This is a pet peeve I've had for so long, but it has been made more urgent given the proliferation of fake news and ad-spam, even as traditional news sources are downsizing from decreasing revenues.
I want to support the news-sources I know, respect and love but I’m not interested in paying for just one when there are a hundred sources I read from daily. On the other hand, I obviously can’t afford to pay for all hundred, neither is it justified if I only read < 5% of any one source's content (e.g. only Technology, Politics but not Local Events, Sports etc).
I get that the news + advertising combo makes the news free for the masses, but I’m part of a growing demographic that is willing to pay out of pocket to have an ad-free, private and customised feed of stories that matter, while supporting the many journalists who bring truth to light.
If Netflix unbundled cable, who is unbundling news?
Here's one solution I’m thinking of: a paid social network account with the Flattr micropayments principle for the dissemination of good journalism.
For example, I would already pay out of my pocket to have an ad-free and private experience on Facebook/Twitter, for very obvious reasons. (Would be interesting to do a willingness-to-pay survey for this.)
On top of that, the statistics show that many are already using social networks as their primary news source. What if I could consume news like I consume Skype credits? Imagine I choose to put aside monthly credits on my account — say $25/month. By the Flattr principle, this pool gets divided by the total number of articles I read in a given month and gets paid out directly to those sources. If I read 250 articles in a given month, that would be $25/250 articles = $0.10/article. If I read only a small number, say 25, there could still be a cap per individual article — e.g. a payout of not more than $0.25/article max. So I will spend a maximum of $25/month and never more.
This is a win for the customer: ad-free news on-demand with the good feeling of paying fairly for good journalism AND without the headache of multiple subscriptions? These are all plus-points. This personal relationship with news can also open a 2-way conversation between readers and publishers: I want to be able to request follow-ups for issues I care about, and be able to commission the things I want to know more about, instead of merely keeping abreast of trending headlines of celebrity tours.
This is also a win for publishers: micropayments really add up. With social network scale, syndication of individual articles could potentially command more revenue than daily distribution if an article goes viral. For journalists, this is an incentive to really serve core audiences rather than general interest.
This is a win for social networks: with paying end-users as opposed to advertisers, there is an incentive to minimise the filter bubble effect (or “content as packaging around advertising” as Noam Chomsky presciently pointed out in Manufacturing Consent decades ago).
I believe in the noble goals of journalism, admire the idealistic men and women who would speak truth to power and I want to support their efforts. I am convinced that one of the ways in which to avoid events like Trumpocalypse is to restructure the incentives for journalism back to erudite substance over clickbait sensationalism - an outcome that cannot be easily achieved with advertising as the sole revenue stream. Help me help you.
Happy to discuss ideas.