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(Note: This page was born as a grant proposal, and was written to a Q&A, some of which is preserved. It also lays some of the groundwork for the r-button.)


PayChoice is a new business model for media: one by which readers, listeners and viewers can quickly and easily pay for the goods they use — on their own terms, and not just those of suppliers' arcane systems.

The idea is to build a new marketplace for media — one where supply and demand can relate, converse and transact business on mutually beneficial terms, rather than only on terms provided by thousands of different silo'd systems, each serving to hold the customer captive.

PayChoice is a breed of VRM, or Vendor Relationship Management. VRM is the reciprocal of CRM or Customer Relationship Management. VRM provides customers with tools for engaging with vendors in ways that work for both parties. PayChoice is one of those tools. Or a set of them.


We now live in a media environment where goods previously sold directly or paid for by advertising are freely available and shared widely over the Internet. A number of factors contribute to a business and social conundrum for suppliers of those goods:

  • Easy copying and sharing makes the goods freely available at growing ease and convenience.
  • Copying and sharing is so widespread and common that punishment for copyright and other usage violations touches only a small minority of offenders, and has proven to be a losing proposition.

What the marketplace requires are new business and social contracts that ease payment and stigmatize non-payment for media goods. The friction involved in voluntary payment is still high, even on the Web, where one must go through complex forms even to make simple payments. There is no common and easy way either to keep track of what media (free or otherwise) we consume (see [Media Logging]), to determine what it might be worth, and to pay for it easily and in standard ways -- to many different suppliers. (Again, each supplier has its own system for accepting payments.)

PayChoice will create a "buy button"-simple payment system to allow readers, listeners and viewers to pay whatever they like, at their discretion, for whatever media products they use. For too many media the traditional business models -- subscriptions, newsstand sales, advertising and underwriting -- are not sufficient. (Especially in the current economic environment, which is akin to an earthquake that won't stop.) Nor do they support full participation and involvement with their users.

PayChoice differs from other payment models (subscriptions, newsstand, tip jars) by allowing the customer to pay any amount they please, when they please, with minimum friction -- and with full choice about what they disclose about themselves. PayChoice will also support credit for referrals, requests for service, feedback and other relationship support mechanisms, all at the control of the user. For example, PayChoice can provide quick and easy ways for listeners to pay for public radio broadcasts or podcasts, for readers to pay for otherwise "free" papers or blogs, and paid request for stories or programs to be expressed and aggregated, without necessarily requiring the customer to disclose unnecessary private information, to become a "member". This will scaffold real relationships between buyers and sellers, and for supporting journalists covering what Jake Shapiro calls "microbeats." It will also give deeper meaning to "membership" in non-profits. (Under the current system, "membership" means putting one's name on a pitch list for future contributions, and not much more than that.)

PayChoice will also connect the sellers' CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems with customers' VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) systems, supporting rich and participatory two-way relationships. In fact, PayChoice will by definition be a VRM system.


Q: Who would want to use it and why?

Right now supporting otherwise "free" journalism ranges from difficult to impossible. Even the membership systems of public broadcasting exclude vast numbers of people who would contribute "if it was easy". PayChoice will make it easy for consumers of media to become customers of media. It will allow those customers to pay for what they want, when they want, and to initiate actual relationships with the news organizations they pay -- on their own terms as well as those of the news organization.

Q: What potentially bigger thing might happen if everything went perfectly and the stars all aligned?

A much more healthy media business would arise out of the one that's failing -- at least economically -- right now. In the process, the media business would no longer be required to depend entirely on advertising, newsstand sales, subscriptions and donations because a new and far more accountable system would be in place. It would, for example, provide a way for any journalist or journalistic organization in the "long tail" to find paying customers for their work.

Q: How will you be able to measure whether or not PayChoice has really made a difference?

The primary measure would be monetary -- measurable as cash income to news producers from the consumers who, by paying, would become customers as well. Goals and benchmarks for measuring social effects would be established.

A secondary measure would be membership activities other than those surrounding transaction.

Q: What unmet need does PayChoice answer?

Media need a new business model. In spite of the shift of advertising from other media to digital ones, little of this money finds its way to supporting, for example, participatory journalism, where so much good and pioneering work is taking place.

PayChoice will create that model. It will also go beyond monetary support to include means for establishing working relationships between the buyers and sellers of media products, so demand can find supply and vice versa.

There is also the need to address the likelihood that advertising -- the primary source of income for many media enterprises -- will either be severely diminished or go away, simply because ways will be found for demand to find supply that are more efficient than the guesswork that advertising involves. PayChoice will be one way to take advantage of this inevitable shift in the marketplace.