While reading another discussion on this forum about paywalls and why readers dislike them, a solution popped into my head. Maybe everybody’s already thought of it, or they’ll think it’s bad, I’m here to find out.
The problem I have and see:
I like reading bicycling stories. I don’t like ads. I don’t like paywalls. I don’t like deceptive articles with ads hidden inside. And I don’t like paying anything at all, let alone paying for dozens of different subscriptions. Yet, I understand that the journalists need an incentive. They’re like me, they need to eat, pay rent, buy bikes, and enjoy their life. I get value from their content, so they deserve to be compensated, but the value I get doesn’t match what everyone else gets. And where I get value from doesn’t match where others derive a story’s value.
For example, if I read one article a day, should I pay the same as someone who reads three? Or if I only read tech stories with affiliate links and let’s just say, for example, they don’t take long to write (I have no idea in honesty), then should I pay the same as someone who loves to read racing stories which happen to have no affiliate links and take weeks to write? Or, if I derive a ton of value in the content/words while another person really values the UI/images/presentation of the story on the website, then should we pay the same? And finally, for the journalists, instead of getting paid a lump sum/hourly/yearly rate, and giving ownership of their content to their company, wouldn’t it be better if they owned their content and got paid per reading, no matter where or when that read occurred. Then they’d be able to keep getting paid years after they’ve written an article (if it stayed relevant) or even after they’ve changed companies.
My proposed solution:
I propose that journalists own their own writing and disentangle it from their company. Store the most essential value, the words, on a public, permissionless, distributed ledger/database/spreadsheet maintained across many decentralized computers. This decentralized database would keep a record of all the licensing agreements, royalties, and any changes to the content (preventing misinformation via tampering). If a media aggregator like CT wanted to license the articles and display them on their website, then CT could pay the journalist and be listed as an “official distributor” of their content. The value CT provides (for me at least) is a nice UI, community, and aggregation of the best stories. Doing this costs CT money so they would need a paywall. However, and this is key, if I wanted to then I have the option to view these articles for free from somebody who simply stole the digital work and posted it on their website. The downsides may be: a crummier interface, maybe some popup ads, and maybe the words were changed and I’m reading words that didn’t come from the journalist. I would know this because I could check on the distributed database to see if my source is listed as a permissioned distributor.
Readers pay for the exact value they get. Instead of having CyclingTips content only on CyclingTips. There could be all of the racing stories on one website and all the tech stories on another website. Different websites get to choose what they want to aggregate, license, present, and sell. Readers get to choose the websites that provide them value in the areas they care about. Journalists get to own, profit from, and take their work with them between different companies and across many years. Content can be easily checked to see if it has been tampered with or modified by simply comparing it to the source fundamental truth and consensus - the decentralized ledger.
If you know where my solution is inspired from, then that’s awesome, but I tried not to use any buzzwords that take away from the value proposition. Please share your thoughts if you have any.