Google Contributor: Pay with attention or pay with money

Google Logo

Conor Dougherty recently wrote a blog post for the New York Times entitled, “Google Experimenting With Removing Ads for a Fee.”

It comes down to this (from the blog post):

The service, called Contributor by Google, has users give between $1 and $3 a month to sites like The Onion and Mashable.

Why is this interesting/relevant?  First, it removes many (not likely all) of the ads in the reading experience.  Since most of these ads are invisible anyway (i.e., people don’t perceive them) this will save advertisers some otherwise-wasted ad spend.

As I noted in “You’re going to pay for your content; One way or another…” you’re going to, well, pay for it one way or another.  You can pay with attention (easy) or with your money (difficult).

  1. Login  – large scale federated identity is a game changer for pay walls – I visit a lot of websites every day for which I’d be willing to pay for articles of subscription.  I am NOT willing to create and maintain a formal account on most of these sites.
  2. Small payment problem – the lame state of affairs with respect to credit card payments makes small payments impossible.  With a cost-of-goods of $0 Google could accumulate consumer purchases across a large number of sites and process the payment when more appropriate.
  3. Central directory/discovery – Google would publish a directory of Powered by Contributor.  The ease of consuming (paid) content of those sites would generate audience for its members.
  4. Contributor.js – I expect an easy-to-use and easy-to-deploy implementation and central dashboard from Google.  You would install
    on  your site then login to your Google Contributor dashboard and configure your policies.  Done.
  5. Expense / budget management – Individuals would be better able to manage and control their content spending.  Organizations would be able to easily buy group subscriptions/access for their employees/customers.

Sign me up.  :)

P.S. – Where are Bing and Yahoo?  Sigh.






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Fresh ingredients, easy recipes – The Fresh 20

The Fresh 20 Logo

If you’re a headline reader you can stop here.  We recommend you click on the logo for The Fresh 20 above and check it out.  My thoughts are summed up as:

  1. Great idea,
  2. simple but excellent execution,
  3. really hope she’s making money so that my family can continue to subscribe, and
  4. why didn’t I think of that?!

Disclaimer:  We are nothing but (satisfied) customers of The Fresh 20.

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A fundamental change in global policing

I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal by Tom Loftus (@tomloftus) titled, “The Morning Download: NSA Fears Hackers See ‘Little Price to Pay’ Attacking U.S. Interests.”

It’s not a happy story.  The ease with which the bad guys can cross multiple international borders, wreak havoc and retreat to countries that, at worst, are our enemies, is scary.

This ends badly if cyber-criminals end up with the sense they can act with impunity which, so far, the bad guys that attacked Sony have done.

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Aim for truth not victory

Let truth be your aim, not victory...

Read the following quotes and you don’t have to read the rest of this blog post…

“In all debates, let truth be thy aim, not victory, or an unjust interest.” — William Penn

“The clash of ideas is not weakness.Truth reaches its place when tussling with error.” –Richard Henry Pratt

“Diversity and independence are important because the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise.” — James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds

“I think in our desire to create a better America,we have to have civilized debate in this country and not just yelling.” — Craig Ferguson

This past weekend I enjoyed a discussion/debate about President Obama’s plan to provide two (2) years of college at no cost to the student (now called American’s College Promise).

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Attempt to fundamentally disrupt rocket technology = Stumble?!?!?

CRS-5 mission on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral.

CRS-5 mission on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral.

Disclaimer:  I am a huge fan of Elon Musk and SpaceX.

Earlier this week I am reading the Wall Street Journal and I find an article by Andy Pastor titled, “SpaceX Stumbles in Test to Show Reusable Rocket Technology Advances.”  Stumbles?  Really?!

It’s a few days later and I’m still annoyed.  SpaceX attempted something revolutionary – recovering a first stage rocket in order to reuse it.  On their FIRST (EVER!) attempt it landed too hard on the landing platform.  Musk himself predicted success at around fifty percent (50%).

I want to suggest a different headline – one more respectful and appreciative of the technical and economic risk.

SpaceX nearly recovers first stage rocket for the FIRST time in HISTORY.

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You’re going to pay for your content; One Way or Another…

There is no such thing as a free lunch

I’ve started this post at least twenty times in the last five years.  It’s time to finish it.

Dear internet content consumer,

There is no such thing as a free lunch.


Is that such a hard thing to understand?  On the Internet it appears to be.  For better and worse the Internet has had a “culture of free” since the days of the NSFNet and its Appropriate Use Policy (AUP) which restricted commercial use.

Content on the internet costs money to produce.

Metafilter user blue_beetle said it famously, “If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.”

I won’t bore you with tales about the decline of newspapers in the US.

You can either pay for content with negotiable currency or with your attention (i.e., advertisements).  A combination of psychological buying factors and transactional expenses make advertising the most plausible business model for content creators.  Get over it.

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Books can be relationships

I recently read a blog post by Michael Hyatt (@michaelhyatt) titled “Three Reasons Why Authors Must Develop Their Own Platforms.”  I completely agree with his thesis – authors have to get way past the idea that “if you write it they will read.”

Hyatt offer three reasons why authors need to build a platform:

  1. Competition has never been greater (i.e., there are a zillion books available to be read)
  2. People are more distracted than ever (i.e., attention is finite and a zero-sum resource)
  3. The publishing industry is stuck in an old model (i.e., book-by-book audience is old-think)

In the post, Hyatt cites an email from an aspiring author referring to the publisher’s preference for authors with large incumbent twitter followings as an example of “platform.”

Two respected agents have told me they loved my book and proposal and are willing to represent it, but not until I have social media followers numbering in the thousands. I find this bewildering: Doesn’t a good book stand on its own anymore? Are writers now doomed to spend the bulk of our workdays trawling for blog subscribers?

Why does a publisher care about an author’s Twitter following?  Sales of course.  The (inaccurate) notion is that with an immediately addressable opt-in audience the author can create pent-up demand and foment post-release interest on their own.  Less pressure on costly book tours, better ROI for all stakeholders.


Here’s the huge problem.  Twitter and Facebook are rewriting the rules on what rewards await the person/organization that develops a large following on their platform.

Unless an author is incessant/relentless about self-promotion (which works against social followership) they are unlikely (under the new rules) to get meaningful traction from their social media audiences.

I talked a little about this in this post on social media engagement.  Audience builders and leaders suffer and audience members do as well.

We’re working on this at Reacht.  We’d love for you to be involved.

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