos. For some people that's fine, they have the time, income and will to make videos in their spare time and be content with people seeing them. However for plenty of people that isn't an option and many of the most prominent youtubers create far better content because it is a full time, paid job for them. With that extra money they can buy better equipment, hire more staff, attend conventions etcetera which is better for the consumer.

I completely disagree that content producers on the internet should just accept that it doesn't pay and treat it as a form of passion. It's better for us as consumers that these people get money for what they are doing so they can do more of it and do it better.

You're right that it isn't easy to get rich on the internet, or make a living, but it can happen. Like most people here I don't know what would be a better way to put money into the pockets of good producers. The freemium model has granted a lot of success to people (producing free content with premium services and merch for revenue) but I can't help but feel that's not very good for the consumer when it comes to large numbers of producers.

212:

Lucky me; I've written at length about this lately.

One possibility is to charge micropayments based on the release of derivative works only. This gets rid of several perverse incentives: it disincentivises the acceptance of false positives in automatic content recognition (the safe harbor isn't so safe when half the major content producers *want* their content to be hosted), it incentivizes wide distribution while disincentivizing walled garden style private platforms, and it incentivizes the release of works-in-progress because fan-works can be very profitable. At the same time, it doesn't require such a big framework for payment because there are fewer actors involved, and it doesn't require you to convince end-users to allocate a web-browsing budget. This is strictly a legal/licensing hack, though it could benefit from technologies like distributed hash tables, permanent addresses, and block-chain accounting (since being able to uniquely identify and trace IP reuse makes a lot of sense, and until recently the only way to do that was to sue and have the legal research team spend a lot of time trying to find a convincing trail of influence after the fact). On the flip-side, this could work against fair use protection for clearly transformative works.

213:

I completely disagree that content producers on the internet should just accept that it doesn't pay and treat it as a form of passion. It's better for us as consumers that these people get money for what they are doing so they can do more of it and do it better.

So, you decided to risk a career in a completely uncertain (economically speaking) panorama of "content producers" and "content platforms", lulled in by the promises of richness, ignoring the fact that the very thing that constitutes your income can be switched off by a simple browser extension. Putting aside comments on the business model itsel, this is not a deal where you can cherry-pick how your stuff is accessed, you want the worldwide visibility that the internet offers? Ok then you have to accept all the consequences that come with that, not only the part that produces income.

One suggestion btw, stop considering yourself and everybody else a "consumer" it diminishes your whole person and constrains your reasoning on purely material production, selling, purchasing and gain (and judging by your answer you really are doing that). Why should you or I be only seen for what we can purchase?

With that extra money they can buy better equipment, hire more staff, attend conventions etcetera which is better for the consumer.

It is certainly better for them, I wouldn't know if it is better for the "consumer".

214:

So, you decided to risk a career in a completely uncertain (economically speaking) panorama of "content producers" and "content platforms", lulled in by the promises of richness, ignoring the fact that the very thing that constitutes your income can be switched off by a simple browser extension.

Is this a hypothetical "you" again? Because I'm not a youtuber, nor do I desire to be. Beyond that I find your rhetoric really odd, you seem to think that producing content on the internet is some sort of get rich quick scam. Sure it's a risk (plenty of things are) but there are many people who earn a living out of it. Those that do are very aware that ad-blockers eat into their business, hence why the best (as far as I can see) use alternate methods of financing like merch, sponsored content, premium content, ticketed events etc.

One suggestion btw, stop considering yourself and everybody else a "consumer" it diminishes your whole person and constrains your reasoning on purely material production, selling, purchasing and gain (and judging by your answer you really are doing that). Why should you or I be only seen for what we can purchase?

In the context of this discussion we are consumers. It's irritating that you seem to have judged my entire worldview on a discussion about a particular issue: how to finance free content. Someone has to whether it is the people consuming it or the person producing it. You seem to think it should always be on the latter, something that in many cases is not possible and works out worse for those of us that consume.

It is certainly better for them, I wouldn't know if it is better for the "consumer".

If you have better recording equipment your videos will be of higher quality. With editors you save time and are able to produce more videos. By attending conventions fans can meet you. It's difficult to see how any of that is bad for the consumer.

Getting back to the original point and maybe forestalling this going round and round in circles; the issue is monetization on the internet. I agree with you that not monetizing your content can be effective at getting exposure and a fanbase. But where we seem to disagree is how sustainable this is, you seem to think that making money by producing content on the internet is somehow bad/immoral/risky and the producer should gift everything away out of the goodness of their hearts and fund their life in another manner. Correct?

215:

it looks like the current state of the ad-funded web is a death-spiral
IF that is true then something needs to be done.
Is it true?
I think not.
Even if it was, micropayment is not the answer, for reasons given by my self & other posters .....

216:

I'm still trying to think of why a micro-billing web would be desirable. Any benefit by transitioning away from the problems of an ad web is vastly offset by how a micro-billing setup would impact the poor, restricting their access and with it their ability to advance.

217:

An ad-supported ecosystem is a reasonable local optimum for the web. Moreover, micropayments are not feasible as the main enabler of a content ecosystem. The links posted by Fazal Majid are worth reading: Odlyzko is perhaps too much of a fan of Paris Metro pricing everywhere, but I have yet to see a strong rebuttal to his rejection of micropayments as the web keystone.

The ad-supported ecosystem is not in itself a problem. Ad blocking is becoming a mainstream issue because currently fashionable architectures used to serve content encourage abusive behaviour by advertisers. "Ad blockers" are a reaction not to ads, but to the current equivalents of the <BLINK> tag: grit in the flow of interaction. For instance, over the last half-decade it has become common to add deliberate delays of up to several seconds, so that a higher price can be extracted from an ad auction going on behind the scenes. No-one cares about the text ads in Google search results (other than criminals, rogue ISPs, and nation state adversaries). Advertisers are seeing ever-lower rates of engagement while competition for attention keeps increasing. In this race to the bottom, once you require browsers to run third party code in a Turing-complete language just to see plain text or to enable a "next" button, then you are also creating incentives for advertisers to use the same power for even less salubrious ends. The net effect of NoScript, AdBlock Plus, Ghostery etc. is that less code is run by the browser.

Web latency has in the last few years regressed so far that ad blockers make a significant difference for everyday use, and not just for their original core users of privacy activists and security researchers. Marco Arment's comments were spot on. If users reduce the amount of code they are prepared to run, then the logical response is going to be a return to more direct integration of ads. I expect content distribution networks to offer amalgamation services, combining a page template provided by the publisher with sponsored content provided by an ad network, serving the amalgam as a single page to the user. I would not be surprised if Apple used this to differentiate iAd.

218:

Yet a side-by-side comparison of the two (rule vs. principle) approaches shows that the 'principle-based' is less likely to allow for some of the worst 'misstatements' we've seen in, e.g., consolidations, compensation, and inventory.

http://www.fdcpa.com/tax/IFRS_GAAP.htm

I'm calling out these three items because GAAP does not require reporting of management compensation, allows subsidiaries to provide statements separately .. instead of showing effective 'control' of the org, as in just what does corp x own/influence. Lastly, inventory evaluation is crucial in understanding several industries' performance. (Duh .. yea, I know.)

Also .... you can't talk about monetizing the web without understanding that there are competing accounting systems. On the plus side, the convergence of these two systems means improved access to foreign/international markets.

219:

Is this a hypothetical "you" again?

Yes, it still was an hypothetical you.

you seem to think that producing content on the internet is some sort of get rich quick scam.

I don't think its a scam perpetrated by the youtubers, it's scam perpetrated to them, I don't doubt that there is certainly a minority who are making big bucks, but the ones that are making the real money are the ad companies. It really seems like the american dream, where we are shown the few who had success, and use them as an example to show how all the system is successful while completely ignoring the majority who failed.

It's irritating that you seem to have judged my entire worldview on a discussion about a particular issue: how to finance free content.

I'm sorry if I have irritated you, it really was not my intention. But you mention only consumers, and content producers, as if this whole artistic output was just a content factory.

Back to the subject: monetization of the internet, as I said before, you can try to monetize it, sure, but it is not a sustainable business model (if not for the ad platforms). But why would you think that not selling stuff to people is just a marketing tactic to gather more fanbase? Maybe they really enjoy making stuff and showing it to the world without gains, no?

But where we seem to disagree is how sustainable this is, you seem to think that making money by producing content on the internet is somehow bad/immoral/risky and the producer should gift everything away out of the goodness of their hearts and fund their life in another manner. Correct?

I don't think it is immoral wanting to make money on stuff you put on the internet, I think it is naive. In my opinion the immoral part is tricking everybody to think that content monetization is the way to pay the bills or to become rich, and the inevitable future of the internet. By your comments I would think you agree that this is the way am I right?

220:

I personally would very much prefer an internet where the concepts are "reader" and "writer". If you feel so kind to let us read your well written and well thought ideas, I'm more than happy to follow you, if you don't that's also ok. But please, if you think that somehow you are owed something for using a public platform to say your stuff, and people should feel morally obliged to pay you for the privilege of reading your stuff, please, go and write a book.

There is a lot of people who want to transform the internet in a mall, I want to keep it as a library. Not everything in the world needs to be commodified and sold.

Not everything on the Internet can be expressed as a book. I've an interest in this discussion, because I've written "content" of a kind not yet discussed here. It's not journalism, music, film or video, or fiction; it's interactive mathematical demonstrations. They show example calculations in a certain rather abstruse branch of mathematics, thereby helping people learning it grasp the underlying concepts.

Now, I'd like to raise money to pay for a faster server and improvements to the software. Amongst these improvements, I count documenting it so that I can publish it in a form that others can understand and build upon. There aren't that many people in the world who seem to be able to do Web stuff, and this kind of maths, and programming this kind of maths, so I also feel that it's a waste of my skills for me not to be doing it. As Ryan says in #211:

With that extra money they can buy better equipment, hire more staff, attend conventions etcetera which is better for the consumer.

I completely disagree that content producers on the internet should just accept that it doesn't pay and treat it as a form of passion. It's better for us as consumers that these people get money for what they are doing so they can do more of it and do it better.

Y, I assume you'd prefer me not to commodify and sell this service. How do you suggest funding it?

221:

(I have been away for a long weekend without a computer, so I'm finally dropping in here again.)

Maybe they really enjoy making stuff and showing it to the world without gains, no?

Speaking only for myself:

If you waved a magic wand and abolished all payment for artists musicians authors and "content creators" tomorrow (including film, TV, theater, opera, computer games, and other group productions) ...

I would continue to write and publish fiction. For free, obviously.

BUT ... I would have to get a day job. Might be a bit tricky, at my age. I turn 51 in a few weeks and I haven't worked for anyone else for well over a decade: I'm the textbook definition of "unemployable", unfortunately. (A lot of other authors are in roughly the same position.) I would therefore be looking -- most likely -- at low-pay/low-status stuff like call center work. (Nope, my Pharmacy career is beyond resurrection.) Upshot: I would not have a lot of spare time or energy for writing. So you could expect maybe a handful of short stories per year, or a novel every 2-4 years, rather than 1-2 books/year, until I hit pension age. And would I still have the energy to be writing at high-output speed in my late sixties? I doubt it.

So: if you were to abolish all forms of content monetization, you could probably count my writing track as collateral damage.

On the other hand: If we abolished the internet tomorrow (without somehow bringing down civilization -- all the clocks, ATMs, and gas station pumps that depend on it, for example), I'd still be able to make a living through writing fiction (for dead-tree publication).

So the underlying question isn't about the internet: it's about how we pay for the content we receive by whatever channel.

222:

I get the impression that some folks just think it's wrong for people to make money off their intellectual (creative?) efforts. Be it writing fiction, software, or something else.

223:

Well, the question was about micropayments. I have no problem paying for ebooks (I'm a frequent customer at bigriver corp), but I hat browsing for news or articles and hitting a paywall.

224:

Yes, but I can ignore the lunatic fringe. (They generally have, ahem, weird ideas about what else people should or should not be allowed to do.)

In general if people thank you for what you do, then you're doing it right, and passing the hat seems to be acceptable behaviour -- money being the sincerest expression of appreciation (in a money-based economy).

Of course, this begs the question of whether what you're doing is appreciated. But if not, why expect to be paid for it?

I'm a lot more worried about people and organizations who pollute the commons so grievously that by-standers conflate Content with Crap and decide that no content is worth paying for, because so much of it is garbage. Those bot-generated $70 books of "Charles Stross, collected works" you find in the Kindle store, for example (scraped from Wikipedia and other sources and turned into an ebook and robopublished without human intervention).

225:

I don't think its a scam perpetrated by the youtubers, it's scam perpetrated to them, I don't doubt that there is certainly a minority who are making big bucks, but the ones that are making the real money are the ad companies. It really seems like the american dream, where we are shown the few who had success, and use them as an example to show how all the system is successful while completely ignoring the majority who failed.

How is that different to being an author, musician, athlete, singer, actor etcetera? There are plenty of professions where the number of people who don't make a living off of it out number those that do. YouTube has been my primary source of video media for years now, in my experience it's not commonly believed that it's easy to make money doing it.

I'm sorry if I have irritated you, it really was not my intention. But you mention only consumers, and content producers, as if this whole artistic output was just a content factory.

Apology accepted, I know there are plenty of people that produce art for little but the love of it but they can't all do that. Given the topic of discussion is how to fund people to make content (which as Jocelyn @220 points out isn't all amenable to being sold as a book or film) it's useful to talk in those terms.

Back to the subject: monetization of the internet, as I said before, you can try to monetize it, sure, but it is not a sustainable business model (if not for the ad platforms). But why would you think that not selling stuff to people is just a marketing tactic to gather more fanbase? Maybe they really enjoy making stuff and showing it to the world without gains, no?

I don't think it's a marketing tactic per se, it's a business model. And I definitely don't think it's mutually exclusive that you enjoy people accessing your content and are looking for money, I'm also sure there are plenty of people who don't care about money. But for many people they can't produce what they and their fans love without renumeration for it, or at least couldn't produce as much quantity or at the same quality.

Why do you think that Internet monetisation is not sustainable? Ad revenue might not be in the age of ad blockers but it's not the only way. Twitch donations and subscription are a method that seems to be working reasonably well, as are some freemium operations. I think there are limitations to both but I don't know if it's unsustainable.

226:

Still lurking here, but as I read I become more and more strongly of the opinion that the solution is a refinement/regulation of the ad-supported model, not a major exodus to a micro-billing system.

"Sorry Charlie!"

227:

We are paying our ISP's, we are paying for ant-virus, we are paying phone bills or connection charges.

But none of that money is going to the people who make the information that you are incurring those charges to access.

It's rather like arguing that Charlie's books should be priced at the cost of printing and distribution only, ignoring all the labour that went into writing and editing those books.

228:

Agreed.
BUT
As you may have gathered, I am of the opinion that the "micro-payment solution" will/would turn out to be worse than the problem it is purported to solve.
And that's the difficulty.

229:

I'm not certain about micro-payments. Don't know enough about the technical details — I got out of communications engineering in the 80s, when ISDN was still cool.

My preferred solution is a combination. Let the content creator choose how they want to earn money for their work. So ads, micropayments, subscriptions — I don't think any are ideal solutions, but whatever the artist wants, that's cool.

This does mean I don't support piracy (except for format-transferring, which I don't see as piracy*). I certainly don't buy the "I wasn't going to buy it, so it's OK because it's not a lost sale" argument.

Gray area with content owners vs creators. Especially given the crazy US copyright law were getting stuck with (ie perpetual copyrights mostly owned by big conglomerates). Charlie earning a living from is writing, good. Disney? The mouse has already earned its keep — time to let the copyright expire. (Trademark protection would still apply.)

Thing is, no one is forcing anyone to read any particular site on the internet. If Charlie decides to go micropayments on this blog, either pay them or read something else. It's his choice. As readers we may have preferences, but ultimately our choice is read it his way or read something else.

Big rant about people who think content should be free and creators should live on rainbows and unicorns deleted. Long story short: some people will create for free, others want to be paid. If paying for creative work bothers you, stick to the free stuff. No one's forcing you to watch/read/listen/play…

*Ripping a DVD to watch it on your iPad, sure. You paid for the movie when you bought the DVD.

230:

General thing:

Last week's reading included Super Sad True Love Story by
Gary Shteyngart.

It was written in 2010, it's depressing how resonant it still is. Still not sure if I liked it or not. It deals with these issues.

There's also a recent short story SF whose author I cannot remember about kudos function in a 'post-scarcity' world and where her credit rating tanks due to ill advised and angry comments towards an old style banker. Setting is an anarchist art commune, she ends up babysitting.

(Probably a HUGO 2014 shortlist? Woman author)


~

Honest answer:

Cash, Cheques etc have already died. The illusion that cash still exists is only there for the rubes: every note is tracked at launch and lovingly recovered (with cocaine stains in 90% time) at retirement. What counts is the electronic databases. (1/3rd of all genuine US physical currency is held outside the national borders of the United States. There's a reason for that).

Banks (yes, that Blythe Masters, don't you love nominative determinism, is at the helm of the blockchain link) have been prodding and doing adverts (HSBC: in the future, your DNA is your password. Throw in the XKCD pipe-solution-to-encryption panel for the joke) on this for years.

There's also the trend (notable on Reddit Finance) of lower/middle economic classes in the USA neurotically tracking their credit scores. Nothing better than neurosis to provide a market.

And, of course, FB and their recent ill-advised "your friend network is a reflection of your credit store".

To be short:

The networks for it already exist.

As someone I met recently said: "Making money is absurdly easy. It's just too easy.". With the coda, of course, of: "If you're exploiting a broken system". Note: they were one of the good guys.

~

Apple is somewhat less scrutable: they're best understood as a hardware company (although they also have diversified into a variety of fields, including content sales) and they want their hardware in as many hands as possible, which means providing a slick end-user experience.

I'd argue this isn't the case at all.

Apple (prior to the disaster of the iWatch - not in terms of sales, but zeitgeist) are about three things:

1) Eloi and Globalist Identity (more correctly, cultural warfare and Empire expressed as techne)

2) Making obscene profits through the application of design over-inflating the price of components (something old old money understand, from De Beers to perfume and so on. There's a reason for that Knighthood)

3) Entrenching Walled Gardens

The real issue with Apple isn't that (well, different argument), but that it ran out of ideas. Apple's hedge fund is currently worth more than its US market [based on leverage / derivative investment]. But who cares if you don't do anything useful with it?

~


TL;DR

Bitcoin is actually a bit of the answer, but only in that insane Ayn Rand way that MicroSerfs attempted to satirize way back when.

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There are lots of other models (using GPUs to crunch DNA / viruses etc).

i.e. You don't charge a micro-payment, you charge a small amount of CPU/GPU/Time (as in, your computer runs slightly slower) for free access. "Read C Stross' blog FREE for 12 hrs of helping the world!"

You basically "monetize" physical resources to do something useful.


And yes, I spot the sharks already, orca time!

231:

At CoinTent we are building "distributed microbilling payment platform" based on our experience in the social games/mobile apps space.

Our partners are seeing 3x more payers than subscriptions alone.

I think the only way to build this and expand is to start with larger publishers who already have subscriptions, and offer the micropayment solution alongside those subscriptions as a better alternative for a majority of users willing to pay (even if that's just another 1-2% of the visitors to that site). We're seeing a lot of success with that model - happy to provide more info. Brad at cointent dot com.

Thanks!
Brad Ross
CEO, CoinTent
www.cointent.com

232:

Interesting.

http://donnadubinsky.com/about/

Breakthrough Science for Anomaly Detection

Catch unusual patterns that others miss.

http://numenta.com/grok/


I'm smiling, but I'll walk away.

233:

"...why on earth do you think an online one would be exempt?"

Because, as I said in my original post, they say on their websites that they do not require ID. And I specifically check for such a statement before I try and sign up, expecting that if they make it at all then it will be true.

Online payment is not a "convenience". It is highly inconvenient, but unfortunately it is the only option in a lot of cases. You are wrong, also, to describe having to provide ID as an "inconvenience". A better word would be "impossibility". I do not have ID to provide.

But in any case, this is by the by; you have entirely missed my point. Which is that even in somewhere like the UK the assumption that online payment is simple and readily accessible to everyone, despite being unquestioned by too many people, is not true. In parts of the world which are not like the UK it will be even less true. The mistake being made is to assume that a facility which is readily available to privileged inhabitants of rich Western countries is equally readily available to everyone else.

It's not even particularly a "niche" problem in the UK either. Trans people (of whom I am not one myself) seem to run into the same kind of problems quite a lot.

234:
There are lots of other models (using GPUs to crunch DNA / viruses etc).

i.e. You don't charge a micro-payment, you charge a small amount of CPU/GPU/Time (as in, your computer runs slightly slower) for free access. "Read C Stross' blog FREE for 12 hrs of helping the world!"

You basically "monetize" physical resources to do something useful.

This. Arguably already more wildly successful than micropayments are ever likely to be, if we take are range of things Folding and Seti@home all the way up to the various cyptocurrency mining efforts. There are also analogies with the various private bittorrent trackers/sites that clock up your uploads vs downloads.

There would still be a huge problem with adoption, and building a critical mass as essentially you are building millions of mini-paywalls for content, and first movers on the producer side are likely to penalised, but at least the payment model is sorted.

I could forsee a situation where you pay in compute resource in various different ways ranging from contributing to some collective AWS variant, or just providing local peer to peer hosting capability. The beauty of using compute resource is that it tends to adjust the price for local circumstances, as the main fee is for power and bandwidth. Yes poor people would still be disadvantaged, but far less so than micro payments and it would be much harder to game. You could imagine a scenario using local peer to peer hosting where the most popular sites are spread across a villages mobiles, keeping bandwidth charges more localised.

235:

A thing like that depends on the details, the time scale of your plan. Do you want to scam a few people up front, or gain broad public confidence and then someday scam a whole lot of people? So how does it work? Sure, you offer "microbilling" services to big online providers of content (aka publishers) so they can milk people who don't want to get a full subscription, but is there an interface added to the publisher's site, or accessed from it, where you offer users the chance to sign up for your service and gain access to many sites? Next issue is what happens when you get users to your site. Do you ask them for open ended access to bank accounts, or do you let them pay up a finite amount in advance, like PayPal. And how transparent and uniform is the scheme for drawing payments from that account when browsing? Do users feel unsecure that they know how much this is costing? Do they feel they are being asked to pay too much attention to the process of paying? Finally, will you get the critical mass, so that your service is encountered often enough that it will be worthwhile for users to sign up. The first step is a doozy.

236:

As you may have gathered, I am of the opinion that the "micro-payment solution" will/would turn out to be worse than the problem it is purported to solve.

You've said what you don't like, Greg, but of the fundraising methods out there, whether ads or anything else, what do you dislike least? That is, what's the least worst option for the type of content I described in comment 220, the interactive maths demonstrations? As you say in 198, you're paying your ISP, your line charge, and your anti-virus subscription, but none of that goes to me. Note that my audience is mainly students and teachers: probably fairly resistant to advertising, and not famed for being awash with spare cash.

237:

HSBC: in the future, your DNA is your password

Good grief no!

Your DNA is not your password; it's your identity. Passwords -- or their equivalent -- are about granting permission to use the associated identity.

Remember when Mercedes introduced fingerprint sensors on their high-end cars, and South African carjackers began cutting off the fingers of rich car owners? Bad outcome of misunderstanding authentication protocols.

Also: cash and cheques aren't dead. They won't die until the ancients with dementia who can no longer understand credit cards and online payments die off. Folks with dementia lose access to stuff they learned, most recent first; you can teach your 80 year old how to use online banking today, but by the time they're 85 they'll have regressed to cheque books again. This stuff has traction, and until we disenfranchise the elderly and demented it's going to stay on.

Nor are they going to die as long as the policy makers have some use for a grey/black market medium that can be used as a laundry. Hint: look for those whose campaign contributions come from the cocaine cartels, campaigning to keep the war on drugs hot and cash flowing freely. We know the banks are no friends of anything that threatens to restrict the flow of money in any way, except where it raises the cost of them doing business.

Finally, Apple: yes, that's their marketing pitch -- but until recently they made damn fine user-oriented IT kit. (The hardware is still good; the software, not so much -- they began dicking around with the recipe and forgot that if their #1 priority is to create and keep cash cows repeat customers then their #2 priority should be to protect the customers' data. Frowning at you, iTunes, Photos, Pages ...) Put it another way: everything you said about their marketing is true, but they wouldn't be where they are today if there was no substance behind it. And finally-finally, the Apple Car? I can believe it. They're a shark: if they stop moving forwards they'll asphyxiate. And they've filled the relatively small tank they're swimming in, and they're looking for a bigger aquarium, and they don't come much bigger than the global automobile industry and the associated power distribution network (all $70Tn of installed gasoline-pumping infrastructure worldwide). Hint: they've got their share of that insanely huge battery factory, and diesel-electric submarines are out of fashion this century.

238:

As someone who works for a company that creates mass-market display ad funded content sites, I'd like to add my two cents.

The whole internet is blowing up in a furore about ad blocking, but that's a fundamental attribution error. Ad blocking is a symptom, not the cause. The cause is that the CPM rate of advertising is undergoing a huge crash, causing we the publishers to have to increase our inventory to maintain revenue. And I have a hunch that the CPM crash is going to mean very bad things for all forms of mass market advertising.

Let me illustrate what's happening, and why it's bad news. Imagine Bauer Media, which publishes Car magazine online (I'm not and I don't). In any given month in 2010 Car had, say, 1,000,000 unique users. They can probably get away with serving four ads per page, that gives you an inventory of 4,000,000 impressions per month.

Along comes an advertiser from an adjacent market, for example the watch-maker Breitling. Breitling knows there is a crossover between people who buy Jaguars and people who buy Breitling watches, so at a relatively crude level they say "I'll buy 250,000 impressions of 'people who like cars'" because that's about as closely as they can target at that point. They probably pay fractions of a penny per impression. 250,000 (within a given margin of error and repetition) pairs of eyeballs get shown the Breitling ad, Breitling sells a given number of watches, the value exchange between publisher and advertiser proceeds on much the same basis as print ads always have.

Fast forward to 2015 and things look somewhat different. When Breitling wants to sell ads it now has the option of going via an advertising exchange, which lets it target its ads extremely precisely: rather than saying "I want to show ads to 'people who like cars'" they can say "I want to show ads to 'people who like Jaguar|Bentley|BMW cars AND don't like Ford|Peugeot|Citroen AND have recently looked at articles about Apple Watch|Tag Heuer|Rolex'". Breitling sets the price that it thinks one set of eyeballs matching that description is worth, and sets the ads loose.

Here's the problem: That description perhaps matches only 25,000 of Car's readers. In the previous model, in order to capture all 25,000 of them, the site was paid for another 225,000 impressions that didn't generate extra conversions. So from Breitling's perspective, this is a fantastic deal, because they're not paying much more per pair of eyeballs than before. From Car's point of view this is a disaster, because across the board their revenue has dropped by 80-90%.

What does Car do? Well, it still has all 4,000,000 of those ad slots to sell, so it keeps selling them.

Let's return to the exchange. What happens to me if I'm a Ford driver whose watch is a Timex? Well, perhaps the Breitling ad was the most expensive per impression. I don't get caught by those behavioural tags, so I fall down in price through the exchange until I ping a particular combination of tags that I match, and then I'm served that ad at that bid price – which is the cheapest price the advertiser thinks they can set in order to outbid anyone else interested in the same customer profile.

In other words, programmatic ad exchanges are a giant race to the bottom. When you hit the bottom you get untargeted crap - "10 times Kim Kardashian's bum fell out" and "One weird trick to get rid of wrinkles." And you get a lot of it, because the value of it is so low. Car's only way to pay the writers, editors, photographers, designers, developers, salespeople, strategists and others who go into building a digital production of that scale is to throw more and more of these ads onto the page. Or more and more of the data-capturing mechanisms that build a behavioural profile of the user that can be sold to the ad exchanges.

All of these ads and trackers add distractions and page weight.

Of course, maybe Car could choose to not run programmatic ads, and could sell bespoke advertising products instead. Except...

"Bespoke" tends to mean "even more intrusive" with things like page takeovers, skins, enormous javascript constructions that obscure your page with video.

Selling bespoke advertising means you have to maintain dedicated commercial sales and creative teams, which adds overhead.

You can really only sell one bespoke ad per page, and probably only once per visit per user. Which means they can only ever make up a small percentage of overall inventory.

As Breitling, why on earth would I pay for a bespoke campaign for lots of irrelevant people when I can reach the relevant ones for far less through an exchange?

The truth is that we have reached the threshold where the measured value of marketing doesn't match the cost of production of content any more. And my fear is that it's happened on the internet first because that's where the value of a pair of eyeballs is most accurately measurable. But I don't see any particular reason why the same pair of eyeballs should be worth more when it's targeted through TV, radio or print. I expect rates to fall across the board.

In my (insider) opinion, I expect that within 18 months the days of the traditional mass-market content website will be over. The only ones that survive will be the ones with massive reach (so they can sell out programmatic ads across many categories of consumer), and the ones where the cost of production can be kept to almost zero (extremely specialist or crowdsourced content). With my psychologist's hat on I'm afraid that the behavioural change of getting users to pay directly for content that they used to get for (perceived) free is a case of 'you can't get there from here.'

239:

Remember when Mercedes introduced fingerprint sensors on their high-end cars, and South African carjackers began cutting off the fingers of rich car owners? Bad outcome of misunderstanding authentication protocols.

DNI based passwords would be almost as easy to steal as card cloning. Collect random samples by discretely swabbing public surfaces or items like cutlery in restaurants, PCR what you find and try it out on whatever sequencer technology is used to approve purchases.

240:

I pay for National Public Radio through a basic annual membership. I could easily listen for free. I don't mind doing this because I know I'm not being ripped off. I'm paying my fair share. NPR says exactly how much the standard donation is per year, asks for it only once a year, and lets you know that lots of other people are donating also by literally reading their names on air. It takes NO advertising, and though the Republican congress tried to shut it down by withdrawing the public portion of it's funding, NPR still thrives, pumping out 24 hours a day of high quality content. Most people don't mind paying for content, what they don't like is (1) feeling ripped off (2) having to mess with red tape all the time. You CAN get there from here. The question is, why there isn't more will to do so.

241:

Ok, just to clarify, I am not advocating to purge all commercialization of "content" from the internet. Nor I think that everything must be free for all, we can't have quality if we don't compensate people for their work.

At the moment the main revenue systems are paywalls, advertisement and donations.

However, a pawyall goes against the main concept of the internet where things are accessible to everybody with a browser, by closing down the visibility of your material, you are actually taking it out from the internet.

Advertisement and donations are somehow similar, both work mainly on the good will of the website visitor (to not block ads or to make a donation). This way allows everybody to access anything, but it is not stable enough (just by using an adblocker or not donating you deny revenue to someone), today it works, tomorrow how knows?

@jocelyn (220), one approach I have often seen and appreciated, is when a website keeps in parallel, a constant output of material (videos, songs, books, articles) and also sells physical products, for example hires versions of the same video/songs/whatever, booklets, guides. One would then have the full visibility that an open access can guarantee and at the same time act as a store.

You use the internet as a showcase platform, to show what you can do, and how well you can do it, and then offer something related to that for purchase, something that has been curated more in depth. Can't this be a valid way to do business on the internet (by respecting the way it actually works)?

@charles (237): I think the question "how we pay for the content we receive by whatever channel" is imprecise because it assumes that all channels work and are accessed in the same way, we already pay tv/radio by being subjected to their advertisement, so the only channel that remains is the internet, which until now has come up with the solutions we already know, if there were other solutions that don't require to destroy the internet, I think they would have been found by now.

I think the bottom line is, if the material is on a public platform, it is by definition public, and all kind of monetization strategies are based on good will. Expecting some different outcome, just ignores the reality of internet.

(Also, I didn't think it would take so little to be called a lunatic, I wasn't even frothing =)

242:

Here's the problem though: You may pay to support NPR because you have high affinity with it as an organisation, but can you say you'd make the same elective payment to every source of content that you consume? Or is NPR an outlier because you listen to it a lot and you have high attachment to it?

Google has essentially killed the notion of content brands. Almost all "audience development" for online content brands means SEO, and SEO means Google Optimisation. The users you attract from that kind of audience development don't have anywhere near the level of brand attachment that NPR listeners have with NPR, and don't develop it for at least several years after first contact with the product.

Even the brands that are outliers in terms of users having high loyalty and brand affinity, for example The Guardian, are not making any money from the NPR-style donation strategy. In fact they're the ones who tend to demonstrate most resentment when asked to support the content.

243:

Thank you for a fascinating explanation. That was very enlightening.

However, I dont quite understand the advertising model you are describing. Doesnt Breitling pay for click-throughs? And arent they getting the proportion of click-throughs now that they got in 2010? And why cant Car just sell the same slots to different advertisers, targeting the specific readers they want to reach (they need about 400 such advertisers in your scenario)? And what prevents Charlie from doing the exact same here (other than his own personal preferences)?

244:

And that's why a better solution than paywalls, ads or donations is a (semi-?)mandatory one : taxes - which is already being done, albeit in a crude way for (some of) the medias.

Sadly, there's no way in hell big copyright holders are going to go for it, unless they completely pervert the system for their own gain.

This crash in advertising might explain why ads became so bad in the last years - it feels like we're back to the oughties' popup times - they became so annoying I had to take action (installing uMatrix plugin on PC and AdBlock Plus browser on Android).

245:

Most display advertising (this is true for the org I work at, anyway) is paid for on a CPM (Cost Per Impression) basis. It's rarer, but more lucrative, to sell advertising on a CPC (Cost Per Conversion) basis. That was something shook out a long time before I moved into this industry so I can't explain why it falls that way. If I were to make a wild guess, I'd say clickthough rates are so low that publishers would refuse to sell on that basis, and/or advertisers recognise that there's brand-recognition value in a user encountering an ad without clicking on it. I know that we do sell some CPC inventory but never as a primary position and only when the value is very high.

As to why Car can't sell those slots to other advertisers, it's not like even in the fat days of 2010 there were ten times as many advertisers clamouring for the slots. It was relatively common for inventory to go unsold (not speaking specifically for Car here, but to the industry in general). Programmatic exchanges were sold to publishers as a way of utilising that unsold inventory.

Perhaps you could fully sell out your inventory on programmatic if you had an extremely diverse userbase. However I know from experience that maintaining revenue on one of our titles from the old world into the new required a jump from 1,000,000 unique users to 6,000,000 unique users. And that is for an extremely lucrative, extremely easy-to-target demographic. It is not a trivial thing to grow your user base sixfold overnight, and most publishers would not be in the position to do it the way we did. We won't be able to do it with many of our other titles. Buzzfeed will be fine; anyone below that scale is in trouble.

Finally, Charlie could easily enable an exchange on this site. But this site has low volume, specialised traffic which is unlikely to meet high-value tags at any sort of scale. So one or two users might get decent ads by the luck of the draw, but everyone else would see intrusive, bottom-of-the-barrel stuff. I assume that's a price he would not be willing to pay for the minuscule resulting revenue.

246:

Really very interesting and informative posts ...


A universal approach/platform and payment scheme would be easiest but from what everyone has said so far, it's very unlikely. So we'll need to identify the types of platforms are needed, and their likely users/segments, relative size (#users and $). I'll start with the obvious. Gov't needs to maintain unfettered access to both its resources and its public, therefore a portion of the internet must remain free/open to all. Funding for this was established long before we knew the internet existed (taxes - income taxes and following commercialization, sales taxes). The tax method of funding allows for/covers both fixed costs per user (income tax) as well as incremental cost tied directly to usage (sales tax). Its both fair and rational.
Segments: two (internal and external). Size: about 10%-20% of all available 'space'.


Commercial consumer transactions already use a mix of 'currencies'. Specifically, loyalty points/programs that allow cross-usage. (Anyone know how this works, how well it works, share of consumers, security, etc.?)


Why not treat the internet as just another utility? Hydro doesn't care what electrical device you plug in, just that it's code-compliant and you pay for the power used. There's no argument or confusion about how to buy and pay for the usage of an electric kettle. Is the content and process/infrastructure really all that blurred in the inter/web. (I thought the IoT is heading in this direction already.)

247:

I worked through the last big online crash at the start of the millennium. The atmosphere among ad-funded online media is very, very familiar right now.

248:

@jocelyn (220), one approach I have often seen and appreciated, is when a website keeps in parallel, a constant output of material (videos, songs, books, articles) and also sells physical products, for example hires versions of the same video/songs/whatever, booklets, guides. One would then have the full visibility that an open access can guarantee and at the same time act as a store.

You use the internet as a showcase platform, to show what you can do, and how well you can do it, and then offer something related to that for purchase, something that has been curated more in depth. Can't this be a valid way to do business on the internet (by respecting the way it actually works)?

In my case, the Internet version of my demonstrations is the one that's been curated in-depth. The same applies to other interactive demonstrations. For example, I've worked a lot with the Institute for Fiscal Studies, helping to build Web-based economics simulations. We built various models of the British economy, several of which we put up on the BBC's Budget Day pages under the names of "Virtual Economy", "Be Your Own Chancellor", and "Budget Ready Reckoner".

Most of these aren't working any more: the BBC tended to have a grand post-Budget chuck-out, while our big Virtual Economy macro-micro simulation was originally a free academic-run service for business and economics education, but seems to have been disabled once it got handed over to a commercial "provider of learning solutions". (Though the teaching materials at that link are still worth reading if you want to learn economics.)

However, my colleague Graham Stark has written one that is still working, Virtual Chancellor. If you look at that, you'll see that it is not merely a showcase, nor can it be replaced by something static. The key thing is the interaction, and the fact that it can be "ported", via your browser, to any screen you care to work on.

By the way, our Virtual Economy model was grant-funded by Nuffield. That's one way to pay for development, and the funding agencies are usually generous enough to let everyone on the Internet use the Web sites they fund, even if the users aren't academics or don't pay taxes in the country where the work was done. Academic projects are where a lot of the Web's free, high-quality, interactive, educational content comes from.

Unfortunately, the funding agencies are rotten at paying for maintenance (rather than development), so academics struggle to find funds to keep these projects running after they've been built. Which brings one back to the topic of this thread...

249:

All fair points, I was perhaps riffing off this:

HSBC: Your DNA will be your data Genuine Ad or Adbuster Satire? Hard to tell these days. (HSBC are notable for running some serious pro China adverts whilst... other things were going on).

...and a lot of teasing snark.

Here's an original thought though (for the HN crowd):

Tie in Credit Scores, the old ABCD economic strata categories, new blockchain stability / speed / security (which is why the banks are interested), ID and percentage penalty fines from Nordic countries and jiggle around with it.

Come out with click-through % based micro-payments that are automatic based on personal wealth & current status. i.e. User X is in Band C, with Personal Credit score Y, pays $0.04; User Y is in Band A, with Personal Credit score Z, pays $0.12.

Employ various options models, e.g. Students, OAPs, Unemployed discounts and you've got at least a shot at an equitable model that functions under current Capitalist principles. Aka the "least not-screwing everyone" model.

Cons:

Gamable to a degree
Infrastructure / Speed costs
"Where's my angle / cut" of Wall St.

Pros:

People get paid
ID / de-anonymization of the internet for all those control freaks
MPAA gets to stop misusing code; once you're bound into the system, legality is enforced


Will it ever get implemented?

Depends on how bad the riots get.


[Note: I don't like this idea; I do see it being a viable one though, in the minds of the PTB]

250:

There is one other thing to consider when we talk about changing the commercial model of the web. The people who own my company, and most other online publishing companies, are not interested in solving the same problems that we as content consumers are interested in solving.

We're trying to solve the problem of how can content production be maintained in the face of a collapsing business landscape? The problem that the board is interested in solving is how can I continue to grow my investment while this market shrinks?.

What that means is that a micropayments solution that simply maintains revenue is not enough: companies have no incentive to do the work setting up a universal micropayments service until the potential revenue exceeds that of advertising. By the time it does (arguably it already could for reasons I outlined earlier) it's too late. Publishing is now a bear market and the given strategy is to try and get the other guy to fail first, not to make a revenue-sharing agreement with him.

That's also why sharing out a flat-rate subscription/tax is unlikely to win favour. Executives don't like the smell of anything that sounds like it tends toward capping growth. I can state for a fact that content publishers will never go for this model because I was involved when the music industry resisted it to the point of collapse.

251:

Keep coming back to this ... any monetization scheme will be tied in to and reflect the historical payment scheme of its non-digital analogue for that product/service. So if you want to create a new monetization system, you'll have to create a completely new service/product that has no apparent (or easily traceable) connection with any past or currently existing product/service. This will be a tough sell because humans typically need to anchor new info/processes with respect to terms they already understand.

Catina - agree with your post above, esp. de-anonymization.

252:

(Hope this is not too much derail.)

@Jocelyn (248) I looked at the page you mentioned, it seems that the computation part is done server side, if that is the case for all your demonstrations, then one possible solution is allow a limited number of requests, or limiting the kind of requests, maybe also slowing down the response by a few seconds, and then sell access to the full and fast demos as if it was a service platform.

Another way could be to prepare virtual appliances (vmware, virtualbox, docker) that can be sold and installed locally. Obviously this is viable if you don't have issues with giving away the code you wrote, and possibly having it copied and distributed without your consent. But if you continuously add demos, or update the current ones, even giving away the current code should not be a big issue.

253:

So, I should point out that micropayment systems already exist within walled gardens. Furthermore, any music streaming service is essentially a glue layer between the micropayment-based music royalty system and either the advertising or subscription revenue model (depending upon whether or not the service is 'free'). The question of whether or not micropayment systems can be implemented on top of the web has a clear answer: yes, it can be done, because it has been done. The question of whether or not we can agree on a single standard for micropayments, on the other hand, is a bigger one. We might have a shot if the W3C published a proposal for a blockchain-like micropayment structure & both chrome and mozilla implemented it right away and then a couple big players replaced their paywalls with it. However, a big problem with micropayments that are paid by the end-user is that there's the expectation that the end user will be aware of how much they're paying and make decisions based on that. Advertising is essentially micropayments with escrow where the bill is being paid by ad providers in exchange for clicks and/or impressions, and the primary benefit of that is that the user never sees the counter representing how much money he's giving out (and it doesn't come directly out of his wallet, but is instead based on a probablistic projection of how much will come out of his wallet eventually) -- in other words, obscuring the monetary dynamics makes advertising seem more sustainable than micropayments, even as it inflates prices by lowering confidence.

(Regarding the comments by some people that ad blockers could donate to the sites based on an estimate of how much they would be making: the largest ad provider, google's adsense, has dynamic pricing so it's a little hard to tell, but at least as far as I've observed they don't pay out for impressions at all anymore. In other words, they only pay for clicks -- so the estimated profit is literally zero.

Adsense keeps your earnings in escrow until you reach $100, and pays some fraction of a cent (between a tenth of a cent and eight tenths of a cent) per click. In other words, in order to make any money in a month, one needs to have between 10,000 and 100,000 different visitors click on an ad in that month.

I've had an adsense account & hosted ads on several sites with non-trivial traffic since 2006, and my balance with google is just under nine dollars. If trends continue, google will send me a check for $100 in about 95 years.)

254:

Actually there's one other part of the puzzle that I didn't explain, regarding why Car can't simply attract more advertisers.

When Breitling targets those 25,000 impressions, it no longer targets them specifically on Car. It simply tells the exchange who it wants to advertise to, and the exchange punts those ads out across all the sites that subscribe to the exchange. Beforehand, Car was competing with all the other car sites in a given market. Now it's competing with all the other sites its users might visit that also use the same ad exchange, whether they're car sites, watch sites, computer sites, news sites...

Also, this sits on top of another innovation by advertisers, which is viewability. Basically, part of the javascript payload of any advert is a script which checks whether it is ever scrolled into the viewport, and how long it stays visible within the viewport. Around this time last year, you only got paid for an ad impression if the ad unit was 50% visible for 1 second. Currently I believe it needs to be 100% visible for 1 second, and there's talk of moving to 100% visible for 3 seconds. When you consider that one of the most common units is the MPU, which is 300x250 pixels, and the effective screen size of an iPhone 5 is 320x568 (on the web you essentially halve the pixel resolution of retina displays), and toolbars etc will take around 100 pixels of that, we're about to be forced to obscure more than half the readable area of the screen for several seconds in order to get paid.

And of course, ad rates for these units have not changed despite the fact that wastage has been cut to zero.

255:

Also, this sits on top of another innovation by advertisers, which is viewability.

Oh, that's ... special. Yes, special. And not the good kind of special.

Suddenly I'm getting deja vu for March 2000.

256:

Personally, I intend to get out while the getting's good.

257:

That's very interesting. It seems to me to be portraying a world in which technical mcguffinry is everything, and actual human psychology is nothing, or is discounted, and with a tendency towards people aren't doing what we want, so we need new people who will.

Which is also kind of odd because marketers etc really got going in the 1950's and have piled up lots of evidence and experience about what works and doesn't, or at least you might think they have, but on the other hand with Sturgeon's law in operation...

So the end result is an annoyed consumer.

258:

Yes, in many ways this is the publishing industry's pigeons coming home to roost for all those years they traded user experience for short-term profit. But on the other hand, that's also how the advertisers structured the market. An advertiser will pay the same for a set of eyeballs whether they're straight off the googleboat or have been visiting the site three times a day for the past ten years. In that world, as long as I can keep the googleboats arriving, it's less of a problem that the eyeballs go away annoyed.

259:

I just want to chime in with a few, possibly unrelated thoughts.

The simplest answer is one that's been touched on in some of the comments already.

But the answer is, perhaps, somewhat unrelated to the question. The problem with micro payments for content is a symptom, not a root cause. The root cause is a broken payments infrastructure.

The way around it is for someone with the right tech chops and experience to figure out a slick way to aggregate micro payments so that the cost of doing a transaction doesn't outweigh the payment being exchanged.

This needs to happen at the processor level, not at the media conglomerate level. Otherwise you end up with 20 different micro payment accounts to get access to all the wildly different websites you want to read. That's awful. You need one account that aggregates a per-click fee every week and does one transaction per website. In this model the website basically acts as a subscriber to the transactor.

This won't work for everyone. One of the key things with a micro payment-driven web is that there's a dirty little secret about online ads that almost no one is willing to talk about: they don't work. A lot of people have been making a lot of money based on utter bullshit for a long time.

So the price we have to pay in a world of ubiquitous ad blockers is that some people are going to be out of a job. What they were writing wasn't actually worth the money they were getting paid for it. And it's a lot more than just a few indie bloggers. It's 97-ish percent of Google's revenue, for example. What happens when that dries up? Think about the whole supply chain of web advertising. The agencies, the tech companies, the market research firms that tell the PR firms how great everything is going in the ad industry.

This is a super high stakes war, and Apple just fired the first shot. The first person to figure out a solution that isn't as awful as our current system is going to make a boatload of cash. Apple is betting on Apple. Facebook seems to have been a bit prescient. Google appears to have been caught flat-footed.

If I were smart, I'd go start a media payments aggregation company. It's not like I'm not a software engineer who works in the payments processing business.

260:

@Jocelyn (248) I looked at the page you mentioned, it seems that the computation part is done server side, if that is the case for all your demonstrations, then one possible solution is allow a limited number of requests, or limiting the kind of requests, maybe also slowing down the response by a few seconds, and then sell access to the full and fast demos as if it was a service platform.

We could generalise that. Cripple the free version of one's content in some way, e.g. by making it load slowly, run slowly, or display irritating colours in the margin. Online books could be crippled by imposing a delay between page turns. The user pays to view or run the uncrippled version. I can envisage the content-management systems, such as Drupal, WordPress, and Joomla, and even Blogger, providing modules to cripple various kinds of content in the most appropriate way.

261:

Finally, Charlie could easily enable an exchange on this site. But this site has low volume, specialised traffic which is unlikely to meet high-value tags at any sort of scale.

Really not going there.

The site is an advert, already: an ad for my writing. I monetise it indirectly by showing visitors why they might want to buy my books. I'm pretty sure that adding bottom-feeder ad exchange content would damage the UX enormously and end up costing me far more in lost sales and lost reader goodwill than it could ever bring in. (Leaving aside for a moment my own personal antipathy to advertising.)

262:

If I may, I'd like to ask a secondary question.

There are several ways the current crisis could shake out. We may see an almost-complete advertising collapse on the web, leaving only very large sites and Apple/Facebook content aggregation as the survivors. We could see a functioning micropayments infrastructure, or a tax. Or CantinaDiamond's CPUpay proposal.

In any case, assume that 95% of the web is no longer funded by advertising, down from the current, I dunno, 85% that is. The advertisers still need to get their products in front of consumers. How are they going to do it once the golden goose of content is dead?

263:

Not gonna work. To misquote :

Internet users treat delayed gratification as damage and route around it.

Hence mp3, torrents, and IRL region coding bypass chips in DVD player to name but 3.

264:

Thank you. All that was amazingly informative. It still seems odd to me that if Car Magazine has 25,000 impressions to sell, it cant sell them.

Is this a technical problem? If Car's IT infrastructure could bundle the impressions as a package, would they find a taker? Or is this an industry problem? Watch advertisers don't want to buy a mere 25000 impressions at a time? That would argue that content providers should get together and pool their customer profiles together.


Any race to the bottom should at some point bottom out, at which point it generally rebounds, as people learn the lessons. If Rolex decides to invest the marketing dollars to customize it's adds to more specific potential customers and it can do so at a cost-effective price, and Breitling doesnt, wont Rolex gain a competitive advantage?

Or is the problem even more fundamental than that: We are discovering that advertising simply isn't an efficient way to generate business? But if watch companies arent generating their business from their advertising, what have they been generating it from?

265:

Suppose Facebook invited members to pay $x/month. And then each month handed out $x/${total likes for the month} to the creator of every page the user had liked.

The fee paid is fixed up front and there'd be no need need for anyone to learn a new habit. But it's not a "pay what you like" model. And once established the earnings per mean "like" would be predictable. There'd be minimum payouts and a share for Facebook one way or another. But concentrate on the principle.

Replicate on Twitter, mix in some boundless optimism, and fast forward several decades, and what were advertising departments have become content creation departments. The revenue they generate from "likes" is what the rentiers live off, although some is spent on the robofactories that manufacture the goods that are given away to ensure the "likes" keep flowing. But if doesn't get used the nano recycles it.

266:

Thank you. All that was amazingly informative. It still seems odd to me that if Car Magazine has 25,000 impressions to sell, it cant sell them.

I think you've misunderstood. The problem is not that Car Magazine has 25,000 impressions to sell. The problem is that Car Magazine has 4 million impressions to sell. In 2010 it could sell more or less all 4,000,000 at a price of, say 10p per impression, and make £400,000 a month.

By the way, all the numbers in all of my posts in this thread are indicative rather than accurate.

Now those same advertisers can get the same effective reach only buying 400,000 impressions, now at perhaps 12p. Now Car Magazine has only £48,000 and 360,000 unsold impressions. The number of available advertisers has not increased tenfold, so there's no-one to sell those impressions to, other than the general morass in the exchanges.

That would argue that content providers should get together and pool their customer profiles together.

That is what they did, using a number of different systems, for example Krux. These pooled customer profiles are what power the ad exchanges that have allowed advertisers to cut their expenditure massively (and what "Do Not Track" was intended to prevent).

Part of the delay when you load a page now is the various ad exchanges bidding among each other to find the highest-priced ad that they can match to your customer profile. Put simply, if they don't show you a product you recognise, the ad being shown to you probably earns less than 1p for the publisher. So even if Car does sell out all 4 million slots it will still be taking home a fraction of its previous revenue.

If Rolex decides to invest the marketing dollars to customize it's adds to more specific potential customers and it can do so at a cost-effective price, and Breitling doesnt, wont Rolex gain a competitive advantage?

Well, not usually. First of all, Brietling and Rolex will be targeting similar but not entirely identical users, so they'll have overlap but no more. Second, ads are not sent to users based on the accuracy of tags regardless of price. Advertisers bid the lowest price they think they can get away with to match a user of value to them. It's in their interest to maximise value by targeting tightly, but to give you an example...

If Breitling targets "people who like Jaguar and don't like Peugeot and read The Economist website" for 25k impressions at 12.2p per impression, and Rolex targets "people who like Jaguar and don't like Peugeot and read The Economist website and are married" for 25k impressions at 12.1p per impression, the Breitling ad is the one that will get served first. If that buy runs out, the Rolex ad will be served to as many visitors match the profile as the exchange can provide.

So yes, between them they might sell out 50,000 impressions. Across every website that carries ads from that exchange. And that's still only a fifth of what a single advertiser might have bought previously.

267:

The advertisers still need to get their products in front of consumers. How are they going to do it once the golden goose of content is dead?

Who cares?

If the product is so unremarkable that advertising is the only way to make it sell, then it's not worth buying.

You mentioned Breitling earlier, as an example. Manufacturers of mid-tier expensive bling watches -- four digit price tags, not six digit, hence mid-tier. Yes, they use mechanical movements, but the parts come from the same Swatch factory as your cheap £50 high street bright'n'plasticky fashion accessory. The rest of the value can't possibly emerge from the weight of gold and precious stones the things are encrusted with, so it's mostly down to brand-name snobbery.

I'll grant you that Jaguar or Mercedes or other luxury cars -- at least at the mid-tier level -- offer something that distinguishes them from a cheap-ass Chrysler Neon or VW Polo: they're faster and nicer to drive, vastly more luxurious, and quite possibly safer as well (all the latest collision avoidance features). Even so, a huge amount of advertising money goes on brand awareness building in automobiles because really what distinguishes between equivalent niche Jag/BMW/Merc models other than the name and some minutiae of driving experience? Or between a Skoda and a SEAT and a VW, when the first two are just different subsidiaries of the latter, knocking out last year's flagship model at a 20% discount for the price-conscious market segment?

This stuff is basically bullshit. We don't need all these products: we could get by with just one in each market segment instead of sixty bazillion. And as for the watches, they're a hunk of jewellery with moving parts that is designed to be seen as a status symbol for the insecure. (Prime advertising fodder because so much advertising plays on status-insecurity fears.)

If this chunk of the advertising market curled up and died in a corner for good, I would find it hard to give a flying fuck.

268:

It's more that the death of content won't kill advertising. So where will it go next?

AT&T has already experimented with ad injection on wifi hotspots. What if the advertising layer moves from content to pipe?

269:

That's one of the more compelling justifications for HTTPS everywhere, after the herd immunity benefits from slowing down TLA attackers and other criminals.

270:

Which is also kind of odd because marketers etc really got going in the 1950's and have piled up lots of evidence and experience about what works and doesn't,

I suspect they were moving from "we have no idea but this sounds like it works" to "this seems to work better than that". Sort of. Kind of. ...

Black Magic for illnesses to this herb worked for my grandmother.

271:

HTTPS Everywhere and VPNs.

Dammit, would mean I really need to upgrade this server to support SSL. More work, for no reward except defeating the scumbag free riders.

272:

If you're on Debian or a derivative, later this year you should be able to set up Let's Encrypt with a lot less hassle than the traditional HTTPS setup and maintenance process. I used self-signed certificates for years on my own site, but the browser warnings scared a lot of people into using the "safer" plain HTTP site. I have high hopes that Let's Encrypt is going to make it a lot easier. No scary browser warnings for end users, no manual intervention needed to renew certificates, no expertise needed to configure the web server and encryption stack.

273:

AT&T has already experimented with ad injection on wifi hotspots. What if the advertising layer moves from content to pipe?

In the US AT&T offers a discount on their 100Gbps and 1000Gbps service of $30 to $50 per month for the right to inspect your internet browsing for use with advertizing. I forget which. They have stated that they don't inspected encrypted (HTTPS) traffic so the assumption is that they intercept DNS and use that.

The problem is that is, well, sucks. Performance is terrible much of the time. When the basic Google search page takes 2 minutes to load or time out something is not right. And specifying your own DNS settings don't seem to change anything. Call tech support. They come out fiddle around a bit, call their boss, finally they reset something at the CO and everything is better for a few days to a month. But speedtest.net is always fast.

I had it for a while in Texas and finally told them to forget it and just give me real internet not their fancy don't work all the time super high speed option. Now I get much more consistent results at only 24/5.

Do you or anyone know what they are tracking on the faster options in exchange for the discount? Is it DNS?

274:

Or is the problem even more fundamental than that: We are discovering that advertising simply isn't an efficient way to generate business?

I think the trouble is partly that advertisers are trying to apply short-term metrics to a long-term process. If I see an advertisement for, say, insurance, I probably won't click it and buy insurance. If I've seen ads for the company for a while, then the next time I need an insurance policy that company is likely to be considered more highly than some company I've never heard of. Advertising usually works over time to establish brand awareness in the customer base. If buyers are expecting it to yield immediate, measurable results, then they'll probably be disappointed.

Hyper-targeted ads are probably self-defeating; just because your typical customer displays five different traits doesn't mean that a person with two or three of the traits isn't going to be interested in the product. Those people may be less interested on average, but are probably vastly more numerous.

Of course, sometimes advertising does basically the job of a press release. If Charlie announces a book here, most of us are going to read the announcement and strongly consider buying the book. That's a different case.

275:

I'm still confused, so perhaps someone could help me out?

@Jamesface #266: "Now those same advertisers can get the same effective reach only buying 400,000 impressions, now at perhaps 12p. Now Car Magazine has only £48,000 and 360,000 unsold impressions. The number of available advertisers has not increased tenfold, so there's no-one to sell those impressions to, other than the general morass in the exchanges."

OK, but there's a couple of things about that which I still dont understand:

1) That implies that advertisers are spending less money on advertising. Yet according to this study by the IAB, US internet ad revenue increase by 16% in 2014, a record level. What's more, it seems to have increased pretty steadily since 1996. How could ad revenue be increasing at record setting rates and there be less money from advertising? Where is this death spiral I hear about?

2) If they can achieve the same market penetration by spending less money than they used to (by buying fewer ads) wont they achieve much better reach by buying more ads than they used to? Wouldnt that result in a competitive advantage? Why are they so stingy?

Is this happening because consumer spending is down and so they are prioritizing cutting costs over expanding their business?

Another hypothesis: They are cutting back because they know it's largely the same people viewing multiple sites and tracking technology allows them to avoid paying to advertise to the same individuals across many sites (which would be foolish)?

Hypothesis 3: It's not that there is less revenue for advertising, it's that there's a glut of content. This implies that the number of web pages to view has grown faster than the available revenue, which cant keep up even though it's increasing at a record pace. Seems implausible, but I list it for completedness.

I'm sorry if my questions seem clueless, I'm just trying to frame all this from an economic perspective, rather than a business model perspective.

Regardless of what the answers are, it doesn't seem as if micro-billing is the solution. Your idea of "ads on the pipes" could work, if the ISP then takes that money and compensates web page owners by time spent on the site (since to an ISP it's all about bandwidth).

Am I on point or way out there?

276:

Btw - if anyone was confuzzled by Host's reference to iCars, here's the link:

Apple Targets Electric-Car Shipping Date for 2019

Unless they are going into acquisitions or partnerships, there's no feasible way they'll make it.

Or, put another way: buying other people's tech and slapping some nice curves on it & the brand worked for computers.

In the car market, not. so. much.

The old sharks are going to take them apart. (GM? Oh dear). It's simply not the same market where the opposition is shifting off cream square boxes. Plus, Musk / Tesla is, well: let's just say his clout is considerable.


TL;DR

Jumping the shark is taking on Merc, BWM, Tesla and Asia over electric cars. (Merc already have prototypes being built that make the Tesla look like the average American build).

Totally foolish.


p.s.

Groupon slashed 1.1k, banks are shedding like crazy. 2019 might look a little different than expected. Expect storms, very soon.

~

@James. I'd ask about Madison Avenue, advertising, the 34yr old / $400k cut off and why advertisers have already priced in the loss of the "middle class" market (their words, not mine) as opposed to the aspirations of the Mad Men, but it wouldn't be all that interesting. It was, after all, in 2013.

~


iCar. How to totally miss the boat...

277:

Or, to not return to my own voice but use the hyper-masculine worlds I just trawled through:

iCar is that moment when you realized the future vision had been stolen from a zeitgeist and there was nothing left. iWatch was doomed at start, but Swatch and co aren't bothered to crush you.

iCar is a direct threat to Germany's economy (and Asian manufacturers). Expect Sino-trade routes and strengthening lines of flight along those two new roads proposed.

Not to mention that Google are in this space (and have spent considerable resources on the tech) and unless Apple is willing to take on Google and Amazon's robotic acquisitions, this will get messy.

~


The Hollow Men [Youtube: film: 16:56]

Reminds me of Xbox executives being slaughtered on the fields of PR by Sony and angry servicemen by their "always online" hubris.

The curtain, parred away, shows: the Emperor has no clothes. Worse, it has no ideals and MBAs are hubris, worked on blood and air.

~

Expect a Transmission soon

278:

The root cause is a broken payments infrastructure.

Not at all. You can't get to payments without prices, and the problem is that the prices won't clear, because the people with the web browsers actively hate and loathe the advertising they're being shown; they think it has negative value. (and it does; they're being asked to pay in time and bandwidth for being shown things they actively don't want.)

If you want the prices to clear, you have to improve the signalling in the system, and since the profit in most of the system is dependent on coercion -- you can't unless -- that's not going to happen.

Flaming heap of ruin is the good outcome, really.

279:

The advertisers still need to get their products in front of consumers. How are they going to do it once the golden goose of content is dead?

They're not, and they're mostly going to go out of business.

Reputation isn't very sticky anymore. It has to be maintained scrupulously by people who accurately understand what it's based on. It does work (look at how this place works for Charlie!), though, and the survival strategy's pretty obviously a consistent, low-overhead, value proposition. It's not fast and it's not how you acquire vast wealth, but it works.

Look at the websites that don't advertise much or at all but try far too hard to get you to review and comment on their range of products. If they can keep from getting poisoned by marketers, that model has a chance.

Look at job search websites (or linked in); those have an obvious and finite lifespan. New ones are useful until people find out about them; once that happens, and it becomes the default website, they're poisoned into uselessness by people trying to trade distributed long-term damage for short term personal gain.

280:

I haven't got a bleeding clue, mate!
Honestly.
All possible outcome to this "problem" seem bad.
Which is likely to be least bad appears to be the option to choose.
Now, what is that least-bad option?
Other than micropayment, of course ... errr ....

281:

Or between a Skoda and a SEAT and a VW, when the first two are just different subsidiaries of the latter, knocking out last year's flagship model at a 20% discount for the price-conscious market segment?
Their NOX & particulate emissions?
*cough*

If we are talking of a potential crash, that one is going to come, very soon, I think.
The ramifications of the VW scandal haven't even started yet, IMHO.

{ Side-note: other "Crashes" - I agree that advertising is going to take a fall, though probably not as badly as some of us here hope it will.
Meanwhile, I don't think we are going to get a bad general financial crash, unless China really goes down the tubes - i.e. growth below 2.5% - which ain't going to happen.
So the boy George will probably be OK - referring to the newer thread here .... )

282:

Fascinating
I looked at the "Grok" (numenta) site.
What a waste.
This sort of thing should be plugged into SETI & Protien-folding problems & all the other desperate pattern-recognition quandaries we are facing.
What's it doing?
Being used for fastbuck-makers.
What a waste

283:

Where is this death spiral I hear about?

Well, first of all, the IAB has a vested interest in making the situation sound rosy.

Second, as I have tried to explain multiple times, the only thing that matters in ad sales now is volume. The spend is being unevenly distributed in favour of the extremely large players. So your absolute behemoths, your Buzzfeeds and your Daily Mails, are doing quite well from that extra spend. Anyone who can't scrape together the numbers is not doing so well.

Third, I have the luxury of seeing the situation on a month-by-month basis rather than as year-in-review. Our 2014 was quite rosy from a revenue point of view. 2015, as programmatic really begins to dominate, not so much.

wont they achieve much better reach by buying more ads than they used to?

In theory yes, but the game has changed and reach is less relevant now. Reach used to count because you couldn't target your ads precisely enough. If your had to hit 100,000 people to get your ad in front of the 1% that mattered to you, you had to buy 100,000 impressions. Now you can buy targeted reach of just that 1%, why spend the money on 99,000 impressions that your statistical models tell you are likely to be wasted money? Now, that argument might be wrong in a platonic sense, but it's the dominant model on which programmatic is currently being bought (except at the bottom of the barrel).

Reach still matters if you are a massive-scale or fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company, because you're looking to build brand recall rather than convert directly. (Other than retail banks, there are relatively few consumer-facing massive scale companies that aren't FMCG operations, but that's for another day). Those advertisers are the ones tending more towards bespoke and native advertising, because they have the buying teams to manage bespoke buys across many properties. However, they're not immune to the scale game change. Because the most successful sites are an order of magnitude or two larger than the typical site, Mondelez or whoever can still achieve better economies of scale by dealing with one or two very large sites rather than thirty or forty smaller ones. Unless those smaller ones can guarantee a very specialised, very valuable audience that can't be found anywhere larger. And you know what, if that smaller site has signed up for an exchange, Mondelez can just dump some targeted ads into the exchange and hit those users wherever they are.

So, to risk OGH's further wrath theorising about monetising this site, rather than Programmatic, he would be much better off finding a high-worth consumer facing business in one of the strange attractor areas, and building a bespoke advertising product for them. But that would mean he'd have to hire a salesperson, a commercial development team, designers, animators, data analysts...

they know it's largely the same people viewing multiple sites and tracking technology allows them to avoid paying to advertise to the same individuals across many sites

This is an accurate view of the situation.

I'm sorry if my questions seem clueless, I'm just trying to frame all this from an economic perspective, rather than a business model perspective.

I believe OGH has a saying about economics, something about frictionless spheres.

284:

Whereas my questions and comments sometimes seem to generate nothing but friction. Thank you for your patience, I think light is slowly beginning to dawn. So if I've understood you correctly, even thought a record amount is being spent on online ads this year, most of it is being sucked up by the largest retailers, with little left over for the little guys.

Let's take a real example. One of my other favorite sites is called "TV Tropes", a wiki devoted to discussions of narrative tropes in various media. It attracts a modest amount of traffic, probably has a couple thousand registered members. It's supported by a combination of on-page ads (today it appears to be Lending Tree, Community Choice Credit Union, AT&T, Xfinity, and the Weather Channel) plus an annual kickstarter campaign which last year generated a little over $100K (the ads go away if you contributed to the campaign). It's doing well enough that the site owners hired some professionals to do a page redesign.

Another interesting site is "Erfworld"- a fantasy themed webcomic. I dont know how many members it has, probably comparable to TVT. They are supported by a combination of a kickstarter and content-related art sales (which they display in a banner ad across the top of the site) and some sidebar ads. The kickstarter today lists 772 backers and a little over $31K. I dont know how much they make off art sales. (They have a very interesting discussion of their experience with ads, by the way, shedding some light on the intrusion of auto audio-play ads working their way into the site despite having a policy against them- "All we succeeded in doing was gutting our ad revenue, culling out the suspect providers until all we had were the nice ones. And it turns out that the nice ones pay worst" Read it here

Now I recognize that every site in the world cant do this- but it seems to me that the money is out there, although the content creator may have to invest some time and energy into site promotion, and be fortunate enough to attract some volunteers with skills from his or her member base. My impression is that the internet environment is survivable. Tough, but doable. Reports of internet revenue death seem somewhat exaggerated.

285:

Well, I don't think you're wrong that crowdfunding in some form will be part of the answer. I see it as being particularly applicable in cases where sites with a lot of brand attachment from their users could use it as a way of funding desirable longform content.

But I don't see it being viable as a mass replacement for advertising. A great deal of the content that's consumed on the internet is short-form, extremely simple, highly-duplicated, middling-value stuff. The kind of stuff that pops up when you google a typical question like "Ford Focus make seatbelt chime turn off." Nobody's going to crowdfund a page all about the seatbelt chime in a Ford Focus, but equally when you want that content, you really want that content.

That's the kind of internet that the departing commercial model allowed for: extreme diversity with the ability to scale lots of micro-monetisable content up to something that supports a business. So a replacement model that retains utility in diversity needs to offer something very similar. Paywalling those kinds of low-engagement, high-utility sites is a non-starter. You won't pay for the answer to your question unless and until you know it's the correct answer to your question.

But if you don't prevent free access, how do you persuade a user to pay for the content they've consumed? This isn't like the pleading puppy eyes of a known-benefit organisation like NPR or the BBC, this is a site that you've never interacted with before, and have no guarantee you'll ever interact with again. Maybe it goes under, maybe it doesn't. Most users - and I say this with fifteen years' behavioural design experience under my belt - would not pay in that scenario.

As you can tell, I'm somewhat bearish on the potential of micropayments. Not only are they a relatively difficult problem to solve on a technical basis (and believe me, I wouldn't expect W3C to be the ones to solve that problem), you also have not one but two groups with enormous psychological barriers to entry: not just the users but also the content owners.

The users have to be persuaded to accept a cost on something they previously perceived as free. It wasn't, of course, as has been discussed. But equally the prices of the goods they buy aren't going to come down due to a reduced advertising budget, so they will be paying measurably more. Now I know there have been several examples mentioned where users do donate to sites for various reasons. But those are i) outliers within that user's general behaviour ii) outliers within a given site's general population. A site that converts 10% of its users to crowd funding or no-ads subscriptions is doing spectacularly well. 1% is a more reliable figure. So a replacement for advertising has to find something that works for that other 90-99% of users too.

The content- (i.e. business-) owners have to be persuaded that they're replacing an open market with something that continues to give them potential for growth. The record companies violently rejected this when it was first offered to them, and it took until the rise of Spotify et al before they accepted a shared-pot approach, only because they believe Spotify et al can continue to grow the pot. So any microbilling solution that relies on a single monthly payment per user will struggle to find traction, because advertising, to a rough approximation, already reaches all the users on the internet (ad blockers notwithstanding - content owners are taking blockers seriously, but they all believe they can be defeated). Any replacement flat-fee microbilling service will have no scope to grow the pot bigger than what's already there.

In my view, the answer isn't microbilling, it's content-adjacency. If you want to publish content, you need to find a complementary retail or service business that can turn views on that content into cash-bearing transactions. Essentially that's what OGH has done with this site. The content will become the advertising.

286:

I think services like Netflix and its imitators are early examples of the post-advertising internet.

Pay a monthly fee, get unlimited access to a particular type of content. Maybe a pay a higher fee and get unlimited access to a much wider field of content.

Currently my Netflix subscription provides more than I could ever get interested in watching by a few orders of magnitude, without any advertising at all (behaviour based prompting within the service notwithstanding). And many, many people are cancelling the advertising laden cable subscriptions and just streaming their content.

The model can be expanded into many other realms, including written content. My understanding is that there have been a couple of attempts at a 'netflix for books' model, though I haven't investigated it much.

The real question is how to make sure that a reasonable percentage of the money moves through the mass provider and to the creators. Given the obvious danger of monopsony that may become a key area for legislation. On the upside there are some very large 'creators' of content (movie production houses) with an incentive to push for that sort of thing - so it might actually happen.

Other alternatives could include a writers/creators union of sorts getting together to form their own creative streaming service using a non-profit model. The challenge is to identify who to reward - the obscure writer of awful prose likely should not receive as much as a genuinely talented creator. Aside from 'pay per usage' I'm not sure how that would work - and that opens up a competitive field in which to advertise again.

287:

I guess what I'm suggesting is that the ad-supported model doesn't need to go away. It needs to be reformed, perhaps, but 50 billion dollars ought to be plenty for everyone, and that's just the US. I agree with you about micro-billing: its a solution looking for a problem.

I'm thinking that this isnt really a money-related problem at all. It's a control issue, in that site owners do not have control over the experience that their own visitors have. When the most memorable thing about the web page you put up is the flash video in the sidebar (which the site owner doesnt even know about) you have a control problem. I think that if site owners had micro-approval rights over what gets played on their pages, we would have much less of a problem with it. The question is how to give them that leverage at a price that makes sense.

This would probably require a change in the law. Make is such that site owners have the right of approval for everything played on their site, and perhaps the exchanges will start sitting down with them, give them a cafeteria-style range of options, and agree on an ad mix schedule that actually fits, even promotes, the purpose of the page. I think this would accomplish essentially the same purpose as your "content adjacency" idea- and allow for all the "micro-content" that makes the internet a viable productivity multiplier of the larger economy. This is an outcome with enough social utility that I think justifies government regulation. And it doesnt involve raising taxes!

As for Charlie's site- well I understand his personal preferences, respect them even. But his decisions do have the effect of eliminating a potential stream of revenue. It really doesn't make any sense to think of this place as an advertisement for the books- his book sales must number in the 100's of thousands, and this site generates probably in the hundreds of unique visitors- there's no reasonable way this blog has any discernible impact on his book sales. But if he wanted to turn this place into an additional revenue stream he could do it- by using the book sales to promote the blog. Then he could use ads or product sales or what have you to generate an extra $10K a year or so. That is, if he needed it (or else direct the eyeballs helping some other struggling authors get started).

288:

It really doesn't make any sense to think of this place as an advertisement for the books- his book sales must number in the 100's of thousands, and this site generates probably in the hundreds of unique visitors- there's no reasonable way this blog has any discernible impact on his book sales.

I try to suppress my memory of usenet readership statistics, but I retain the awareness that you can't gauge the readership from the number of people who post.

And remember that the fundamental problem with most advertising is that it can't clear its price because it's designed to address a captive audience, who, to a statistical first approximation, do not want it. By expending substantial effort on curating the conversation, Charlie's effectively got a medium to advertise good character, and because it's specific and voluntary, the price clears.

I can't imagine that doesn't help with the books. (Word of mouth is a mighty thing with books.)

289:

I found this blog when someone mentioned that a UK author had written a book called "Rule 34" after the XKCD comic; his writing here made me think I might like his style, and I bought Rule 34 in 2011.

However, I didn't register this account, or comment from another account, until this week. That's 4 years in which my visits would be invisible to anyone but OGH, and yet I bought 23 books of his in that time.

Am I an outlier, or the common case?

290:

The Ford chime is why I proposed piggybacking Facebook: people are already conditioned to "like" things. So I'm sure they'd use an embedded "like" button on your Ford chime page. (I presume Facebook have plastered the web with "like" buttons; if not, they give themselves a legitimate excuse to harvest all that juicy info.)

The difficult bit is persuading people to pay Facebook. But that's in Facebook's own commercial interest: they can run a campaign with indie producers and doe-eyed orphans saying how much they'll be helped by you paying $5 a month and hitting "like". Charities and indie producers encourage people to use the scheme. As revenue ramps, big business notices, joins the party and the thing tips. Fees go up and competitor schemes arise. You're growing the pot because nobody stops advertising. The consumer even gets a warm glow that comes with supporting the sites they like (even though most of their money goes to big business). Everybody wins!

291:

Here's an El Graun article about a "mommyblogger" who's quit because of the escalating demands of advertisers. (She says revenue was decreasing, but that wasn't why she retried.) It also provides some insight into the grubby reality of ruining your children's lives running a for-profit blog.

292:

I read Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise first, which I got at a brick and mortar bookstore. After that I started ordering online. I got Accelerando and Glasshouse and Halting State. Then the Merchant Princes series and all then extant Laundry Files novels. Also some short story collections. Then I wanted to see what else there was so I did an internet search and came here and saw that I had read most of it, but there was a bunch more for free here, and more fiction on the way. I just read the blog entries at first, then started reading the comments and just had to comment too. Then I saw how much fun it was. Then quit for a while and recently came back. You know some really smart accomplished people comment here and I'm not in the right league, but sometimes I think I have a different perspective. I hope that in some way OGH derives some kind of benefit to his creative juices from what we post here as a whole. And sells books. Er, I mean, yes, I always come here to see what books are coming next so I can decide if I want to buy them.

293:

1000kindsofrain, "Liking things" has already been tried with Flattr since 2010.
Figuring out why they are slowly dying -
https://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=flattr&date=1%2F2009%2080m&cmpt=q&tz=Etc%2FGMT-2
- is probably part of the answer to the original question.

Though it might be something as banal as that they were too small/too Swedish/not Facebook.

294:

Just read this about a newspaper trying micropayments:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/canadian-newspaper-tries-radical-experiment-with-itunes-style-micropayments-1.3220847?cmp=rss

Some papers, such as the New York Times, give you 10 free stories a month - the so-called "freemium" service - just for signing up. The Freep limits readers to only three stories for a lifetime.

After that, readers, who must sign up with a credit card, pay 27 cents per story, billed at the end of each month, up to the full price of an online subscription, which is $16.99.

Not only that, readers can opt out of paying for articles they don't think were worth the price by clicking on a button and explaining why.

The draconian story limit means that most of the new business since the summer was from online readers signing up for full service.

But the micropayments system is working, too. Cox says casual readers now number in the thousands and a couple of dozen new casual readers sign up every day.

"We're selling a substantial number of articles every day online," he says.

Currently, the Free Press has no plans to expand the service. But would it consider becoming a pay-per-view clearinghouse for other publications, like the Dutch-language service Blendle?

"Maybe. If there was interest and we could set that business up, we would," says Cox.

So, a bit of a hassle to set up (like iTunes). Payments low, with a cap and a way of avoiding if you feel the (unknown) information wasn't worth it. (And, presumably, a clause to stop the chap who reads the entire paper while claiming it's garbage every day from doing that for too long.)

It will be interesting to see how it works out.

295:

The problem is that due to the way in which indexing works, it's trivially easy to skip such paywalls. Just a paste / click...


Host will have read this, others may have not:

http://idlewords.com/talks/what_happens_next_will_amaze_you.htm

He makes the same point about Apple that I did.


Worth a gander. (In that Adam Curtis vein; obviously an inspiration).

I looked at the "Grok" (numenta) site.

I was wondering if anyone would pick up on the network lines and weirdity. You kinda did, so points. One wonders why the alpha test ended over a year ago. 1 mil in VC land is chump change... (*ahem* nods to 2000AD).

~

Anyhow, VW is getting slaughtered in the markets, there's some serious doubt about if EPA diesel NoX exhaust rates are even achievable in this universe, and the iCar was announced at the same time.

And people still don't understand that their cars are now really computers. ("Recall". Here's your USB fix via the mail. Not VW that one).

Well.

That's one way to play the Great Game.

I'm reminded of the fast and loose and cut-throat world of buggies in the early 20th C, and how innovation and so was flourishing, until it wasn't.

~

Hint: Africa / India have hop-skotched the computer access model to phones. Google is launching Ze Zeppelins of Znet.

Ads don't work on phones. (Mentioned above: display sizes & no-one wants to pay for expensive bandwidth autoplaying).

What you'll actually see is phones working as tiny cookies: they'll log tiny incremental data that activates localized adverts / larger net. e.g. I use my phone for X time, it stores tiny tracking stuff, that's used to select from a menu of thousands to what I see locally.

You'ze all zo zlow!

296:

OK, that's a fourth hypothesis. If half the ad budget is being lost to fraud, that explains where the money is going. Human creators cant get paid because the robots are breaking in and stealing it.

And micro-billing is a genuine solution to that. Good catch.

297:

"Ads don't work on phones"

guess Facebook needs to give back half their revenue then

298:

Advertising ...
I wonder if Charlie is bothered by the same sort of people as Diamond Geezer is, quite justifiably, complaining about?

CD: That "What happens next ... " link was very interesting, wasn't it?

299:

The difficult bit is persuading people to pay Facebook.

I don't think that's the most difficult bit (although it is very, very difficult). The most difficult bit is persuading Facebook that it's in Facebook's interest to support an open web, while it's busy trying to commodify content onto its own platform, where it can sell its own advertising. That's what Instant Articles are about (incidentally the Washington Post just threw in the towel there). Same goes for Apple News.

@DeMarquis 296: And micro-billing is a genuine solution to that. Good catch.

What makes you think micro-billing isn't vulnerable to exactly the same sorts of click fraud as adverts? All I need to do is zombie your computer then start loading up the site of my choice over and over in a window hidden off screen. That's exactly how the more sophisticated clickfraud bots currently work.

300:

"Ads don't work on phones"

guess Facebook needs to give back half their revenue then

Ads work fine on phones, just not mobile-specific ad formats. Their clickthrough rate is effectively zero and the cost you can sell them at is between 1/10 and 1/25 of a desktop MPU (300x250 pixels). Not a difficult choice for your commission-reimbursed advertising sales executive, who doesn't care that they're making the site unusable.

301:

And tablets had been tried before Apple. It's got to be a household name and probably won't take off till ad revenues have vanished.

302:

I think this will have to wait until (if) a reputation economy takes hold. Then the act of reading *is* the payment and at my place Charlie gets a sandwich gratis.

303:

Facebook will never be the open web, since the entire point of Facebook is privacy , i.e. anything i post only my friends can see it

Jamesface is wrong about mobile ad effectiveness, sure there are a lot of bad implementations out there, people trying to duplicate a web experience on a mobile phone, but when done right, they work. Link to support

http://techcrunch.com/2012/06/19/facebook-mobile-ads/

304:

Something that's not 3 years old:

Clickthrough rates for mobile devices saw a big boost in the report, 27 percent year-over-year for tablets and 26 percent for smartphones. This, in turn, has driven a 19 percent increase in CTR for Google advertisers in general (Q4 year-over-year).

The much higher CTR also represents a more efficient ad spend, the report noted, since the cost-per-click (CPC) rates are up only 8 percent on Google. In other words, it’s more return for the buck. Yahoo/Bing, the report said, is not so efficiently optimized, as CPC there is up 7 percent year-over-year while CTR growth is zero.

http://venturebeat.com/2015/01/27/adobes-new-ad-report-larger-mobile-screens-are-kicking-ads-into-higher-gear/

http://www.cmo.com/content/dam/CMO_Other/ADI/Q4'14_digital_advertising_benchmark/Q4_2014_digital_advertising_benchmark.pdf

It's page 20.

Before crowing, read the fluff piece carefully:

“There’s a kind of war going on,” she added, where “marketers seem to be figuring out how to optimize their spend” through their automated tools...

It also appears that retailers are adjusting to Facebook’s change in its newsfeed algorithm, which has reduced organic brand posts to a trickle. Adobe predicts that Facebook organic impressions will plunge another 40 percent by next year.

“Organic,” Gaffney said, “is toast in Facebook for brands.” She said the fact that “it didn’t take long for brands to adjust [is] indicative of how important Facebook is to their mix.”

Paid impressions on Facebook by retailers were up 13 percent year-over-year for Q4, but boomed 53 percent compared to Q4 of 2013. Organic impressions, however, were down 32 percent year-over-year.


I'll let James, who appears to be more experienced & in the field, explain what that means.


p.s.

If you missed it: the recent histrionic ravings about Refugees and their Smart phones will point you to my point. India / Africa don't use iPhones / latest Samsung.

You're thinking three years ago, I'm pointing to three years in the future.

305:

I'll grant you that less user-hostile mobile formats are possible. Also, that Facebook has decently non-hostile mobile formats. However, they still don't make as much money for Facebook as desktop formats.

In addition, mobile ads generally bring in lower prices than desktop ads. It’s not entirely clear to what extent mobile ads cannibalize conventional ones. But the difference between the percentage of overall users accessing Facebook from a mobile device–68%–stands in stark contrast to the 30% of overall revenue coming from mobile ads.

And that's Facebook, the six hundred pound gorilla of behavioural marketing. Content sites right now are being offered Hobson's choice: We can either give our traffic to Facebook Instant Articles and get access to the social graph and Facebook-targeted ads, or we can continue on the open web with a less complete view of the user, and sell advertising at a commensurately lower CPM. Facebook isn't being altrustic: it wants to keep as much traffic as possible within its own network, where it has a more complete view of the user and a larger share of the revenue.

In other words, the answer to "how will we fund the open web?" is not "Facebook." It might be "better ad formats" but a better ad format still has to deliver the holy grail: higher response rates on devices that have a lower overall response rate than desktop but are rapidly taking the lion's share of the impressions.

306:

Oh yeah, here's the other little secret about why desktop formats tend to get served on mobile sites.

On mobile you have three types of touch interaction: press, long-press and scroll. It takes the device about 3-600ms of contact with the screen to decide which interaction you're performing. That can translate to a sense of lag in the interface when you tap. This is a particular problem for "native" apps being being with a web-to-app framework like Phonegap, where it leads to a sense that the app is not performant. So they wrote some javascript to eliminate it. After all, if your app is only a single screen high and doesn't support long-press on a given control, you don't need to make that decision.

Unfortunately that code now often comes wrapped up in the javascript payload of ads. What that means is that if you try and scroll by putting your finger on, say the MPU taking up half your screen, the javascript reads that event as a click instead.

This has the obviously entirely unintentional effect of inflating mobile response rates by means of accidental clicks when the user meant to scroll.

Because mobile-specific ad formats are smaller and easier to avoid with your finger, they don't get the same response rate inflation. Which is another pressure tending toward serving unsuitable ad formats to mobile devices.

307:

here is the transcript of Facebook's last quarterly report

http://files.shareholder.com/downloads/AMDA-NJ5DZ/763571103x0x842407/3E5AC560-A4AD-4E82-8CC1-9C6BF0294605/Q2-15_TRANSCRIPT_-_FINAL_-_COMPLETE.pdf

"Mobile is the engine of our revenue growth. Mobile ad revenue in Q2 was $2.9 billion, up 74%
from last year and represents 76% of our advertising revenue. Revenue from ads served on
personal computers was down approximately 8%.   "

308:

Well the Ford chime content could be hosted on Facebook. And that was how I originally envisioned it. But an open approach would establish itself quicker and lure in refuseniks -- I'm not going to go use Facebook but I could be persuaded to sign up for their "like" service. So, if pitching it to Zuck, I'd say, "dominate the market, first, and then think about make it harder for our off site 'partners'." Appearing the good guy is good marketing in and of itself.

An even bigger problem is why would Facebook bother if their advertising revenue is increasing? (Moar moneys!) If Facebook aren't greedy enough, then I guess the advertising tech has got to become so efficient that even Facebook stutters. (Could Facebook obfuscate users in the name or privacy, thereby making it more inefficient for advertisers? Is the problem that content providers didn't have the power to refuse all these metrics, and could massive sites put the genie back in the bottle?)

If I'm honest, I don't think this will happen. Maybe it would work better on Twitter, although it doesn't have the userbase.

But I'm not convinced by adjacency either. Why isn't the Ford chime answer on the manufacturers site today? And if they aren't willing to pay for it now, what will change their minds? Speaking personally, I can't imagine a manufacturer would take us on -- we're not a big enough brand and there are more of us producers than there are manufacturers; the market may produce a dozen "me-too" companies, but they keep some of us employed and there aren't enough call centres for us all. (Fortunately, people will pay for apps, and I'm very cheap.)

In the end, I expect paywalls to merge until there are one or two paywalled mega sites (that still have adverts within). That's a pattern we've seen before. If you're lucky, the Ford chime then comes as part of the basic tier of your chosen virtual continent (it was established by silo A to make it fractionally more valuable than silo B, but silo B has long since replicated it and removing it would make silo A less valuable than silo B). Whether the biggest sites can thrive on advertising alone depends on how efficient the advertising tech becomes; El Graun seems to be turning itself into a members club and Wikipedia is like a church with the frequency of its fundraising drives ("the roof is dripping on our servers!"). But I expect Dacre's sidebar of shame will survive. :(

309:

Yes, which both my links & James' explanation show are due to FB locking down 'organic' advertising and pushing it all through their propitiatory software.

This shows up as large gains, but, as the Venturebeat link stated, organic streams were down 32%, on top of already huge losses. i.e. it's simply advertising being switched around.


You should probably also be aware of changes FB made to its mobile reader etc.


*shrug*

FB etc isn't really interesting in discussing the future unless you like Walled Gardens with grey skies and barred windows.

310:

One more thought on adjacency: would you trust a car review provided by Volkswagen?

311:

"All I need to do is zombie your computer then start loading up the site of my choice over and over in a window hidden off screen."

How does that eat into the total ad revenue available from marketers? If it doesn't, then, while people obviously need to protect themselves, I don't see how it makes life any harder for legitimate content providers.

BTW- can anyone explain to me what an "Organic" ad is? And how destroying it is part of FB's evil plan?

312:

The earnings statement is relevent because it disproves a lot of the assertions that it's impossible to make money off mobile advertising and the associated conclusion about the death of the internet ads industry

It also illustrates that Facebook's break even number for micropayments in North America is about $40/year

313:

Facebook (including all its subsidiaries / acquisitions) claims to have 1.49 billion users.

Btw, that was an interview you posted, not an earnings statement.

Mobile will lead this year’s rise in total media ad spending in the US, and advertisers will spend 83.0% more on tablets and smartphones than they did in 2013—an increase of $8.04 billion. By the end of this year, mobile will represent nearly 10% of all media ad spending, surpassing newspapers, magazines and radio for the first time to become the third-largest individual advertising venue, only trailing TV and desktops/laptops...

eMarketer projects advertising revenues for a handful of the top US digital ad-selling companies, which collectively will represent 18.2% of total media ad spending this year—led by Google and Facebook. Google alone already accounts for more than 10% of all advertising spending in the US, and in 2016, together Google and Facebook will take a 15.0% share of the $200.00 billion total media advertising market. Mobile ads on Facebook will total 68.0% of its US ad revenues this year, up from 46.7% last year...

http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Total-US-Ad-Spending-See-Largest-Increase-Since-2004/1010982


Note: you're talking about micropayments / user: James is referencing CTR / CPC for advertisers.

Biadu claims 36.5% of revenue came from mobile users in 2014; it claims 531 million users:

Baidu PDF SEC 2014 (hint: that is the proper format)

"Mobile's tremendous momentum continued this quarter, with mobile contributing 50% of total revenue," said Robin Li, chairman and CEO of Baidu...

Total revenues in the first quarter of 2015 were RMB12.725 billion ($2.053 billion), a 34.0% increase from the corresponding period in 2014. Mobile revenue represented 50% of total revenue for the first quarter of 2015, up from 42% in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Operating profit in the first quarter of 2015 was RMB2.155 billion ($347.7 million), a 9.2% decrease from the corresponding period in 2014.
Net income attributable to Baidu in the first quarter of 2015 was RMB2.449 billion ($395.1 million), a 3.4% decrease from the corresponding period in 2014. Diluted earnings attributable to Baidu per ADS for the first quarter of 2015 were RMB6.76 ($1.09); diluted earnings attributable to Baidu per ADS excluding share-based compensation expenses (non-GAAP) for the first quarter of 2015 were RMB7.58 ($1.22)

http://ir.baidu.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=188488&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=2041873


You'll be noting a correlation of sorts here.

Phones don't do Ads.

Social network companies (Apps) do ads.


At the moment iOS etc have only just introduced the ability to adblock.


Now, you work out why Host & others here have been talking about what we have.

Hint: Once adblocking takes off on phones (and there's 100% greater incentive for it due to archaic telecoms companies like AT&T still charging for fucking text messages / Apple charging for facetime msging) this will crater so badly the dust cloud will be seen on Mars.


Does that make sense?

314:

Put more simply:

I've not 'surfed the internet' without an adblocker for about ten years.

Uptake of adblockers in the young demographic will sky rocket once they work out that their credit lasts x3-5 times as long with it enabled.

Result: you've got three years to enter new markets (as stated) before things get hairy. (If there's not an epic crash beforehand).

~

Now, I'm going to go change into a cat again, being male is boring.

315:

yes but many of Facebook's users are in the 3rd world and most of the revenue comes from North America

http://files.shareholder.com/downloads/AMDA-NJ5DZ/764597542x0x842064/619A417E-5E3E-496C-B125-987FA25A0570/FB_Q215EarningsSlides.pdf

I was looking specifically at the North American revenue and MAU and seeing how much those people would have to pay to replace the NA part of the FB income steam

There are 213 million users in NA generating $1,967 billion, so roughly $9.23 / quarter / user. If they were to replace their ads with micropayments it would be $40/year in NA

With regards to "phones don't do ads , apps do ads" I would agree and follow it up with "phones don't really do web". The web experience in general is terrible on a phone, just like web advertising is terrible on a phone, hence apps

As an example, Facebook has a WWW browser client, the ads work fine but the client experience itself is a nightmare

The mistake is limiting the discussion to Web advertising. If we are talking about INTERNET advertising not WEB advertising, an app is just as valid a member of internet advertising as a browser is. If you limit to Web/browser then that entire world is in trouble not just the ad part of it

Adblocking doesn't work at all on apps by the way, only on web browsing. It's hard to imagine an ad blocker for apps

316:

I don't understand " once they work out that their credit lasts x3-5 times as long with it enabled

You know Chrome has a built in incognito mode right?

317:

And, before DeMarquis plants an "AHA!":

When I was young I was my given gender[1]. Times aren't so safe now (looking at those poking around).

When I want I can do a passable impression of a testosterone fueled male as a translation service. But it brings tut-tuts, claims I should have been hit / spanked by my father and labels and people playing detective.


When I'm free to do what I want[2], I'm something else.

*shrug*

The I-Ching states:

41 - Forty-one
Sun / Decrease

The stoic Mountain drains its excess waters to the Lake below:
The Superior Person curbs his anger and sheds his desires.

To be frugal and content is to possess immeasurable wealth within.
Nothing of value could be refused such a person.
Make a portion of each meal a share of your offering.

[1]You might not like how long ago the answer to that one is.
[2]This does not include web forums. Good behavior, no cheating, linear linear good feline.

318:

You do realize that we're talking about mobile Apps and OS that didn't allow Adblockers into their walled gardens, right?


At this point I don't think you know what you're talking about, or are attempting a trap that won't work:

Timing is crucial here: Apple will likely announce ad blocking in iOS 9 this Wednesday, which realistically means that ad blocking will be possible on Safari in about two weeks (because review process). On the other hand, it was about two and a half years ago that Google booted Adblock Plus from the Play Store.

https://adblockplus.org/blog/first-official-ad-blocker-for-ios-launches-today-ditto-for-android

2015-09-08

319:

Apologies, #315 didn't show up for some reason, which makes your statements clearer.

There are 213 million users in NA generating $1,967 billion, so roughly $9.23 / quarter / user. If they were to replace their ads with micropayments it would be $40/year in NA

No, you're mistaking user spending with advertising spending (as already stated).

The Superbowl has 112 million viewers, and a spend of about $331.8 million, for reference.

http://adage.com/article/special-report-super-bowl/super-bowl-xlix-ad-chart-buying-big-game-commercials/295841/

Model doesn't work like you think it does. Re-read James' comments.

320:

All I am saying is if i run an app like facebook, or a say an app game iOS ad blockers don't work on it

So the only part of the ad revenue stream that gets effected by stuff like Crystal and Peace is things you browse on Safari web browser

I honestly don't know what you mean by "once they work out that their credit lasts x3-5 times as long with it enabled" credits for what, what kind of credits?

321:

In shorter format:

Research F2P games, Whales and conversion rates. It's about 3-5%, 10% if you've a gold cert Birds zeitgeist moment.


That's not a good figure for mobile advertising if adblockers kick in big time.

322:

Ad blocking is trending right now online

Here's a long but informative Bloomberg article about the online ad industry:

JamesFace, any thoughts?

323:

Sorry, this is wrong.

https://facebook.adblockplus.me/

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/facebook-adblock/lfpacabphcagfehdgnigmfnbjdampbaa

This has been available for some time.


As for games, you just download a crack and have instantly 1,000,000,000 gems or whatever.

~

Credits: Common parlance; youth market has a higher % of non-subs and "pay as you go" than any other.

Subs = paid time subscription. X minutes / month. "Unlimited" data plan, where "unlimited = less than 500 gb". Etc etc.


The entire phone market works on selling the illusion of a "free" phone to get you to buy a timed subscription (same model as satellite etc).

~

Can I get back to being a cat? This isn't very productive.

324:

I did warn you Gronks were Grokking.

You link didn't fire, here it is:

http://www.bloomberg.com/features/2015-click-fraud/

325:

Those links you posted appear to only be another way of blocking ads in a web client (Chrome, Safari etc)? So again they don't do anything to mobile apps

I imagine you can build specific adblockers on a per-app basis that blocked adds inside a mobile app. That sounds tricky but probably not impossible

However anytime the developer of the app wants they can shut those blockers down, as they are going to be against the app's terms of service

It's also pretty easy to programmatic shut them down just by breaking them

It's also true mobile games don't convert many whales but the ones they do are amazingly profitable. And again, they can serve up ads inside a mobile app. Remember most mobile games aren't farmville on a canvas / computer anymore they are downloaded apps running on a smart phone

The thing to understand is if you are still surfing the internet on a web browser using a computer that is a minority activity now. The majority of humans on the internet never own a computer, surf the internet only on a phone and are far more locked in to the phone app ecosystem, which is very controlled.

As far as click fraud goes, the model advertiser are moving toward is more outcome measurement. You don't care so much about clicks but conversion, people that actually buy your merchandise (be it online or brick and mortar).

If you are Wal-Mart for instance and you advertise on Facebook or Google, you can tell which of the people that saw your ads later walked into a store and bought your product

326:

I actually run a non-professional website that makes some money from adverts. It doesn't bring in anything like enough to live off, but it does at least pay for the costs of running and maintaining the site.

I haven't yet noticed a death-spiral of advertising, on average this year's revenue is pretty similar to last years (it's strongly seasonal).

I have a strong suspicion that it's the casual users who follow the adverts and the serious users, who get the most benefit out of it, who don't, but it's almost impossible to tell.

When I first put adverts on, 10 years or so ago, I got mainly relevant ads about waterway subjects. These days the adverts are pretty well irrelevant to the pages. What is interesting is that there is enough UK waterways advertising available to keep at least two free paper publications going: http://www.towpathtalk.co.uk/ is the one I'm most familiar with.

I strongly suspect that if I was to implement my own advert code, and employ someone on commission to sell ads I could make significantly more money and deliver a better product to my users - since relevant adverts in a niche area like the waterways will probably actually sometimes be interesting content. Indeed, I keep playing with the idea as an early retirement plan.

It's really quite hard to think of another way to bring in income from a site like this which requires dedicated computer resources and a significant coding investment (OTOH, it's pretty safe from content-scrapers). I get a lot of casual users, so subscription probably won't work (and doesn't feel right when a lot of the content is now contributed by volunteers) and donations come in at less than 10% of advertising revenue.

327:

Before there were ad blockers, I guess before browsers supported plugins, you could get a list of domain names for advertising content networks and run a DNS resolver that mapped these to a local webserver and returned an empty div or a 1-pixel transparent PNG file as appropriate. You could run a proxy server that plugged in the excellent Parse::RecDescent and silently omitted tokens that matched certain heuristics.

I used the DNS method for the home network for years when ads started to add up into the 10s of MBs and DSL download quotas were in the hundreds of MBs. Was a little surprised the difference dropping that from the mix made, but anyway browser-based ad blockers are more amenable to per-user exceptions.

But this is just a long way of saying doing this for mobile could be a matter of proxying web or DNS or both.

328:

That's credit as in 'phone credit' - the monthly (or pay-as-you-go) calls, texts and data allowance a mobile phone or mobile broadband connected tablet or other device uses.

329:

Clay Shirky wrote “The Case Against Micropyaments” in 2000, and I think his case still stands up. In brief, when a consumer says that a vendor is “nickel-and-diming”, it is not meant as a compliment to the vendor. You can build all the technical infrastructure you want, but most consumers won’t want to use it, any more than consumers want to use a vending machine that sells five M&Ms for a single penny.

Back in 2000, American telecom companies had all sorts of creative pricing schemes in their calling plans: so much per minute, with discounts for evenings and weekends, and free calls to your ten best friends, and so on and so on. Now even the discount plans offer unlimited nationwide phone calls for a flat monthly rate.

I spend about US$15 (£10) per month so I can have both DVD and streaming subscriptions to Netflix. That’s more than I ever spent back when I rented videos from the local Blockbuster or indie-equivalent.

I recently dropped about US$50 (£33) to donate to a Kickstarter for a certain SF magazine; as a reward for my donation, I got some collections of short stories and a big stack of back issues. If I had been presented with each of these stories in a micropayment system—“Would you pay a quarter for this story? How about this one? How about this one?”—I wouldn’t have bought any of them.

330:

"better ad formats"... apart from the technical aspects of embedded ad formats, how would you improve the ads for smartphones?

Most folks I know primarily use their smartphones as interpersonal communications and gaming devices. After that, it's finding/paying parking, booking restaurants, checking traffic, downloading store specials (coupons), and scanning news headlines.

To me, ads that would make the most sense would relate to regular/repeated behavior. This means incorporating usage/purchasing cycle metrics. Clearly this is not the current user experience. This past summer I went on a couple of trips - domestic and international. The booking site ads only started appearing after I booked my trips ... kinda useless/waste of money/eyeballs at that point. If online advertisers or mobile phone data trackers (i.e., Google) compared my online behavior vs. year ago, they'd have presented these ads when I would have actually needed the info.

Geography is also an issue ... some of the ads I see online (via PC, not mobile) are completely useless --- they're for the wrong geography (country). C'mon, just because I'm online in such-and-such a region this week doesn't mean that I'm a local.

331:

People spend about 90% of their time on mobile devices using apps, about 10% using mobile browsers. They also use mobile more then they watch TV these days

20% of the app time is facebook
30% of the time is mobile games
6% is other kinds if social networks
8% getting things done thru apps (paying bills, uber, maps, etc)

332:

On my phone:
Arsebook useage - zero - I refuse to go near it.
I have no games loaded onto my phone
"Other social networks" - Uh?
( I DO have a Twotter account, but it gets used about once a month )
All four of the apps I have loaded are travel or geography related.

How many standard deviations form the norm/mean is that, I wonder?

333:

I'm still totally confused by your angle here.

Please explain how you think a browser, an app and a desktop/laptop vrs mobile phone differ in these cases?

You seem to think that adblockers don't work on apps because of coding issues: this isn't the case, it's a legal thing. It's a simple issue to alter them.

If you don't think young users will employ "illegal" methods if it benefits them and there's no "legal" option, you know nothing about the actual history of Piracy, Commerce and Law. Look to Steam / Spotify for the answer.

Oh, and as for games, you managed to totally ignore the crack angle.

http://onhax.net/angry-birds-2-v2-0-1-mod-apk-is-here-unlimited-gems

Also, adverts in games don't work like you think they do. They're 90% self advertising of cash shops etc in the freemium model. In media advertising / branding has been tried, and works in major sports / racing games (EA) and so on.

The model you're looking for is film branding. Which, again, has nothing to do with coding etc.


Disclosure:

I know a little bit about this.


~

Anyhow, way to sealion, totally boring.


How's about a full disclosure?

James has been honest about his engagement with the industry.

You?


334:

Self identify / full disclosure (which I notice you have NOT done CD but what the hell):

I work/worked in Silicon Valley for the last twenty years as a technologist / technology executive for three major internet companies that derived large parts of their revenue from ads.

I don't work directly on building ad serving systems though , I am more of a data / analytics guy.

I have never worked for a game company, though I have a lot of friends that do

I just came from a dinner where I was discussing this very topic with some VC/startup people so I actually posed this thread to them

General consensus of this topic:

- Pirated/cracked apps are nothing and easy to defeat if anyone bothered to waste engineering cycles on them which no one does because usage is so small. Facebook though is extremely aggressive at taking down cracked versions of their app

- Adblocker on iOS is a shot from Apple directly at Google. The company that will benefit the most from it is Facebook

- Old style adblockers are worth watching but in general since the browser based internet is declining anyway, who cares?

- Part of the reason why adblockers on mobile are so attractive is that many of the older internet companies are so desperate about being left behind in the switch to mobile that they are being extremely annoying with their advertising

- James' take that what you are seeing now is a re-allocation of ad dollars from many smaller, old-web players to fewer, larger/newer ones is more or less accurate

Also, you should be careful of that link you posted that site kicked off some malware alerts.

335:

Reason why so few people run cracked s/w is that whoever cracked it is already a criminal so why not include a few "extras" - like sniffing for bank account details? Too risky.

336:

>- Pirated/cracked apps are nothing and easy to defeat if anyone bothered to waste engineering cycles on them...

Really? Really?! I've made int 21h calls through a revectored int 3 but ultimately the crackers always win. I could make it harder. A lot harder. But copy protection is always defeated, and it only needs one crack. I agree it's not worth the effort, though.

337:

I agree; you debate every purchase rather than paying the bill when it turns up.

But that analysis breaks down when the market fragments. If I have to buy a subscription to Netflix, Amazon, Sky, BT, Virgin and a telly licence to see all I want, then it starts to become very expensive. And if I just want one or two shows from each then I'm subsidising a lot of dross. Similarly, if I was a rabid fan who only wanted one short story by my fave author (Charlie, obviously ;) then your mag looked like a bad deal. Under those conditions, the pressure builds to offer content a la carte.

I think we want most of our content to be available from one provider for a fixed fee. At the moment that's done by the internet for free. And that's why I think the ultimate equilibrium is an overarching framework that buys in content from small producers and where a producer's share of the fee is determined by their weighted popularity. I made my suggestion as to who might provide that framework. But we're in a metastable state and might never decay to the ground. (cf Ta-180m1) Or I might just be wrong!

338:

Sure 1000kindsofrain but remember you are talking native phone apps here not desktop software

To successfully hack an app you need to

1: Create a hacked version of the app
2: distribute it
3: almost always these days connect to back end services reliably over and over

1: is impossible to prevent, agree

For 2:, since only 7% of IOS phones are jailbroken, it's pretty much a non starter for Apple devices. 93% of apple users can only get their apps directly from the Apple app store which reviews all apps submitted and won't allow cracked stuff

iOS is also while a minority of devices a majority of revenue for a lot of places (iOS people tend to be a LOT richer)

so that leaves Android

Play store is much less of a barrier then app stroe for apple however if the app needs to connect to a service, it's possible to validate the app hitting the service hsn't been messed with

This is where I get in a little over my head but my understanding is that problem is quite a bit easier then preventing the app itself from getting cracked. Especially given I can push changes to my app which can highlight older cracked versions.

Finally, many games an apps these days have persistent identity and a fair amount of sunk cost in them. If someone is caught "cheating" real penalties exist in the form of shutting down an account that the customer has some degree of time invested in

Finally, apps are cheap. There is far less desire to pirate or crack them in the first place

339:

Dem,arquis@145 writes " So we're left with deciding whether wages are too low for system sustainability. What does that mean? It means that the end result must look like a hierarchy, with the majority of societies wealth going to the top, but with enough going to the middle and bottom that mass consumption still drives growth faster than the population increases. "

I think the idea of capitalists being their own best gravediggers means they will be highly motivated, by profits, to transform the system such that it force- feeds money down to consumers. By influencing politicians to do it for them most likely. Otherwise who spends on buying things to keep the robot workers occupied and the revenues flowing. Obviously the military could do it, by ordering and destroying things repetitively but voters get sick of that. And the old manorial system of noblesse oblige where aristocrats dispense largesse in the form of wages to throngs of domestic servants, is way past expiration date. So the politically viable form that such a money recycling scheme develops into, will probably retain the outward appearance of wage work. How good or bad the results it ends up with no doubt fluctuating, with better methods evolving to prevail eventually. So maybe gravedigger doesn't convey the gist of it, "redesigner" might. Corporate bureaucracies' survival will require something like it, system propagation overrules all else.

340:

>Apple app store which reviews all apps submitted and won't allow cracked stuff

This would be the same process that spotted all those apps compromised by XCodeGhost?

Take a phonegapped app, break it open, change the name and fiddle with the stylesheets a bit, and then resubmit it. If the functionality is not all that unique, I bet it will get approved. I don't have much experience of Objective C, but from what I've seen something similar could be done there. Because what's the different two apps using a common library and a clone that's stolen another's code? Ownership is a meta property not contained in the bits; Apple can't adjudicate that. And code is expensive to develop and cheap to rip off.

> it's possible to validate the app hitting the service hsn't been messed with

Ultimately you issue a set of bits and get a set of bits back, which could be spoofed at either side. Just another man in the middle.

IIRC Apple brand each download with a serial number. If they passed that back to you, and the app passed that on to your servers, then you could see duplicate or unregistered apps. But AFAIK Apple don't pass that number on. (Something about privacy...) And of course, that functionality could be disabled in the app.

Thereafter, all the things you talk about are things that make it harder for the cracker or unattractive for the user. Many of them are easy for a big company to implement, but harder for an indy. So piracy acts a selective pressure in favour of the big guys. Fortunately the app stores are high-volume low-price and that's the best anti-piracy measure. (And I don't dispute piracy is low. We don't worry about. It's just you've repeatedly said, "We can travel faster than the speed of light if we bothered to do the engineering." And it's thinking like that which leads to games encumbered by copy-protection systems so abysmal that savvy purchasers download a cracked copy.)

341:

Hmmmm.

How about this micro-payment system to work around transaction costs and decision-making issues?

Master subscription site, where you specify how much per-month you want to pay. I'm guessing Google, but it could be Facebook or Amazon. It needs to be someone huge and trusted, not a startup. So you tell it to take $50 pcm.

You can link any number of sites to your master subscription - so you log in with your master account on those sites (this logon process is something we have more-or-less working through OpenID and OAUTH; look at how many things you can log on to with twitter/facebook/G+). While you're logged on, the site keeps track of how many pages you read.

At the end of the month, the $50 is divided up on a pageview-by-pageview basis between all the sites you access.

Sites set a minimum subscription, so you might say "only people paying $100 pcm or more can get in". Sure, they might not be paying you $100, but you're getting a share of a bigger number. This is partly to stop people paying $0.10 pcm to get at things, and partly to allow premium content on the system.

Some sites might be allowed to set their pageviews as more valuable than others - this would be between the middleman and the content site, but you would need to do this on both quantity (long-reads, longer videos, and podcasts in particular would need to be more than a five paragraph news article) and quality (if you need a foreign-news bureau to create a story, then you damned-well should get paid more for it).

342:

The one country that really wants diesel-electric submarines is the one country that no IT company will ever deal with (on a military/government level): Taiwan.

Buying stuff from TSMC is fine, but selling batteries for Taiwanese subs: there go your PRC factory contracts.

343:

An interesting question is whether that low-value advertising makes up a large fraction of revenue.

As I see it the problem is that in a traditional (paper) magazine selling, say, expensive cars, you'd have 20% of the readership being people who buy expensive cars (and therefore very valuable to advertisers) and 80% being people who just like reading about expensive cars (and therefore of limited value to advertisers), but the advertisers had to advertise to everyone, so you got ads for expensive watches, etc. Now that premium advertisers can control this, they only pay for the ads to the 20%, and just don't advertise to the others, so your revenue is now down 80% - the spammy rubbish then appears on the other 80% in preference to nothing at all.

But if that's of limited value to the publisher, then why not turn it off?

If publishers could select a minimum CPM that they will sell at, then the worst of the spammy rubbish would get dropped. This would generate a lot of unsold inventory, but (assuming they do get some high-value), perhaps lose only a small fraction of the actual revenue (80-20 rule).

You'd improve the customer experience, making them come back, and you'll give mid-range advertisers an incentive to pay your minimum (I dunno, say $2 CPM) instead of paying downmarket prices alongside the spam.

It always used to be that if you carried spammy ads then your site was dodgy as hell - remember the ads on the Oatmeal's fake-torrent site? Now you see ads nearly that bad on legit websites that pay their staff and have decent writing.

Also, there's never been any mass-market online advertising for brand awareness online. I've never seen a Coke ad, for instance. That sort of stuff will have to advertise somewhere, and they have huge marketing budgets.

344:

Gotta be careful dealing with Taiwan/China. According to the BBC, the reason Bon Jovi was cancelled in Beijing was Taiwanese fans trying to get an extra concert in Taipei.

http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-china-blog-34345379

Not certain how the band will react to this (and not really a fan so not following it). What struck me was the Taiwanese fans crowing about how their plan worked and they got their extra concert (leaving Bon Jovi down three concerts). This attitude (you're my favourite band, you should do what I want and I don't care what you want) is something I suspect artists are going to have to deal with a lot more. Add in social media velocity and hysteria and it sounds like it's not going to be a good time to be earning a living in the arts. Ads, micropayments, or whatever — seems like there's more chance of being caught in the crossfire of someone else's cause.

345:

It always used to be that if you carried spammy ads then your site was dodgy as hell - remember the ads on the Oatmeal's fake-torrent site? Now you see ads nearly that bad on legit websites that pay their staff and have decent writing.

Your comment jogged a memory: reminded me that when I looked at TV Tropes a week or two ago, I was surprised to see how spammy it looked. Distracting colours and animations, and even a pop-up ad which I had to close before being able to see the bottom of the page. Some of the cartoon sites have gone the same way. To me, it makes the sites look dodgy, so I tend to ignore them. Maybe I'll one day have to ignore the whole of the Web. But there's enough amusement to be found in the non-virtual world: would it really matter if the Web were to collapse under the weight of advertising?

346:

On a personal level, of course.

I'd not have read your website, seen your art, gone through your talks and sniffed around your association. (All above board, purely academic / aesthetic interest)

My mind would be poorer, so: yes.


Ublock
No Script
Ghostery (just make sure to disable the client-server notifications, they sell them on)

And, of course, never use social media platforms unless you're creating spoofs. Linkedin without anything but business emails attached, perhaps.

p.s.

You've seen millions of Coke ads on the internet, you just don't process them as such. It's why I mentioned Film Branding. (Native / Viral / Organic branding).

347:

Charlie, I will risk the banning for stupidity and say that Bitcoin - perhaps not the current implementation, but a future implementation of blockchain tech for something like Bitcoin - is made just for that.

The W3C is working on Web micropayment standards, but we have something that works already. You could easily implement a Bitcoin micropaywall for this site where I have to pay, say $0.1 per day, to read your posts.

Related issue: when I buy your next book I don't want to pay $15 to your publishers. I want to pay $2 to you (I guess that's more than you get now).

348:

Sponsoring & Advertising as regards web-pages.

As always, Diamond Geezer, a keen observer of E London life, makes a point.

349:

How does blockchain tech scale when there are tens of billions of transactions per day?

350:

You can scale anything, pretty much. Paying for the infrastructure to do so is Somebody Else's Problem.

Oh, and tens of billions of micropayment transactions per diem is probably an underestimate, remembering there are a lot of scraper 'bots out there. And what happens if the micropayment system has an outage for a day? It's also an obvious target for hostile attack, hosting hundreds of millions of dollars/Euros of cash money transactions every day. Diverting even 0.1% of that flow into Someone Else's pocket would be overwhelmingly tempting for a lot of people (see Bitcoin stories redux).

351:

We seem to be on the same page. I just think there's a lot of hassle in explicitly linking and the casual user won't bother.

352:

Yeah, scaling is easy. Just add more devs!

If handling N transactions requires O(N^p) infrastructure, p > 1, then you're in trouble.

353:

The theft target thing is why a third party subscription system would be better, even the basic cable model. The most that would be stolen would be free site access. simple and plain is good for security: thieves love elaborate decorative details and topiary.

354:

Yes it would matter if the web went away. But it won't, it will just split into multiple ecosystems that feed in different ways. There will be (are) advertising supported sites, subscription supported sites, and self subsidized sites. People always thin, that because there's a new thing the old thing will necessarily go away, as wagons disappeared when automobiles came in. It ain't necessarily so. There's stuff like railroads which didn't vanish in the face of the automobile. Or bacteria, which didn't die out because the new advanced mammals came along. We won't be the pets of godlike AIs, we'll be the bacteria: an essential part of the gut flora, adopted into every cell, endemic everywhere (sometimes having to be exterminated locally when out of hand or of the wrong type).

355:

I'll just point out that there isn't just Charlie doing things to the novel - there's the editor, who helps tidy it up, various proofreaders who correct the errors that creep into it, the cover designer who designs the cover, and whoever it is that decides on font, layout etc. So you need to do more than pay Charlie. He has repeatedly pointed out on here and elsewhere that he wants to write, and it would be a waste of his writing time for him to learn and do all these other functions that go into making a novel.

Of course it might be that the modern generation don't care about any sort of quality; the audience I am seeing for poorly translated Japanese/ Chinese to English light novels of usually hackneyed plot and wish fulfilment aims seems surprisingly large.

Nevertheless, suggesting to a more old time author that they should be like these people is a bit insulting.

356:

Anyone else getting good at ignoring adverts? If you ask me what advert I saw 5 minutes ago or throughout the day, I couldn't remember. Some data sticks, especially if it happens to fit with something I'm after, e.g. "Hang on that's advertising fancy t-shirts, I was thinking about getting one of them", but most of the time they just don't get processed.

357:

So today I turn on my laptop, open up chrome and rather than a new tab menu there's a message from adblock. Seems like the creator has sold the company and the new owners have enlisted it in the "Acceptable Ads" scheme. Apparently adblock (and presumably similar programs) will be allowing some ads to filter through if the website belongs to this organisation.

There's promises that there's an "impartial" group that will decide who gets in and what ads are shown...yeah it stinks. Luckily it can be turned off for now.

Maybe this gives us a glimpse the future? A constant bidding war between people and advertisers. A future internet user will be happily browsing when their adblock informs them that a company just paid £2 for rights to advertise on your browser today. Want to pay £2.01 to prevent this?

359:

New Def of Chutzpah: after destroying print, websites complaining about ad blockers

(cribbed from a letter to the editor, N Y Times print ed, Sat 3 Oct)

360:

In 1995 we tried a micropayment solution with cybergold.com. The idea was to head off the kind of ad-supported environment we now see by allowing two-way micropayments: advertisers would pay consumers for their attention directly, and consumers would turn around and use their earnings to buy ad-free content.This would have required a new and more engaging kind of targeted advertising than was available at the time.Maybe something like this would succeed today.

361:

I vaguely recall hearing a report on the radio about something like that actually being in effect. Didn't pay much attention because bidding to not see an ad sounded like more trouble than looking at an ad. Maybe there was some kind of way around that, where you pay a service to do your bidding.

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