I am, and have always been, in favor of pay-as-you-go schemes, provided that the charges were in some way commensurate with the cost of providing the service. For example, I have no trouble with paying for local phone calls, provided that the the charges were in line with the cost to the phone company. I calculate this to be in the area of 10-20 cents per hour. A far cry from what I've ever seen a phone company propose as a local calling charge. In the same vein, I would be willing to pay 5 cents for complete access to a web site for one session, or perhaps .1 cent per link I followed. Frankly, I think that some sort of automatic compensation scheme for authors of useful electronic bulletins should be put in place. Now, in the case of TBTF, I almost never actually visit the web site, since I much prefer the news to arrive in my mailbox without me having to go hunt for it. But, I could easily see paying an e-mail subscription on the order of $2.50 or so per year. This again works out to around 5 cents per weekly issue. If the subscriber base is in the low thousands (as I suspect) then this works out to a hundred or so bucks per week of income for the author. Not, I admit, a huge sum, but one that would grow if TBTF were to appeal to a wider audience.
Paying a 10th of a cent wouldn't bug me, however, the service that you offer is too convenient. Since I found the site, I never bothered to visit but three or four more times, because most of what's on the web site seems to be mirrored into the email version. I'd be much more interested in paying a 10th of a cent for the email version rather than the web site. However, this is a rarity -- I don't think I'd even visit most sites again if they proposed pay-per-view service.
I've never touched the TBTF Web Site, so I wouldn't do it either when Millicents comes. Or maybe I would just then. To demonstrate that I support micropayments. I'm not thinking of the hundreds of sources of information that are now free and will become pay-per-view once micropayments are available. I'm thinking of the thousands of sources of information that will become available only because of micropayments.
The real cost of trying the millicent system (or any) for your newsletter is not the small cent amounts you are discussing, but the overhead of setting up the payment system and (for me) the research to figure out if I think it is secure. The key to any currency is the confidence of its users, and we haven't seen this confidence yet on the Internet. I wonder how Greshham's law would relate to this. For the service you provide, I already spend much more than a few cents: I spend precious time reading it, and it is worth it for the tasty bits I find mixed in with the gristle. Since we are currently talking small amounts of money, you might try something like this: for each article, have the reader volunteer either .1 cents, 1 cent, or 5 cents depending on the usefulness of the tasty bit. The .1 cent would be manditory, making a weekly transmission a silly penny. But I would gladly send a nickel for the good stuff, and maybe a good deal more. After all, I don't stoop to pick up anything smaller than a quarter these days: I don't mind spraying such amounts towards something useful. If your circulation is large enough, even the cent-per-view rate might add up to a nice chunk of change, and the higher "donations" would reinforce whatever is most useful and popular. Keep up the good work.
Ramblings begin 1. I don't access the TBTF Web page (or use Web much) 2. However if I did, I might pay if: a - I needed or was very interested in the information b - I knew the information I was interested in was in that site c - there was no where else on the Net I knew of, from which I could get comparable information cheaper (free) 3. If the Net became pay per see, most likely a lot of sites would have a visitors/free section, or maybe a free introductory access 4. Intro. access would require some verification, perhaps before or shortly after granting free access. eg Licence number, credit card details (most likely most popular) and/or e-mail address. These details would have to be verifiable, or the person would have to not really care about being paid when others use the site. (probably would be quite often) 5. People like to talk a lot, to anyone who will listen. (Scott Adams, The Dilbert Future, 1997, Harper Collins publishing) If something is interesting enough to charge for, there is a good chance someone else will also set up a site. Likely people learning to use the Net will end up providing a free service which duplicates the paying service. So a free service would be provided (until that person loses interest, hasn't enough time to keep the service current, can't afford to keep up the service, or starts charging). End of ramble
Heck, yes, I would pay a nickel for it. In fact, I'd pay a lot more than that. I learn a lot more about the Web from TBTF than I learn from the several newpapers I read everyday (incl. the NY Times, which does a good job of covering Web-related developments) and the several technical journals I read every week. These newspapers and journals together cost at least $20 per week. I have been amazed, but happy, that you are not already charging for your excellent work in providing TBTF. I find TBTF to be concisely and otherwise very well written, informative, occasionally useful to me personally, always useful to me for learning about things I either should already or soon will need to know, and generally hilarious.
My note is that I would not pay a cent. Why? I would not pay a cent because someone else somewhere out there will probably do the same thing that your doing for free. OK, that seems a bit, how would you say? Cheap? Yes. Another thing is that the news that you provide is something that you enjoy doing. If you were making it into a "for profit on the net kinda thing" there would be a misconception on the part of many different types of people that they are excluded from everyone else and should get it for free. Media people get it free, I'm a consultant, and I should get it for free. I'm pregnant and therefor should get it for free. I've been recieving it for free for the past 2 years! WHY PAY NOW! Where's the thing in hand you get with payment? You'd feel stupid paying for something that just exists on the net on other servers for free AND in more detail. the above are all ideas. I have no idea why I'd refuse to really pay for something like your TBTF, but I'd refuse. I guess things like your compilation really should be making you a profit, but how?, well, Your Job should could pay for you to do this research and publish it. I'd be happy that you'd be making money at this TBTF. The reason I read TBTF is that it is NOT COMMERCIAL, it's sorta real.
Generally I would pay for access to more information on specific topics; so you could publish your table of contents and then I would be willing to pay for access to some of the topics -- I would pay, without thinking, less than a dollar per topic. The topic would have to be pretty targeted to have me pay more generally. You have a pretty high hit ratio on what is interesting to me ... so I may not be a good general survey! And thanks for a great publication!
I can easily imagine paying significant amounts for information that is of guaranteed value to me, but the guarantee might be hard to make. I can also easily imagine paying micro-amounts for browsing information that might be of value to me, and a simple, secure and convenient system of cybercash would make this possible. I can think of two pre-conditions: first, the dimunition of so much "free" stuff; and second, the prior creation of value in my mind for the product. Unfortunately, in an expanding universe like the web, the second condition fights against the first. But I expect this will eventually happen.
Sorry, but nope. I appreciate the info., but I probably would not pay for anything on the net/web beyond the cost of my ISP subscription. If I had wanted to "pay-per", I would have stayed with one of the big subscription services as they used to exist (CI$, et al), with their hourly rates and extra-cost areas. It's been said that web users treat for-fee sites as damage and route around them. I tend to agree.
The major point that The Economist had to make against micropayments is a psychological one. People object to being "nickeled and dimed" or knowing that "the meter is running" to the extent that they're willing to pay for the privilege of not paying per use (i.e., will pay more for unlimited access than they would pay under a pay per use). I'm one of those people, and my biggest problem with these sort of schemes is the risk of unintentionally running up a massive bill. I'll bet an examination of local telephone service ($x/month for unlimited calling in yyy area) would yield similar results. Here in Boston, NYNEX got into trouble because they proposed a flat rate plan as a way to return overcharges, and many of the people signing up for it were paying less than the flat rate for their individual calls. Another angle on this subject is that if micropayments are going to be a major success, then Compuserve ought to be very profitable because that service is chock full of enhanced services that charge by the minute or by the information accessed (e.g., historical stock quotes are 3 cents a quote). Compuserve is losing money by the bucketfull; the implication ought to be obvious. As to the TBTF web site, I don't use it much, so your immediate proposal has essentially no effect on me. I would prefer to remain anonymous.
My worry about such micropayments is that, not only is the service no longer "free at the point of use" but it is, in any useful way, unaccountable for at the point of use. What I mean is that, the more such services I pay for, the less I know at any one time about my outgoings. I would be *very* happy to pay, say, $10 per year for unlimited access rights.
I'm an avid reader of TBTF--I think it adds real value to my understanding of contemporary technology issues and contributes to my ability to gather information on important news items. As such, I'm willing to pay for access to TBTF. How much? I have no idea. The beauty of the e-market is that as providers price their products or services (such as TBTF), consumers can deliver instant feedback on the cost-benefit relationship from their own perspective. Presumably, this helps providers create more accurate and efficient pricing models, making their products or services even more attractive to consumers. The bottom line, however, is that TBTF is valuable to me, and I'm willing to pay for it just as I pay for other things I value. Please consider me a willing participant in the experiment if it materializes. Thanks for all the great work.
I've assumed for a while that ultimately, I'd get access to useful things like TBTF on a pay-per basis. I'd pay a nickel a week for the privilege of receiving it in email. But I have a quibble: you write "... on the Web where the links are live". That may be true at present, but I'd expect my next mail-reader to let me follow links, either just like a browser (in terms of reusing my mail-reading window) or by invoking a browser. So I'm confused by the future. Right now, reading TBTF in email is more comfortable than reading it on the web with a browser, but the browser would let me follow links where my mail-reader doesn't. Which will happen first: bandwidth pricing that makes it comfortable to read TBTF on the web? or a link-following mail-reader? My bet is on the latter. (Yes, I know there are browsing systems wherein the downloading of pages to one's machine happens in batch, prior to the time when you want to read; I'm not convinced that such systems dovetail well with my erratic interests or usage patterns.) So what I want is the email version at a nickel per week, plus the TBTF archives where I pay a penny per search, plus 4 cents to look at the first thing the search turns up (or $.001/search + $.049 for the first look). And I expect to pay 1/100 of a cent every time I traverse a link.
My thoughts, eh? Now you're in for it. :) Well, I don't mind paying a minimal fee for your hard work. But I'm afraid I _HATE_ the concept of what I call "suckered baby payments" - the processing costs of making these types payments is so much higher than the actual payment, it's rediculous. I guess you've heard of Interac? This company handles ATM withdrawals from any machine across North America for a fee - $1.00. Well Interac is now in a lot of stores, where you just swipe your card and make the payment. I totalled the amount it would cost me in one month in processing fees if I swiped instead of paying cash at every opportunity - $25-30. Ack! No wonder the word "swipe" is used to describe the card reading action - Interac is swiping my money! It's a big ripoff (to me) and Interac is making a fortune off of the lazy public. So I can't condone this action. Sorry.
I'd pay a nickel, even for the email edition!
Being a poor home boy with a slow net connection, I prefer the e-mail format over a Web "subscription" regardless of cost. I can quickly paste interesting URLs into a browser and keep on reading while the $%+&! thing loads. Now, assuming the cable-laying swine cut a trench into my town (which they never will), and I owned one of those nifty cable modems being test marketed back east (which I never will), I would be happy to be debited fractions of, or ever whole, pennies in exchange for tasty bits. Note, however, that there are very few sites I would say this about. I'm surely one of the many people who will reflexively proscribe their own net activities in response to micropayments.
I'm an happy (and much satisfied) Italian reader of that marvel of the Net which is TBTF. I'd hate to have to pay it for... I mean, you have spoiled us writing it for free for some time now (I've been a reader of yours for just a year) and now you're suggesting that we pay for it! :-( Surfing around the Net, I've found that (some of) the best things here are free (I'm using almost all free software, because I need Win95): I've found many programs (like Pegasus Mail) that do it better than those we have to pay for, and mostly of them are freeware because they relate in some way to the Net (like PGP, or shells for it). What I'm trying to say is that if you stay away from the tendency to "do something to earn something", you'll probably end up with a "no compromise/love me or hate me" product which is more likely to be genuine, free from external pressures and loved by who uses (in this case reads) it. I mean, I don't love the guy who writes the KB articles on microsoft.com, but I surely like you, what you write about and the way you write it! On the other side of the coin you could say: "I write for you all, I need money, so why don't merge these!", and you would be right (men can't feed just on air). The only answer I can give is: if you need to (or if you feel like to), or if it's the only way to keep TBTF alive, then let's pay for it! P.S. I think it would be OK to write the e-zine on e-mail (like this) and to have a "pay-per" site on the Web on which to store things in excess of the "real & essential" e-zine (which should not be lessened of any content). I think it could be a wonderful opportunity to earn some money without "compromising" TBTF. BTW, TBTF is wonderful, keep up the good work!!!!
I would pay many pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars, dollars, milles, crowns, pounds, guineas, and thruppenny bits for TBTF.
I read every issue of your email publication, and I find it informative, well written, and very worthwhile, but I have to admit that I've never visited the web site. I would certainly be willing to pay a nickel per issue to read TBTF if it was as simple as that, but I would probably *not* go through the bother of getting an online payment system set up for that purpose (especially since my net access at work is through a single firewall host for the entire company, so I'd be concerned about security too).
I'll unsubscribe and get the info elsewhere -- or go without.
I could agree of paying for your great service, but the problem will be for us who live outside of United States and don't have a credit card....
I noticed your posting in TBTF, and thought i should also offer you a payment method that is perfect for the type of service you are offering. The payment service is Ecash (from DigiCash), a secure, private and instant payment system for the internet. No more waiting for credit card clearing houses to credit you account. You get the money the moment the customer makes the purchase. You can download the software, together with some CGI scripts that allow you to interface the ecash software with your server from <http://www.digicash.com/ecash/mt>. To accept ecash, you must also sign up with Mark Twain Bank for an ecash account at <http://www.marktwain.com/ecash.html>. Additional information is avaialable at the site. We would like to see your innovative web service accepting ecash and would offer: Best Merchant Account, Schedule 8, $0 setup fee (regularly $500) Waive monthly fees for the rest of 1997 Setting up ecash is easy. If you have any questions about integrating ecash with your website, we will be happy to help you. Please email me with any questions. I hope to hear from you soon.
I never use the web site. I'm a real retro-push kind of gal (well, at least the push part; the retro part I'm willing to put up with for small values of retro). I don't like to have to check in; I like to be told when something's new. When they get micropayments for email, given the quality of TBTF, I'd probably be willing to pay a penny a week for it. Since it becomes a (more obvious) economic decision at that point, it would always depend on what sources of information were free, and what their quality is. But TBTF is one of the better sources I've found for my needs (keeping up with net security happenings and web stuff).
I've been reading TBTF for over three months and I have found it to be an invaluable resource in keeping up with the EC race. TBTF is the only publication that keeps me on edge of what is really happening in the industry, with clear and unbiased information. It is easy to see that a large amount of time and dedication you set forth to accomplish such a task. The effort you set forward for newsletter is greatly appreciated by not only myself, but also many of my colleagues within the industry. However if the newsletter was only available via a pay per view system, I believe I would stop reading it immediately. This is not a monetary factor, the concept of paying for every word I read is a bit bothersome. The carry over factor, or the "it all starts here" factor, is huge. Start with TBTF. Then move it to every web site you visit. And not just for each page, but each picture and/or sentence. Then, it may move to radio or TV where everything is interactive and pay-per. I know this all sounds a bit eccentric, but derivatives of this could happen. I come from the old school: information wants to be free. Thank you for the effort into the magazine. Please keep it free. I wouldn't want to see underground networks established to distribute bundled public domain information.
I think you can make a fair amount of money charging a penny a link taken. I would make no noise about this. I have found that I rarely take your links anyways (the writing is clear enough). You might want to charge for the original message as well. A penny for that would do just find as well. 52 cents for a year's worth of weekly (o.k. maybe a whole dollar since you sometimes send out more than once a week) newsletters; no problem there. I look forward to the time when people realize the "power of the penny." If a whole lot of people (not uncommon on the web) give you a penny, you will be able to go to the movies a whole lot.