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#ftmedia12: Jimmy Wales on the power of Wikipedia’s free access ethos

Giving the opening presentation at the Financial Times’ digital media conference in London today, the founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales discussed the power of the free access it offers for content on the site.

He said the “main original vision for Wikipedia” was based on the following quote:

Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.

He said by following the idea of free access from the beginning, the site, which currently reports around 65 million monthly visitors, saw “a huge amount of traffic”.

He outlined what Wikipedia sees as the most important part of what it does.

We aren’t just talking about cost. We’re talking about free as in speech, not free as in beer … It’s more fundamental than cost.

He added that the power of this “technique” of content dissemination for “growing online presences” is “still not fully understood”.

Wales said when Wikipedia started the mindset for many was “that in order to have successful content, you need unique content no one else had”, and then to erect a paywall or “vigorously pursue people copying content”.

He took the opposite route, with the only requirement being that users of the content have to follow the licence terms, usually meaning attribution to the source.

Lots of people made clone sites, or they would take an article and put in on a blog. It drove over time a huge amount of traffic.

He added that today this continues to be a “big factor” in the volume of links to Wikipedia and its ranking in search results.

When it comes to finding a business model for online content in general, he added that micropayments could be the way forward, in particular for newspapers online.

One of the things I’m very excited about is the rise of the app store, the app model. For the first time we have a very convenient method to pay relatively small amounts of money.

He added that payment for online content had “always been a barrier” in the past.

He said the ability to make an “impulse purchase” is “really important and going to have major impact when we think about content”.

Here are some of the interesting statistics Wales shared with the conference about Wikipedia 11 years on:

  • Over 20 million articles in 270 different languages
  • Over 3 million articles distributed in English
  • Around 150,000 articles in Arabic
  • Only two African languages available
  • The most popular category in English, Chinese and Japanese languages is popular culture

He added that we are now “in an era when the general public has a voice in a way they never had before”.

But he said there is also a “heavy” responsibility on Wikipedia and its community to “think about quality of Wikipedia”.

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ProPublica signs up to Press+ in bid to encourage donations

November 23rd, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Business, Online Journalism, Traffic

Non-profit investigative journalism outfit ProPublica is to start using Press+, a payment plaform launched last year by startup Journalism Online.

ProPublica will use the tool to manage public donations, with Press+ logos across the site to encourage users to give money. Following an arrangement with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which has provided 10 non-profit news sites with the platform, ProPublica will not have to share revenue with Journalism Online for the first year. The New York-based non-profit is the second outlet to take up Press+, following its launch on the New Haven Independent site in June.

Journalism Online was launched in April 2009, and won investment from News Corp in June 2010. Its first client was LancasterOnline.com, which began using the Press+ system in July to charge for its access to its obituary pages.

ProPublica announcement at this link.

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NYT files lawsuit against micropayments site

The New York Times has filed a lawsuit against micropayments service Kachingle on grounds of trademark infringement, in relation to the site’s ‘Stop the Paywall’ campaign.

According to a post by paidContent, the New York Times claims that Kachingle contacted its executives in February last year to discuss having access to articles and blogs in return for money collected from consumers. But the paper said it told the site it was not interested after finding out it wanted to keep a portion of the micropayments, paidContent reports.

According to the NYTCo’s legal filing, last month, Kachingle opened a site called Kachinglex.com, which looks very much like a NYTimes.com blog page. “Did you hear about the looming paywall?” the site’s home asks as part of its marketing materials. “Here at Kachingle, we are committed to helping keep the web open and social.  Kachingle is an alternative to a forced, solitary paywall. And now you can support the New York Times blogs you love directly, with a voluntary contribution of just $5/month.”

The look of that site is apparently what the NYTCo decided to go after, saying it tries to make it seem as if there is a business relationship between the two.

See the full legal filing below courtesy of Scribd:

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Journalism Online paid content system gets first user with obits paywall

July 12th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Business, Online Journalism

Paid content system Journalism Online has its first user, reports Poynter. Lancaster Online, website for the Intelligencer Journal and Lancaster New Era titles in the US, will use the micropayments platform to paywall its obituaries from today.

Readers outside of Lancaster County will be free to view up to seven obits, after which they will have to pay $1.99 a month or $19.99 for an annual subscription.

Journalism Online was set up by former US newspaper executives Steve Brill, Gordon Crovitz and Leo Hindery in June last year and received investment from News Corp last month.

Lancaster Online’s obituary pay scheme would “not amount to enough to reverse the fortunes of our newsroom, in and of itself”, admits the site’s editor of content development Ernie Schreiber. “But it might be a model for the next steps in how we meter other content (…) And it might pay for a few reporters.”

Poynter’s Bill Mitchell criticises certain elements of the move, including the fact that Lancaster Online is simply moving established content behind a paywall and not offering anything new to incentivise would-be customers:

One area where Lancaster falls short: providing customers with significant new value to persuade them to spend money today for something they got yesterday for free. How many more obit subscriptions might LancasterOnline sell, in other words, if it were to bundle customized obit newsletters as part of its monthly or annual fee?

Research suggests however that there is a healthy market for obituaries within the Lancaster Online readership. According to Schreiber, more than five per cent of the 47.4 million pages viewed the previous year were obituaries, and 100,000 readers outside of the county accessed an obituary page over that year.

Journalism Online’s Gordon Crovitz said Lancaster’s launch of the Journalism Online system will be followed by “many other launches over the summer”.

He claimed that the most popular “will be metered access to a website as a whole rather than a focus on a particular area of content”.

Full story at this link…

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paidContent:UK: FT confirms new additions to subscription model

March 2nd, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Business, Editors' pick

The Financial Times has confirmed it will add a new day pass and weekly pass, powered by online payment system Pay Pal, as part of its online access model.

While the pass is different from the FT’s direct payment for an anual subscription, as paidContent:UK points out this isn’t quite a move to micropayments.

But FT CEO John Ridding did comment on the potential for micropayments to support an annual subscription while speaking on the new plans at the FT’s Digital Media and Broadcasting conference.

Full story at this link…

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Editor&Publisher: Bitcents – the first micropayment system for publishers?

October 9th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Online Journalism

San Francisco and London-based start-up Bitcents launched it micropayment system for news organisations this week – the first fully functional system for publishers, it claims.

The system will enable users to pay for subscriptions to networks of content from bitcents’ partnering news sites.

The company has created the slideshow below explaining the system:

One particular feature of interest: bitcents says publishers’ content will remain discoverable through search engines under the system.

Journalism.co.uk will be following up with the company to find out more.

Full story at this link…

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Nieman Journalism Lab: Google developing micropayment system in pitch to newspapers

September 10th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers, Online Journalism, Search

Google has announced plans for a micropayment system that would be available to both Google services and non-Google properties within the next year.

The outline of the system is given in a document submitted to the Newspaper Association of America (NAA).

“Google believes that an open web benefits all users and publishers. However, ‘open’ need not mean free. We believe that content on the internet can thrive supported by multiple business models – including content available only via subscription. While we believe that advertising will likely remain the main source of revenue for most news content, a paid model can serve as an important source of additional revenue. In addition, a successful paid content model can enhance advertising opportunities, rather than replace them,” said the search company in the document, which looks at how Google’s expertise could help the newspaper industry.

The paper discusses the problems of introducing a paid content model, but suggests a micropayment system – built as a development of its existing Google Checkout product – could work for the news industry.

Here’s how it would look as written in the document:

• Single sign-on capability for users to access content and manage subscriptions;
• Ability for publishers to combine subscriptions from different titles together for one price;
• Ability for publishers to create multiple payment options and easily include/exclude content behind a paywall;
• Multiple tiers of access to search including 1) snippets only with ‘subscription’ label; 2) access to preview pages; and 3) ‘first click free’ access;
• Advertising systems that offer highly relevant ads for users, such as interest-based advertising.

“Google already works with a number of premium content providers in a manner similar to the vision above. Combining our e-commerce system with our search capability and advertising platform will allow for even more flexibility for publishers and users alike,” explains the document.

The search firm also suggests the potential for more money for publishers from syndication using Google’s existing technology for both better distribution and advertising around syndicated content.

Full report at this link…

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Sydney Morning Herald: Financial and sports news readers will pay online, says survey

May 11th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Online Journalism

A new survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers has suggested that readers interested in finance and sport showed a ‘relatively high willingness’ to pay for this type of content online.

“But overall, consumers were not prepared to pay as much for online content as for a traditional paper, and ‘would choose free content when the quality was comparable or sufficient for their purpose’,” says the Herald’s report.

Full story at this link…

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FT.com: WSJ to introduce micropayments

The Wall Street Journal is planning to bring in a micropayment system for individual articles and premium subscriptions on its website, according to Robert Thomson, editor-in-chief.

The pricing structure will be ‘rightfully high’, according to Thomson.

Last week Rupert Murdoch, News Corp chairman, said he was now convinced it was possible for newspapers to charge for content online given the success of the WSJ’s existing model.

Full article at this link…

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Mathew Ingram: A list of posts about micropayments for news

February 11th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

If you can bear it, a list of links to key recent articles covering the debate about whether micropayments could save the newspaper industry.

Full blog post at this link…

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