Our project is focused on developing new reader revenue models to support quality news organizations as they do the important work of journalism which is vital to healthy communities, economies and democracy.
With financial support from Grant for the Web, Distributed Media Lab is harnessing Web Monetization to explore new revenue streams specifically designed to benefit local, national and global news organizations.
In the initial few months of the project we have been primarily focused on:
1) Engagement with news media companies of all sizes to explore reader revenue concepts.
2) Working with publishers to implement foundational DML technology, enabling the creation of publisher networks that will facilitate the Web Monetization pilot.
The goals of this project are sweeping in scope. Distributed Media Lab is working to harness Web Monetization to support distributed reader revenue streams that benefit local to global news organizations thereby providing an incentive for those media companies to drive consumer adoption of Web Monetization forming a virtuous cycle.
Foundational to this goal is establishing a coalition of publishers with aggregate scale to participate in the effort and willing to integrate the required technologies.
Over the last couple months, DML has engaged with numerous publishers from large to small briefing them on the anticipated business model and gathering their feedback. The result of these discussions has been the composition of business models enabled by Web Monetization and designed to provide a new distributed revenue stream for publishers of quality original journalism.
To support a diverse and disaggregated industry, a variety of models have emerged across consumer donation, membership and subscription revenue streams. However, while the models are diverse, the technologies required to enable them needs to be consistent.
On the technology side, we have zeroed in on the core components necessary to support the widest range of models. Included in our development is an AMP extension for Web Monetization and support for Web Monetization in the core DML distribution platform. These two components enable both sides of the market, namely the embedding publishers and the distributing publishers, to benefit from the new consumer revenue streams.
While the models have become clear through our discussions with publishers, it is still early days in the development of the core technologies and we are working toward piloting the key components in early 2021.
This year we have added several hundred publisher sites to the DML Network. This community of publishers is the foundation for creating publisher collective networks with distinct reader revenue offers powered by Web Monetization on the DML platform.
One example is our partnership with the Local Media Consortium to launch The MatchUp, a sports initiative currently rolled out to over 60 local news websites across the U.S.
Another collective we are developing is with Hothouse and Covering Climate Now to distribute a Climate Change and Environment focused collaborative, with a potential for web monetization based donations to several hundred participating publishers.
In the last couple months, we have hired four new team members to help grow the publisher network, support the roll out and develop core technologies.
We are still looking for more engineers, product and partnership team members!
In October, we did a Q&A at the W3C’s annual conference, discussing the use case for Web Monetization for publishers.
The rest of our communications have been primarily with publishers, associations and technology partners while we are still in the building phase of the project.
We are very excited about initial feedback and enthusiasm from the news media sector across large and small publishers. From here, we are continuing to focus on building the core technologies for a publisher pilot with a limited group of publishers in early 2021.
The pilot will be focused on testing the core technologies as well as analyzing the economics of reader revenue in a distributed model.
We’re still early in this project, but when the time comes to roll out the pilot to participating publishers, there are a lot of ways the community can support the effort that echoes the suggestions made already by another grant recipient, Free Music Archive.
This is a nascent technology with a very new value proposition for both creators (in our case, news media publishers) and consumers. A common language that asserts definitions for describing the technology and function of Web Monetization would be very helpful. Toward that end, we’d be very interested in participating in a broader community conversation perhaps in a virtual conference, around the topic of how to best communicate broadly about Web Monetization. We realize our target audience, news publishers, is quite distinct from the individual artist or creator, and finding language that makes sense most broadly would be very helpful.
The only thing we’d like to add at this point is that it is tremendously exciting to participate in what feels like it will be a transformational moment in the developmental life cycle of the web. For too long, the web has not offered an inherent and open infrastructure for payments between parties. This effort is adding an economic layer to the web that has the potential to transform entire industries and we are very excited to be involved!