About one year ago I sat in my kitchen, sketching a platform for a convertible attention currency. I had just stopped working on the idea of a Berlin web magazine, because I found that the economic situation is lacking the infrastructure to run something like that in a way I’d like to use it myself. I didn’t want to have subscriptions, paywalls, I didn’t want to have to sell advertisements as content or any other things like that. Therefore I thought about enhancing the infrastructure a little.
The first thoughts were something like this: usually we are paying with our attention on the web. But attention doesn’t make you pay your rent, it doesn’t even make you pay your meals. Even in heavily link recommendation based online environments such as Twitter or Facebook, people are comfortable with getting something ‘for free’ and at the same time, to say they’d pay for some services if there was some kind of easy way to do so.
I worked as a journalist for years. My most difficult story ever had to be published on a blog and I didn’t make a single dime out of it, since the publishers I usually worked for had gotten ‘cold feet’. It was read by 30.000 unique visitors within one week in 2006, just by mouth-to-mouth hints. So there had to be a way to give all those who really do something for their users, their readers, their listeners an easy option to earn some money. And at the same time, to give a little kick to those who still don’t get the net.
To make this already too long story short: I thought of a platform where:
1. you as a user might register with your email address and either your credit card data or a bank account for direct debit (which is very popular, with consumer friendly laws for it in Germany).
2. you as a content producer might register to get your share of the cake.
3. you as a content producer might register to pitch for unclaimed money (explanation follows below).
For the user, the system would be very easy: you see something you like on the web. You decide: this is something I’d like to pay a decent amount for. Maybe 5 cents, maybe a Euro, maybe 10. To prevent fraud there should be no more than 20 Euros per item allowed. In fact this works just like bookmarking with an amount for you.
At the end of the month you receive an email including details on your proposed payments and the possibility to change amounts or to drop your spendings (maybe the blogger you chose turned out to be a millionaire and you might want to spend it in a different way).
So you decide how much you pay, who do you think should get that money and have provided a decent web address for the database.
For the content producer the system has to be much more complex: you are claiming that you own a content by a mechanism similar to the Technorati blog claim mechanism - you register, you get an instant personalized picture and install it at your server in the root directory you are responsible for. Then you click: claim. After that, all content below this directory will be counted as yours and any money which users want to give you will reach you (except someone else claims a subdirectory of it as an ‘owner’).
All money from the users is collected by a foundation. It only has one goal: to get rid of the money again, either by transferring it to the owners of the content which users wanted to pay for or by doing something different with it - a board of trusted people should decide on how to spend the money, maybe by granting fellowships for journalism, for arts or other ways of helping those who want to produce for the nets public. Only the foundations own expenses for administration should be covered by some of the unclaimed money.
Now Flattr is out there and Kachingle, too. I tried to get in touch with Peter Sunde earlier this year, he didn’t reply. Since I think there’s not space for another competitor and I really didn’t have time to get this run, I now decided to abandon it and just publish my thoughts. If you like it, tell others and get them towards the direction I thought it should be done.