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Lior Zalmanson
Lior Zalmanson

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Sharing Funds - Sharing Values? - Grant Report #1

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Project Update

In this project, we continue our work on the effects of online content monetization models on user behavior. Building on our previous findings, we now explore how different monetization models, and the level of users’ awareness of the monetization model, affect their content consumption choices.
We are interested in studying if users who adopt Web Monetization become more aware and mindful consumers. We are especially interested in learning whether such users become more socially conscious and use their content consumption to support causes and initiatives close to their hearts.

Progress on objectives

Literature survey of relevant scientific streams:
Our first objective is the literature survey. The literature survey is the base for our theoretical framework and informs the design of our surveys and experiments. Moreover, we believe that it could be of relevance to other members of the community and inform and inspire further discussions and ideas.

Our review begins with research on online activism. First, we examine what online activism is, the advantages of activism online, the challenges that need to be overcome, and why we see the Web Monetization protocol as a potential solution to some of them. We then turn to look at relevant theories from behavioral, cognitive and social psychology and create an initial theoretical framework of the relationship between online activism and Web Monetization.

Survey #1 - Online media literacy, consumption, and preferences:
Our objectives for this survey were:

  • Assess “online monetization literacy” - awareness and familiarity with various aspects of the monetization of online content.

  • Survey preferences for monetization models across different types of online content (online news, video streaming, video platforms, blogs).

  • Examine whether people make ideological and values-related considerations in their online content consumption choices.
    Study the effect of increased awareness of monetization in online content platforms.

  • Study if and how the above points (and especially 3) interact with peoples’ identities (gender, race, sexual orientation, political and ideological views).

Key activities

Literature survey
We have completed the first version of the literature survey. However, we view this as an ongoing process that will continue to evolve as our study progresses.

Survey #1 - Initial results highlights
Our survey of 150 Americans has revealed several interesting points:

  • People are mindful of the values of content creators and websites. Above 75% of the participants agreed that they choose to consume content by creators who share their own values and on websites that reflect those values. Additionally, approximately half of the participants reported that they may avoid visiting websites that support values they disagree with.

  • Most people see online content consumption as a way of showing support to causes. Over 75% of the participants indicated that when reading articles and watching videos online, they feel that they show support to the creators and the causes they promote. Those are encouraging results that provide initial support to our hypothesis that web monetization may act as a way by which people support activists, causes, and initiatives.

  • Many people are looking for content by people from historically marginalized groups. Approximately 40% of the people in the survey indicated that it is important to them to consume content created by people from historically marginalized groups. This is great news for activists and content creators from those groups.
    People support the coil / web-monetization model of distributing funds between creators.

  • We asked people to choose between four different models to distribute the money that goes to the content creators from YouTube Premium subscriptions. As shown in the below figure, nearly 75% supported the two options by which funds are distributed between the creators whose videos the user watches. Moreover, the “Coil compatible” option, by which funds are distributed based on the time spent watching the videos, received the most votes.

Communication and marketing

So far, we have presented our work, research questions, and ideas mainly in academic environments. We had the pleasure of hosting Chris Lawrence for a joint seminar at the Cornel Tech campus in NYC to discuss web monetization. We will continue to post reports of our surveys and experiments results to the forum. In the longer run, when we plan to submit the results of our research to relevant conferences, workshops, and publications.

What’s next?

We have a lot of exciting things going on right now. We are currently working on further analysis of the survey’s results and will release a full report to the blog. In parallel, we also work on our next survey, which will build on and extend the results of the first. We are most excited about the development of an experimental setting that is now coming together. This will allow us to test the causal relationships between web monetization, online content consumption choices, users’ values, and their willingness to provide additional support to causes and initiatives. We will also continue developing and updating our literature survey and theoretical framework as we learn more about the mechanism.

What community support would benefit your project?

We would love to learn more about the experiences of independent content creators and activists who experiment with integrating web monetization into their websites, platforms, or products. We are very open to ideas of field experiments and testing various operationalizations of web monetization and their effects on users’ behavior.

Top comments (2)

ericahargreave profile image
Erica Hargreave

Hi @lior. I've been enjoying going through your various studies. Is there a place where the community can access the various studies conducted, see the questions asked, and see the full results, including sample size and basic profiles of who was surveyed?

lior profile image
Lior Zalmanson

@ericahargreave - Hey, totally missed your comment. We've published a final grant report with many more details, check it out:

Other than that we are currently at work on making it a full academic paper, with all the relevant information.