Earlier this month, something really big happened. And few people seemed to notice it in the sea of “yet another thing” articles clogging up the the tubes.
THIS WAS HUGE: Dwolla launched the Dwolla button. And this could revolutionize blogging as we know it.
I’ve been wanting something like this for a long time. I even started the process of creating something like this…
Last year while I was Mexico I decided to buy the domain BlogTips.com. I bought the domain because I wanted to launch a startup that would allow anyone to put a badge on any blog post that looked something like this:
It would have allowed anyone anywhere to get paid in the most direct way possible by anyone else for how helpful/entertaining they were with their blog post, video, quote, or whatever piece of content was associated with that post or page.
This is how it may have looked in the wild:
One idea was to create a culture of “I support independent writers” (with badges in the sidebar) and having people commit so something like $20 or $50 per month to supporting blogs they read the most, providing the most direct compensation to writers they love. But that was the early plan meant to overcome the fees problem.
The problem was that if I wanted to tip the writer $1 for writing a great post that I found useful, the current payment gateways like Paypal or Square would take cash off the top + percentage so even before any theoretical BlogTips percentage (to make it a viable business), the writer would get something like 50 cents – AND the person paying would know that, giving them less incentive to do it. At the end of the day there would be too many cuts of an already little pie.
This issue has been plaguing the adoption of microtransactions for years. The entire thing would have taken too many steps and not been profitable – making the whole process a pain in the ass and not worth yours, mine, or the blogger’s time.
So after going back and forth on the idea for a while, I decided that it would take full-time dedication to launch this startup and there were too many obstacles to overcome (plus I was traveling full time).
Earlier in May I launched blogtips.com instead as a blog advice site, then ended up selling the domain a week later. I decided not to play that game.
Ripe for a Revolution
The content / publishing wave is heading towards an inevitable direction and the entire landscape is ripe for a big revolution to take place.
Actually, the revolution is already under way.
Amazon’s Kindle has enabled authors like James Altucher to sell almost direct to consumer, bypassing the extremely inefficient old-school publishing process. The Kindle process is much more efficient than the old publishing process, for sure. However Amazon is still an intermediary – they provide the platform but they take a significant cut, plus there’s problems with DRM, pricing, etc. Kindle is a middleman – a functional one for now – but largely unnecessary in the future we’re all heading into.
CK Louis and Aziz Ansari have gone direct-to-audience with their $5 standup specials. This was huge. Got a lot of attention – rightfully so. With broadband speeds going up in 2012 (see Verizon FiOS & gigabit adoption) online streaming is now approaching TV quality.
Anyone with a big audience can already start getting direct payments – though the catch is still those damn pesky transaction fees!
What About Blog Posts?
A blog is the most adaptive of publishing platforms. WordPress has streamlined and standardized the article, aside, quote, video, article formats. Even books like Ikigai are basically just collections of blog posts wrapped inside of a book for consumption in the Kindle format. And why should anyone have to go through that arduous publishing process anyway?
What if I just want to share with you a specific video technique – say how to shoot a pro-level bachelor party music video on a shoestring budget and with minimal gear? Surely I don’t need to write an entire book about it. And why shouldn’t I get paid $2 for every reader who reads it and has a lightbulb go off in her head and say, “YES, this is what I was looking for” and “how can I give something back?”
A tweet is nice. A like is quaint. But a dollar is an entirely different value exchange.
Enter the Dwolla Button
So let’s get back to why the Dwolla Button enables this whole thing.
Dwolla is a cash-inspired payment network for the web. They are cutting out multiple middlemen in the process of helping people pay each other. I’ve been using them for several months now and their value proposition is unbelievable – transfer any amount of cash to anyone (linked to your banking account) and pay nothing to do it (under $10) and only $0.25 cents (for any amount over $10 including thousands of dollars!)
Holy shit! I couldn’t believe them when I first saw it. And they have an API. And they’re making big waves.
This tiny little button now makes the idea of micropayments a reality.
If I ony have a few clicks standing between me and paying you $2 for a really helpful piece of advice or entertaining video – every penny of which I know you will get – I am far more likely to do it. Especially since I know that cash is the only real social media currency that’s tangible and ultimately worth a damn.
I have no idea how this is all gonna shake out – but now – for the first time ever – the environment is ripe for a new type of publishing model to blossom – one that leverages the existing blogging infrastructure – and allows “content creators” (shit, I hate that word) – online publishers (you and me) to get paid in the most direct way possible for the awesome they/we create and share with the world – in a disintermediated and the most frictionless way possible!