Some questions about Kachingle

I just finished Steve Outing’s column on Kachingle, which he’s pushing as a better solution for news organizations to make money online. He doesn’t suggest it’s the end-all savior, only that it’s better than micropayments, which has been bandied around a lot lately.

I’ll leave you to read his whole explanation of Kachingle for yourself, but my slimmed down version is:

• You sign up for Kachingle by paying $x a month
• Publishers sign up for Kachingle
• You decide how much of x dollars, if any, you want to go to Kachingle-elibiglbe sites.
• Publishers have to convince you to give them money

I think Kachingle can be successful in that it plays on laziness. My suspicion is people are more likely to pay one fee per month than sign up for multiple different accounts and make different payments.

But Kachingle raises a lot of interesting questions, too.

How will people decide how much to donate? Not in the sense of, “Paypal or money order,” but what calculus will they use to decide, “here’s how much I want to pay for my content each month”? Surely there are similar systems with other products that we might be able to study. Perhaps other industries’ experiences will tell us that most people don’t pay more than the minimum. If so, can we really expect bigger organizations to survive on, say, 100,000 payments of a few cents per month?

How will advertisers react? Will they flock to companies that can prove they have a solid Kachingle following, slowly choking off ad revenue to lesser publishers?

How soon can it be rolled out — and is that fast enough?

Finally, I worry that what I said above about people’s willingness to pay one lump sum over many smaller sums may not be true in this situation. For one, you need a population that reads a lot of online content from Kachingle-affiliated publishers, because I assume readers would not understand why they need to pay one company when they want content from another.

And then, if course, I’m creating an ambiguity for myself in using the word “successful.” Does “successful” mean that Kachingle survives? That The New York Times could make the same money it does now? That the Anyblogger USA will make a little extra income?

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