Culture and Society


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Kip Manley points to an article by Clay Shirky in which Shirky still argues that micropayments will ultimately fail because users won’t pay for content in a sea of free content.

Shirky’s wrong. Users (think readers and listeners and viewers) won’t pay for content that we don’t want, but we will pay for content that we do want. To wit, music, in the form of legal downloadable .mp3 and .aac files. Apple’s iTunes store, with over ten million sales since its inception, many of them at 99 cents for a single “tune” or track, proves that we will pay under the right circumstances:

  1. We will pay for content we want. Like music.
  2. We will pay when the price is “right.”
  3. We will pay when the process for joining a payment system and making a payment are painless.

The iTunes store is extremely well designed and executed; Mac users (and very soon Windows users too) can purchase individual tracks or entire albums with a single click.

You’ll note that iTunes starts at 99 cents per song; I’m pretty sure that’s at the limit of a “micro” payment, but I also suspect that in an age when penny candy is ten cents a piece that a dollar is a better indication of a useable micropayment. Of course, I’d be even more excited by micropayments and legal digital music downloads that directed more of the fees to the artists, but I’m convinced that will come.

Oh, and I did send a buck to MetaFilter; in fact I’ve sent several. I think payment for goods and services is a Good Thing. And I think there’s a fair amount of content on the web worth paying for, like this, and this.

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