The Magazine Manager Blog has previously written about micropayments as just one of the many options publishers could pursue as part of a balanced alternative-revenue-stream diet.
Want to attract the occasional reader who might not purchase a full subscription? Give them a per-article option!
What we didn’t mention in our breakdown was how micropayments might also be a last-ditch effort by a once-mighty social media platform to coexist with publishers. Sure enough, Elon Musk’s most recent idea-thrown-against-the-wall may actually have some stick to it, particularly if it is able to accomplish what he hopes is a “win-win for both media orgs & the public.”
Twitter has twisted itself into a number of knots recently with publishers, from losing NPR and PBS after labeling them as state-affiliated media … to losing advertisers en masse. (And that’s not even getting into the lack of interest in paid Twitter Blue subscriptions or Musk’s general main-character complex.)
The Verge even sensed a particular urgency in Twitter’s micropayment announcement and how it comes with the emergence of Bluesky, the “latest Twitter alternative du jour … which recently added Twitter royalty Darth, Dril, and AOC to its ranks.”
Yet, some see hope in Musk’s plan. MediaPost’s Dan Perry says the idea of micropayments paralyzes publishers because they fear it would “cannibalize subscriptions and net negative,” a concern that “largely vanishes” if they’re available on third-party sites such as Twitter.
“If Musk pushes them across this Rubicon,” Perry writes, “it could revolutionize the media business model and offer a needed lifeline.”
Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton isn’t as optimistic, referencing a Gallup/Knight Foundation survey from last year that asked what people are most likely to do if they, while trying to access a news story, encountered a paywall and had to pony up to keep reading or watching. Only 1% said they’d pay for access.
(Source: KnightFoundation.org’s “American Views 2022: Part 1”)
Benton points to that hurdle as one of many that have long driven his skepticism toward micropayments, to say nothing of the logistics behind a payment platform that currently doesn’t exist between publishers and Twitter (or whatever “Everything App” it is that Musk hopes Twitter might become). While someone someday may figure out how to clear all these hurdles, it’s “unlikely at scale,” Benton says, “but I could be wrong!”
“But I am quite confident the man who has spent the past half-year destroying the news media’s favorite online space won’t be the one to do it.”