Bloggers: Help test a blockchain-based prototype for paid content

A dream of mine is to help creative people get paid for their work.  I want you to produce stuff so awesome that it finances good works of philanthropy, exotic travel and interesting food and drink.

Singlebound” is the working title for a tool built for digital content creators, starting with independent bloggers and writers, to sell their content directly to consumers on a per-piece basis. Singlebound is in the prototype stage, and this post is an invitation to those interested in measuring whether fans will support content in this way, via a free demo.

My goals are to:

  • Provide a payment system for digital content that's as easy to implement for independent creators as Google AdSense
  • Give creators more control over the integrity of their digital user experience
  • Provide fans with a new way to support their favorites, helping fuel better content for all
  • Place the value on the content itself, not on extras or special privileges

I invite you to kick the tires of the prototype: https://singlebound.herokuapp.com/ (please excuse initial load delays -- it's still on a free-tier host). I will be refining the experience and capabilities based on your feedback.

Will your fans voluntarily donate a few cents for an individual piece of content when given an opportunity; or, when confronted with a prompt for pre-payment, will they immediately abandon it?
— Riskiest assumption being tested

If you're a content creator interested in being part of the experiment, a full demo is ready: Please sign up, set pricing, and get widget code to test it on your website or web app.  It’s using play money for now, but you’ll see how many people initiate a donation or click/swipe a prepay control.

Faster than a steaming locomotive?

For it to be palatable to your users, the experience has to be fast and, at minimum, less of a hassle than ad-laden posts and today's subscription paywalls. 

If you’re a fan of great digital content and have thoughts, please take the very brief paid-content survey.

So far, Singlebound includes:

  • A portal for digital content creators and fans to manage their accounts
  • A set of payment and donation widgets that you can add to your own website or web app with a few lines of code
  • A WordPress plug-in, making it even easier for those using WordPress, to tag premium posts
  • A backend that will track purchases and donations in a secure and immutable ledger, a technology called blockchain

The dream of direct income

When Netscape released Navigator in 1995, I was a reporter in Kansas. The news publishing business had emerged from the early-'90s recession, leaner but still clinging to its 20th-century business model.

After a fortuitous run-in with the family-owned newspaper's heir apparent at the vending machines, I became the first "web editor," and within days, I was working every night, marking up content as HTML and posting it to a server sitting on the webmaster's desk for users to download over 14.4kbps modems. It was so Halt and Catch Fire.

AMC's "Halt and Catch Fire's" fourth season captured the days of the early WWW, when digital content meant free content (still does).

AMC's "Halt and Catch Fire's" fourth season captured the days of the early WWW, when digital content meant free content (still does).

Even then, I wondered whether talented journalists -- and by extension, authors, music artists, filmmakers -- were going to need large companies to distribute content and collect revenues on their behalf. Couldn't they now go direct to the consumer, just as merchants, such as Pets.com, were beginning to do?

More than two decades later, Pets.com is long gone, and the largest companies distributing content have almost completely turned over. Consumers have shifted en masse to new channels, particularly smartphones, and now to completely new forms of content, such as augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR). 

With those new channels and delivery platforms still up for grabs, and with tech like blockchain and cryptocurrencies enabling decentralized transactions to be tracked accurately and securely without banking fees, the time is right to see if the most talented journalists, authors, bloggers, podcasters, filmmakers and virtual-world creators can benefit more directly from their amazing work.

If you’re one of them, I hope Singlebound helps you achieve your dreams, and if so, that you invite me on one of your content-financed, globetrotting searches for meaning and the perfect meal.