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Friday, May 22, 2009


How would you like to be paid, Mr. Journalist?

I've been wanting to create an alternative way for bloggers to earn money aside from advertisement, because I believe that advertisement is a corrupting force in the modern world. An article that is worth reading does not necessarily draw advertisement, and so socially important subjects become underrepresented. This is the reason why, I believe, there is a business section and a car section in the New York Times, but no "world peace" section, and no "news in anticorporate activism" section.

I also worry that without income from full-page advertisers (which do not exist online) or from classified ads (which became free thanks to Craig's List), neither the print press nor bloggers will have a budget to fund large investigative journalism efforts. It would be unfortunate to see the fourth branch become yet weaker than it already is.

My idea is to create a Firefox plug-in which automatically keeps track of the articles you are reading, and then distribute a fixed monthly sum to their authors in proportion to how much of their writings you have read. If you say that all the writing you consume on the Internet is worth $10/month to you, then that is the amount the plug-in distributes.

The keys to make this work are:
This approach aims to solve a number of problems with the "please donate" banners. First, chasing the banner around the many web pages of all my favorite authors is onerous. Second, often the most deserving authors are those who shy away from displaying such a banner. Third, in the case of authors you read regularly, there remain a risk to setting up a recurrent payments, namely that you may forget to turn off the payment when the time comes.

This just one idea. Another idea is that of Spot Us which is uses The Point (as above) to raise funding for individual articles. Nobody knows where they paycheck of journalists will come from in the future. However, the urgency of finding a way is certainly highlighted by the recent row of newspaper bankruptcies.

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