By Steve Outing
If you mouseover the “PayCheckr” widget above, you’ll see an early version of a donation and payment model for digital content that I find intriguing. You can create your own beta PayCheckr widget and play around with it now, as I did with the widget above, though this is a “lite” version and the customization is limited.
The concept is simple enough to understand. I think of it as a payment and/or donation widget that is very much like the ShareThis widgets that you see on many websites and blogs; at the beginning or end of an article you mouseover a ShareThis icon which expands to offer multiple options for you to share a link to it with others via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, e-mail it to a friend, etc.
PayCheckr likewise expands to offer the web user multiple options — as chosen by the site or blog owner — for paying for or supporting a website or blog, or specific content (article, video, service, etc.). The site or content owner can configure the widget to contain multiple options:
- Collect money…
- for a subscription
- for a one-time purchase (say, to trigger a PDF or software download, or access premium content)
- as a donation from the user
- Ask for non-monetary support by…
- viewing a sponsor’s message
- viewing an advertisement
- taking a survey
- Point users to other sites that earn you money, such as…
- affiliate e-commerce pages (e.g., Amazon.com or an online store) where purchases by your users earn your site a commission
- a marketing-firm survey that you receive commissions for participant referrals
- a barter-exchange program
For now, PayCheckr “Lite” offers limited functionality. I can’t yet put my own logo or otherwise customize how the widget looks in its closed state, or change the default language of “Many ways to pay.” The fields to enter my options limit the number of characters too much, so that when I tried to put in the names of my “sponsor” sites, they wouldn’t fit and had to be shortened. But it’s enough to envision how it might be used once the PayCheckr service is fully featured:
- Access to full article after user action – Let’s say a news website wants to encourage some form of “payment” before showing the user more than the first couple paragraphs of a story. Rather than a typical paywall (i.e., pay now to view more or go away), a PayCheckr widget (properly designed to explain its purpose) could permit access to the content when the user selected any of the options set up by the site owner. Let’s say, either (1) make a donation, (2) pay for a subscription for future premium-content access, (3) watch a 30-second video ad and then get access to the rest of the article, or (4) visit a sponsor’s page that shows as a pop-up while the rest of the article appears on the screen below.
- Give payment options up front for a purchase – Let’s say that you’ve got an e-book that you want users to pay for, but you want to give them multiple options. Rather than require the buyer to fill out a credit-card order form as the only option, your PayCheckr widget could offer multiple payment options: PayPal, Google Checkout, Amazon or iTunes account payment, direct payment from bank account, standard credit card form, payment with frequent-flyer miles, charge to mobile-phone account, etc. The benefit would be that if one of the choices is quick and convenient for the individual buyer, he or she is less likely to bail out of the purchase than if the only option is to fill out a long credit-card form.
Since PayCheckr is in early beta state without some of its planned features implemented, I can’t give it a good trial run yet. But it represents, to me at least, a softer approach to getting users to “pay” for digital content (especially news). If I as a web user I run across, say, an interesting research report that the publisher wants me to pay for, I might click on by if the only option is paying actual money. But if that valuable report can be viewed by non-monetary means — taking a marketing survey, or watching a 30-second sponsor video — then the report’s publisher is earning some money from me when with the money-only option I’d mean zero revenue.
PayCheckr also offers yet another model for soliciting donations. If I’ve got a special report online that I want everyone to see, but I’d still like to get some willing people to donate in thanks for the work I’ve done, perhaps a PayCheckr widget could offer multiple donation options — again, to make it easy for the potential donor to toss some money my way by selecting a donation option that’s simplest for him or her.
I also might want to put a PayCheckr widget in a permanent position on my blog, such as I’ve done with my Kachingle donation-network medallion in the left column of this site. (I’ll likely do that once PayCheckr offers more customization of the widget’s look and wording.)
Finally, since I work in an academic environment (University of Colorado at Boulder School of Journalism & Mass Communication, running the Digital Media Test Kitchen), I’m interested in PayCheckr from a research angle. I’m reminded of the Miami Herald’s website experiment late last year when it put a “donate” button at the bottom of all stories, but the only option for those wishing to donate money to support the Herald’s journalism was to fill out a long credit-card payment form. I’d love to know if a similar experiment would work better (the Herald killed its donation experiment quickly) if potential donors had multiple options for supporting the Herald, a la the PayCheckr approach.
(Disclaimer: I’ve been following the development of PayCheckr for some time, and have volunteered for solo focus-group sessions to aid the development team, led by PayCheckr founder Allan Hoving.)