Bitcoin Tips and Content Creation: Will Micropayments Save the Paywall?

By Kyle Torpey Jan 10, 2015 2:31 PM EDT

NEW YORK (InsideBitcoins) — Over the past few years, much has been said about the possibility of using bitcoin as a new tool for content monetization. Some have even hypothesized that bitcoin could completely replace the need for advertisers and create a direct connection between a content creator and his or her audience. While there are definitely valuable attributes of bitcoin that could be harnessed by certain content creators, the reality is the viability of many bitcoin-only content monetization schemes might be overblown.

Sharing has value

PostsOne of the main issues with placing a paywall over any piece of content is that it lowers the chances that the content will be shared on various social networks. Even if bitcoin is able to bring the costs of unlocking a paywall down to a few cents, the fact of the matter is that “free” (content monetized through advertisements) content is going to get more shares than any webpage that has a paywall. This is one of the main issues that The Magazine faced with the original monetization model of their iPad-only magazine.

The lack of sharing on social media networks is especially harmful for new media organizations who do not already have a large user base to tap for subscriptions or micropayments on a per-article basis. At the end of the day, the majority of web readers find paywalls to be annoying and, for lack of a better word, chintzy. Although it’s not necessarily a greedy thing to do, it can sometimes come off that way to the reader.

Bitcoin can be a supplement to ad revenue

This is not to say that bitcoin has no value to content creators. As we’ve seen with startups like ChangeTip, it could still make sense for content creators to put up a bitcoin tip jar that can be used to buy a coffee, beer, or lunch for the content creator. Having said that, there aren’t many writers or YouTube celebrities who can pay the bills with nothing but bitcoin tips.

One thing that bitcoin does allow content creators to do is attach perks to small donations. There are a few unique content monetization models that are made possible with bitcoin that could increase the volume of donations each month.

EpicRapBattlesofHistoryFor example, bitcoins could be used as votes in various polls related to the type of content that would be created in the future. The best example here is YouTube’s Epic Rap Battles of History. Viewers could be asked to send bitcoins to addresses connected to a selection of three rap battle options for the next episode. The option that receives the most bitcoins is the rap battle that will be featured in the following release.

There’s also still value in using bitcoin as a payment option for premium content. A media outlet could decide to put together an in-depth research guide on a particular topic, and then sell that guide with all of their research in a PDF file for $1. A guru or specialist in any industry could have these short guides and ebooks as premium content on their website. This is obviously a model that is already widely used by content creators, but bitcoin-powered microtransactions make it practical to charge per release — rather than forcing the reader to sign up for a subscription.

It’s clear that bitcoin can be helpful for individuals and organizations who are creating new content on the web, but the idea that bitcoin tips are going to completely replace advertisers seems a bit far fetched at this time.

You can follow @kyletorpey on Twitter.

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