Would you pay a penny per page to visit this site? No, I’m not contemplating a new revenue model. This scheme is supposed to be the great solution to getting compensation on the web. The ensuing Slashdot discussion points out some of the big problems. What exactly constitutes a page? Would I get charged every time I refresh? Wouldn’t this result in sites breaking down content even further to spread it out over the most pages possible? Additionally, I’ve gotta wonder how well this approach would translate internationally. I’m moving to Australia but my own websites are hosted in the U.S. One U.S. cent is probably going to constitute a larger portion of my income there than it would in the States. I imagine it would be even worse in developing nations. So is this really the best solution for making the Web globally effective, by setting up an economic barrier to those who might benefit from it the most? What about students and teachers? Most of my Dahl site visitors log in from schools or libraries. Should they have to pay per page too? I’m not gonna lie to you; I like the idea of being able to make a living off my hobbies. But as a surfer myself, I can’t believe this is the best step forward.

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  1. I think the issues you’ve identified are all highly relevant, but to me the biggest problem with this pay-per-view approach is the “do you preview the whole article?” issue: how much of the article do you have to display to tempt people to pay for the whole thing?

    I’m attracted in principle to the whole idea of micropayments, but I think there are just too many practical issues which make them difficult to implement effectively.

    Perhaps for relatively small-scale operations like weblogs and fan sites and smaller, net-only publications the best you can do is give those who wish to do so the opportunity to make donations, either via something like PayPal or by letting people buy you items from your wishlist.

  2. It would make me think twice about visiting new pages…would you be so free with the mouse clicks if you had to pay for every single one? Would you Google with such abandon? Sure, there are some sites that would flourish under such a scheme…but thousands of others would languish from lack of traffic. My feeling is that people would stick to the ‘tried and trusted’ and shy away from the unknown if there was any financial penalty attached.

  3. I don’t think the scheme has to be applied to every single page on the web. Certainly people would need the ability to see enough of a site’s content to judge whether it was worth a read, and that can be a difficult judgement. Salon, for example, seems to me to be getting it wrong now, with so much content available only to Premium subscribers that it’s hard for a new reader to assess whether they want to pay up. (I know Salon isn’t exactly offering the sort of pay-per-page-view deal we’re talking about, but I think it still illustrates the point about choosing how much content to hide from casual browsers.)

    One approach might be to make current content free to view, but only for a limited period. Again, this won’t work for every site but it can be part of a solution.

    One issue is that even a penny-a-page is too expensive really. To make this work, you need to drive the cost so low that the reader doesn’t even bother thinking about counting page views, and just pays the bill at the end of the week/month/whatever.

    I don’t think there is *one* solution to this problem. For some sites a syndication-style approach would work, for others a subscription service, for yet others a pay-for-archive-view system would be the key. And whatever systems spring up, a lot of personal sites will remain free to the reader, subsidised by the site’s creator’s enthusiasm for his/her writing/content.

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