Today I can’t refer a friend to an article in the Wall Street Journal while respecting their copyright.
I discover a reference to an article in an Australian news-paper but a subscription is required for that article.
With current technology the newspaper gets no money and I get no information.
Google indexes some subscription material but few connections are made between seekers and pay-walled providers.
In case of the WSJ article I could spend a few dollars of my time ‘clipping’ the text as I might with a paper edition.
While this is considered a conventional behavior, it can be described as cheating the WSJ.
Besides the cost of clipping—real or virtual—is an inordinate transaction cost.
I suggest here a service thru which both could win.
The WSJ would still offer subscriptions as they do now, but, as a third distribution channel offer access to single articles, past and present, for much less than the cost of a news-stand copy.
In the case of the Australian paper, I am unlikely to pay any of:
- the subscription price for the paper that I had not heard of before,
- the hassle of subscribing which requires finding an mutually agreeable payment method,
- the concomitant delay in seeing the article.
Many find the advertising that accompanies most ‘free’ media to be annoying, even when some omniscient cloud entity has targeted you based on your observed network behavior.
We consider here a modest service to ameliorate these problems.
This is in no way limited to news but should serve for nearly any web content.
News À la Carte
We posit here a service, initially centralized, with medium weight arrangements with a significant number of web information providers.
It also makes light weight arrangements with a large number of information consumers.
The service is a bit like a retailer that sells content, identified by conventional URL, from the providers, to the consumers while collecting a payment by the consumer for the provider.
Prices are set mainly by the providers.
Some consumers will be willing to pay enough to make it worthwhile for the supplier to deliver the content without ads.
This is critical when bandwidth to the consumer is expensive.
Such service will depend in complex ways on provider whim and consumer whim.
The transformation between content with ads, and without ads, may be performed either by the supplier or the service; either pattern has potential advantages.
It need not be uniform across suppliers.
Another Economic Driver
The cost of transmitting bits via cell networks to deliver advertising will often dominate overall costs in much of current ad supported content.
The cost of cellular bandwidth is increasingly being placed on the cell phone subscriber.
The cell phone user will have a significant money incentive for the ad free form of this service, and this user will be the one to chose our service.
A great deal of privacy is afforded depending on the arrangements between service provider and consumer.
It also depends on the integrity of the service, of course.
Current suppliers of web anonymization have some of the technology in place to provide this service.
I would offer prepaid service to consumers and provide a consumer adjustable threshold price above which no debits would accrue without prior consumer permission.
A slightly delicate issue is whether to inform the provider of refusal statistics.
How do we convince the supplier that all delivered information is accounted for.
The server may cache information which would lower server costs but I presume that the server would provide the supplier detailed records of identity of information and timing of delivery.
Most other delivery information would be expunged or indeed never retained.
Simple sampling by the supplier can now detect systematic malfeasance by the service.
The service is directly in the money flow and thus in a position to extract its price.
There are several parameters to this service described here and many more yet uninvented.
I would propose early decentralization protocols to support interoperation between similar services.
Incentives such as those described in the Digital Silk Road should ensure good behavior between such service providers.
Whereas phone companies typically had a de facto geographic monopoly, this sort of service has no such claims on its customers.
They will be selected by media consumers and providers according to their behavior and reputation.
It is difficult to price information.
It is very tempting to attempt price discrimination.
My suspicion is that attempting to support price discrimination would lead to insurmountable problems.
Others may thus see this as an opportunity.
Apple is said to have coerced suppliers of music to charge lower prices that the suppliers preferred and I do not understand the dynamic in that case.
I do not propose to rely on that tactic here.
An ISP is in a natural position to provide this service to its consumers at a greatly reduced ‘new consumer’ transaction cost since the ISP already has a financial relation with the customer.
Here is information and perspective on this market.