Here’s the problem: Every day I get emails about great offers expiring real soon, better act now. They’re subscription deals from publications I mostly like, but I’m not signing up. I’d like to pay them though; here’s how.

At the moment, I subscribe (in the sense of paying regularly) to the New York Times and The Economist. Yes, I’m aware that’s boringly, crushingly, mainstream and sometimes I hate myself for it, but I keep on paying.

Want more mainstream? The pubs I like but don’t pay for include Ha’aretz, Beirut’s Daily Star, the Financial Times, the Paris Review, the Boston Globe (if only for The Big Picture), the Mop & Pail, and the New Yorker (if only for Roger Angell).

Those are among the ones clogging my mailbox trying to get me on that monthly-payment train. But there are just too many and in most cases, there’s a smell of diminishing returns. Which means that lots of times I follow an interesting link head-on into —splat! — a pay-wall.

Then I turn back, feeling bad because I’d like to pay to read the things I read. There has to be a better way than every publication having its own paywall and sending its own pleading offer-you-can’t-miss weekly emails.

In the music world, there are BMI and ASCAP, which (disclosure: I only weakly understand this business) apparently coördinate the paying of musicians for the playing of their music on radio stations and in stadiums and bars and so on.

I’m wondering why we don’t have something along those lines for publishers. If all those publications would get together and offer a place where I could throw like $20/month — with topping-up options — why wouldn’t I subscribe? I’d like there to be a standard fraction-of-a-buck charge to read something, with exclusive-Snowden-scoops and scorching-celebrity-confessions premium-priced. Given the chance, why wouldn’t I subscribe to everything?


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Dirkjan Ochtman (Oct 23 2015, at 23:47)

Have you looked at Blendle yet?


From: dave (Oct 24 2015, at 00:46)

The less like the music industry, the better. Pretty much everything about it is geared to minimize and/or eliminate money actually getting to the actual creator.

And the 'news' industry is rapidly emulating it, like not paying people for pictures they use, the now standard use of clickbait titles, and then just the general consolidation of the whole industry to make more and more of the news outlets controlled by a relatively small group of companies/individuals.


From: Peter Jenkins (Oct 24 2015, at 04:14)

You are sort of describing Flatr. Alas most sites seem interested in my money (or don't know about the system).

I don't like the idea of a Spotify for news because I don't want some algo-editor derived headlines. I only want journalists to get paid when I read their content.


From: Paul Boddie (Oct 24 2015, at 05:02)

You could call such a service "Reader's Digest". ;-)

After a while they would, of course, start spamming people at random with subscription offers. :-/


From: Charlie (Oct 24 2015, at 06:11)

Have you looked into ?

Not exactly what you described but the closest thing I know of. I started kicking in a few dollars a month. It's interesting to watch their dashboard showing where it gets spent.


From: John Cowan (Oct 24 2015, at 07:19)

Quick tutorial on the ASCAP/BMI/SESAC model (ASCAP is a consortium, BMI a for-profit business, SESAC is European): they provide unlimited access to all their licensed content (good) for a period of time (dubious) for a fixed percentage of the licensee's gross revenues (so you'd pay way, way more than I would, bad).

On the payment side, they randomly sample music users to see what they are playing (ASCAP gets only about 1% of the actual airplays and extrapolates from that) and then pays content producers out of the kitty in proportion to the airplay they get (which means producers in the long tail gets paid essentially nothing because they are individually lost in the noise — that's the problem Dave is complaining of).


From: Chris Adams (Oct 24 2015, at 08:52)

I've been trying Google Contributor since they opened it to Google Apps accounts and I think this is the next direction for them.

Right now it's nice when you can visit a site and see kittens instead of ads but that only helps with sites which are otherwise unencumbered. It'd be really interesting to have a way for a paywall to interact with a trusted third-party like Contributor and allow you in without otherwise setting up an account, particularly since it avoids needing to solve micropayments or international payment issues first.


From: Charlie (Oct 24 2015, at 10:10)

Blendle sounds awesome; thank you, I had not heard of it.

However, after reading about them having deals with major U.S. publications including New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, I was surprised to visit just now and see it greet me in Dutch with German as its only other language option.

I don't know either of those languages. I'm not sure I want to even try to go through their signup flow. Is this service useful to English speakers in the United States and Canada?


From: Bryant Cutler (Oct 24 2015, at 21:50)

I was under the impression that the ASCAP/BMI thing only worked because of compulsory licensing of *all* published music. Not sure that'd fly with the written word (e.g. anyone can reproduce ANYONE's writing, so long as they pay the pre-determined licensing fee). Also not sure how that could be made to work internationally, since it's much easier to get international news than international local radio.


From: Duncan Ellis (Oct 26 2015, at 06:54)

this feels like a wider problem than just print media web sites - look at the market fragmentation of streaming video in the US, for example: is the thing you want on Netflix, or Amazon, or Google, or Hulu? Does it have adverts injected into it despite paying a subscription? (looking at you Hulu)

I wonder if there is a parallel with the way mobile phone networks were standardised everywhere except the US In the GSM era, but that may be reaching a little.


From: Anthony Coates (Oct 28 2015, at 14:47)

Sounds a lot like the arguments Ted Nelson made for micropayments in Xanadu (now there's something to usage you back to the XML Developer Day in Brissy in '97).


From: Bill Conniff (Nov 07 2015, at 09:31)

As long as most people have a limited budget for news, few news providers will be able to scale to a high level. And that was the case before the Internet. Blendle cuts the pie differently by taking a tiny slice from many providers, and that could scale very high. But Blendle's shortcoming may be their high operational cost, particularly its back-end tools such as a recommendation engine and publishers' customization.


author · Dad
colophon · rights
picture of the day
October 23, 2015
· Business (126 fragments)
· · Publishing (16 more)
· Technology (90 fragments)
· · Publishing (160 more)

By .

The opinions expressed here
are my own, and no other party
necessarily agrees with them.

A full disclosure of my
professional interests is
on the author page.

I’m on Mastodon!