Actually doing it

As some people will notice, my flurries of activity on this blog and elsewhere are somewhat random. I am deeply passionate about the issues around copyright, because they impinge so heavily on so many other things – economic, cultural, political, personal. One of the reasons I have written about it is to try to explain why these things matter.

The other reason is because I can see how things can be better.

Seeing how things could be better demands more than just sitting on a blog being a smart-arse. Instead of just writing about it, I need to DO something about it?

After all, one of the reasons the creative industries have found themselves in such dire straits is that while they have been adept at identifying their problems and pointing the finger of blame in various directions, they have been slow to come forward with – and actually implement – solutions.

The extended silence is because I have been doing just that.

Solving things for the creative industry is really about putting the creators and those who turn their work into products (the publishers, I guess) at the top of the economic pile. They’re the apex value-creators, after all, but on the internet they are far from the biggest earners.

Part of that is about copyright – the way permission is traded for value between, mainly, creators and publishers (and the main focus of this blog). Also the way those who don’t have permission are prevented from exploiting other peoples’ work. We all know how broken that is, and the many projcts (including some inspired and initiated by me) which seek to address it.

But at the other end of the issue there’s perhaps a more fundamental problem which needs to be solved.

How to get money into the value chain in the first place. The money that flows from advertising is largely inaccessible to publishers, controlled by huge platforms and leading to weird product decisions to try to maximise the paltry revenue flow.

The other revenue stream – from users – has been elusive for publishers. It’s a common belief that people don’t want to pay to access media content. That’s not particularly surprising that only a tiny proportion of people actually DO pay. Only 7% of people in the UK have paid for online news in the last year, according to the Reuters Institute – a number which seems, sadly, rather high to me.

That is the problem I have set out to solve. Free doesn’t work, but subscriptions are only taken up by a tiny proportion of the audience.

The 95% of activity which subscriptions fail to reach is a huge opportunity. Asking consumers to pay without asking them to make a formal commitment is a way to start making money in that huge space. Making it effortless is essential.

That’s what the product I have built does. It’s called Agate and you can try it now at Popbitch – go to www.popbitch.com/stories and start reading.

Pretty soon you’ll be able to take it to other sites too, without any further setup or login or any such nonsense.

I hope you like it, and if you do I hope you spread the word (and add @agatehq to your tweets and follow list).

So, I’m making it easier to make money, at prices and on terms that publishers control.

After that the challenge is for the creators and publishers. Can they make something you like enough to want to spend a few pence on? If they can, the prize is pretty big.

That makes pleasing you becomes their most important objective. Not so much pleasing the advertisers.

What a relief and a pleasure that will be!

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