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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 23rd year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Crowdfunding the media

13 April 2017

Old-school ad-funded media is dying.

Well that's what we're being told.

Paywalls for websites have, with only a few exceptions, been a failure and ad revenues aren't keeping pace with the increased cost of news reporting -- so where to now for the media?

Well it seems that crowdfunding is becoming very popular and may actually be the future.

I know that as a content publisher I generate around half of my earnings from my Patreon supporters (readers are more than welcome to join them by pledging a dollar or two a month through this page). The fact that I'm now dependent on monthly pledges shows just how much decline there has been in revenues created by advertising.

It also shows just how fantastic it is that some people are prepared to dip into their wallets to support those who create the content they enjoy.

Even some of the world's biggest publishers have woken up to the fact that people will willingly volunteer to pay for good content.

While reading The Guardian this morning I came across this solicitation to become a "supporter":

"we’ve got a small favour to ask. More people are reading the Guardian than ever, but far fewer are paying for it. Advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. And unlike many news organisations, we haven’t put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as open as we can. So you can see why we need to ask for your help. The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe our perspective matters – because it might well be your perspective, too. If everyone who reads our reporting, who likes it, helps to support it, our future would be much more secure"

Yes, this is the future.

Closer to home, an increasing number of websites are using Press Patron" as a method of handling crowd-funding. I expect kiwis will see a hell of a lot more invitations to ante-up with a regular contribution through this site as time goes on.

Until I started using Patreon, I was pretty skeptical about the viability of user-funded content. I figured that virtually everyone would simply see it as the responsibility of others to pay for the content they enjoy online.

Well that is true but experience has shown me that if you have enough readers/viewers then there is a tiny percentage of them who are willing to part with a small amount of their hard-earned cash to support the content creators they enjoy.

Thank God for that!

However, I think we're going to see patronage-burnout in the next year or two.

As the number of solicitations for patronage increase, those whose money is being sought will start turning away from the idea. We'll have gone from a web lined with advertising to one lined with begging bowls -- and that's just as bad.

So here's what I'm picking will be the future, and it's a future I've already predicted on a number of occasions before.

Content producers will be able to sign up to an organisation which will give them money.

What?

Well it's not quite as simple as that.

A "content collective" (for lack of a better name) will be formed by some savvy entrepreneur and that collective will become perhaps the most powerful media organisation the world has ever seen.

It will create a massive pool of content which will then be available to anyone and everyone -- for a small monthly payment. That payment will likely be made through your ISP as part of the charge you pay for your internet access.

After collecting this huge pool of money, the collective will then take its cut and divvy the remainder up amongst the content creators -- based on the traffic each receives. This will likely be measured by way of directing access through a central service that meters the number of page-views on each content contributor's material.

For the consumer it's a simple, cheap once-a-month subscription.

For the ISP it's a simple "clip on the ticket" commission for billing and forwarding the fees to the collective.

For the content publisher it's a simple sign-up and cash your monthly cheque situation.

No more need for intrusive ads, no need for begging bowls, just lots of content at an affordable price.

What do readers think?

Do you currently support any content creators by way of Patreon or similar services?

Will the "universal subscription" be the only real way to avoid patronage-burnout and overbearing advertising?

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