Imagine never seeing an online advertisement again, unless you want to. It’s a fair assumption that most online users don’t want to, and that’s the mindset that micropayment firms are adopting as the impetus for their business model. Instead of seeing an ad, they posit, why not pay a small amount for content you want to see? Imagine paying $.01 for every article you read in a day in lieu of pop-ups and banner advertisements. Seem like a good deal? Now add Bitcoin as a ready-made payment processor for these micropayments and the potential is obvious.
Micropayments as an idea are not news. In the recent past, micropayments made the news as a way to potentially salvage the news, in the wake of a dramatic downturn in newspaper print subscriptions. The idea was floated in a New York Times piece that micropayments could be the answer, or part of the answer, in saving journalism. The trend toward micropayments is seen as viable enough that leading payment processor PayPal offers a special micropayment gateway for business users and authors and Stanford published a paper on the concept. Startup Cointent is making micropayment paywalls easy for websites by offering WordPress integration, capturing a huge market of content producers as a result. The inception of Bitcoin has spurred interest from Bitcoin and micropayment enthusiasts alike.
The use of Bitcoin in micropayments is particularly appealing because much of the user base that would be targeted by micropayment services, heavy internet users, are both aware and technically capable of using Bitcoin. Bitcoin could decrease the friction of traditional payment processing by using third parties that specialize in Bitcoin, but take substantially less fees. Many internet movements start with viral content, but viral content has a limited shelf-life. By integrating a simple Bitcoin micropayment option the content owners could efficiently monetize their time-sensitive internet fame, fame that often goes unused currently. The same can be said for grassroots movements, indie artists, non-mainstream politicians, and low-volume businesses that pay substantial fees to payment processors that only offer reduced rates to large-volume customers.
The use of micropayments is bound to rise as the traditional CPM ad model continues to prove inefficient. The opportunity to integrate an easily fractionalized asset that possesses native internet design considerations into existing content sites could provide the boost Bitcoin needs to climb out of niche interest and into the mainstream. Bitcoin has proven it has staying power, but has yet to demonstrate broad appeal. Micropayments may be the answer that enthusiasts have been looking for all along.
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