Macropayments

Cory Doctorow has a follow up to his “Think Like A Dandelion” article (previously discussed here), called “Macropayments“.

I hadn’t heard of the term micropayments before, though it should have been an obvious idea – the opposite of a micropayment.

Scott McCloud has been advocating the idea of micropayments as a way for artists to sell their work in an online world for years, particularly in his book Reinventing Comics.

But Cory points out that micropayment systems haven’t really flourished in practice, primarily because micro is not free.

In general, the cost of figuring out whether you want to pay a sum (what Clay Shirky calls the “mental transaction cost”) remains high, no matter how small the monetary cost and no matter how efficient the system is. The web’s strength is in how adventurous it encourages us to be in what we click on – that’s how we get exposed to such a breadth of material online. Adding even a tiny cost to a link brings the cost of being adventurous from zero to non-zero, a step-change that requires enough thought that the overwhelming majority shrug and find a cheaper link to follow. The web isn’t short of links.

Dave Slusher (on his blog Evil Genius Chronicles) gives as an example of a macropayment the Electric Velocipede lifetime subscription. I previously noted the Dandy Warhols subscription scheme. This is similar, only more expensive and without the time limit. And you get the back catalogue as well.

Of course, magazines are nominally a subscription-based medium anyway, whereas music is not (except for season passes to the Philharmonic). But I’d pay $150 for a lifetime subscription to the Dandys, or any band I really like.

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