Since I’ve been working on Zarf over the past few months, I’ve done a lot of research and formed a few opinions on the future of web content. I’m going to put them all in a little ramble for the sake of preservation here.
Cryptocurrency is hot right now. In the content world, it’s found a niche in the facilitation of micro-payments for content. The processing fees on cryptocurrency transactions are far less than the processing fees on traditional currency, which makes it a much more viable for the micro-transactions that happen in the content world.
My thoughts on cryptocurrency and paying for content? It’s not a viable option now, or anytime in the near future. When it comes to establishing whether a concept is going to be popular (and hence profitable), I tend to focus on whether the underlying technology is popular (or profitable).
I don’t think that cryptocurrency is the best way to provide an accessible experience for purchasing content on the web via micro-transactions. Simply put, outside the little tech bubble that most people trying to solve the “how do we pay for content in a sustainable fashiong” problem live in, cryptocurrency is a novel and unknown landscape and won’t attract a critical mass of customers to a platform.
Before you can even think about getting money for your content, you have to get it discovered. In a landscape where it seems that everyone has a blog, it’s difficult for content to rise above the fold and find the people who might me most interested in it.
When it comes to the future of content discoverability, I look towards the kind of discoverability that exists in the fashion and beauty blogging world.
Side note: I get most of my inspiration on the best ways to approach Internet content from fashion and beauty bloggers.
I think the most sustainable and equitable form of content discoverability is social discoverability. Social discoverability is the kind of discoverability that occurs when bloggers promote their work on different social media platforms and collaborations with other bloggers. Of course, this technique works best when coupled alongside other reasonable content strategies like investments in good SEO.
Discoverability shouldn’t be owned by the ranking algorithms of a platform as is the case with platforms like YouTube or Medium. Discoverability should be focused on more people-centric metrics of content consumption.
Do people even want to pay for content?
This is the fundamental question that I end up asking myself a lot. Do people even want to pay for content on the Internet? Is any of this worth it? There are certainly quite a few writers who have totally validated the subscription model, but is it reliable on a larger scale? Micro-transactions are a very strong, although not very profitable (yet), contender.
Selling things is hard. There are powerful altruistic motivators associated with buying content on the Internet. One of the common patterns I experience is seeing people claim they will pay for content, but when it’s time to pull out the credit card, the conviction wavers. There’s nothing inherently wrong about this, but it does make assessing customer interest a little difficult.
The dilemma of plenty
I think one of the biggest things complicating the content landscape in the 21st century is the dilemma of choice. Previously, paying to read content was a fairly straightforward choice because the options were limited compared to what they are today. Web users are conditioned to bookmark, skim, and read everything — the ad-revenue model that powered the web for over a decade ensured this. As a consequence, people are trained to want to read more than they can necessarily support with direct financial contributions. Of course, not every piece of content on the web has to be exclusive, for-pay content. That in-and-of itself is a difficult question: what kind of content should writers charge for?
There’s a lot going on in the content landscape right now. If I were being honest, I think the solution to this problem is unlike anything that exists at the moment (including Zarf).