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Pay-per TBTF survey responses: details
from TBTF for 6/30/97

In TBTF for 6/23/97 I asked readers to react to the idea of paying, in some fashion, for access to TBTF material on the Web. Here are the replies of all 26 readers who responsed to this informal survey on micropayments. Follow this link for summarized extracts of the responses.

Stirling Westrup
  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.

Davis Ray Sickmon, Jr.
  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.

Hendrik Levsen
  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.

Bill Cheswick
  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

Bill Scanlon
  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. 

John Asbacher
  My note is that I would not pay a cent.
  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?
  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.

Chris Moore
  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!

John Sidlo
  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
  But I expect this will eventually happen.

Thomas Leber
  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.

Andrew Hilborne
  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 

Mark Hewitt
  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.

Ed Blachman
  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
  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. 

Bernard J. Hughes
  I'd pay a nickel, even for the email edition!

George Davies
  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.

Alessandro Giorgio Togna
  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!!!!

Alice Phalen
  I would pay many pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars,
  dollars, milles, crowns, pounds, guineas, and thruppenny bits for

Daniel Thumin
  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).

Dave Gatliff
  I'll unsubscribe and get the info elsewhere -- or go without.

Alejandro Gomez
  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

Taru Goel
  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
    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.

Mary Ellen Zurko
  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).

Jason P. Hoekstra
  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

Keith M. Rettig
  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.

[ TBTF for 6/30/97 ]


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