The internet needs a micro payment clearinghouse like radio. All this talk about individual site pay walls and network pay walls is short sighted. Web surfers are NOT interested in whipping out a credit card hundreds or thousands of times during the rapid-fire experience of ADD reading.
Understandably, creating such a clearinghouse will take time. But if the ego-filled music business could figure out a way to monetize a myriad of complicated copyrights monetized every time radio spins a song, I have high hopes for the publishing world to create their own BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC (in fact, if the music clearinghouses were creative, they’d use their existing infrastructure and expertise to expand into an online publishing Blue Ocean).
I figure something fair — give or take — would price online content around $0.01 to read a premium article (that’s a $10 CPM). If I had an account at a clearinghouse, they would simply track my consumption and bill me monthly. So, for example, if today I read 2 articles at the Wall Street Journal (NASDAQ:NWSA), 1 at the New York Times (NYSE:NYT), 3 at ESPN (NYSE:DIS), and 4 at Wall St. Cheat Sheet, I’d have consumed $0.10 of pay media online. I think consumers can live with micro payments like that.
Let’s face it, folks: we are entering the great Golden Age of Media. So, let’s start preparing our infrastructure with the long term in mind. That means break out your copy of Neil Stephenson’s Snow Crash and start visualizing how your children will be using the web.