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Show HN: Quid – try micropayments instead of ads or subscriptions (quid.works)
64 points by zeroxfe 16 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 52 comments

Good luck. We've spent 6 figures investigating all this over 2 years. The problem isn't payment, it's human behavior and the lack of value associated with content.

Interested in hearing more about the results of your investigations.

I think people value good content, but not all content is the same. Certain creators or agencies have intrinsic "quality" associated with their reputation, and if there is an interesting story or video that I can't find anywhere else, I'd pay a few cents to read or view it.

For general stuff, like current news and affairs, where I'm just wanting to learn about an event or happening, I'd most likely Google around searching for a free synopsis somewhere that will get me gist of the "thing" versus pay the NYT or someplace else 25¢ for the same information.

Original, high quality content has value. I just don't want to spend $20 a month hoping to get my money's worth.

I think part of the problem is there is usually an all-or-nothing approach taken.

Yes, subscriptions like cable bundles are the model we chose. See my other comment please. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19038820

You have to show something.

I pay for a number of things and I'm ready to pay for more things. Here are the rules that almost nobody seems to be able to get right:

- I'll not pay monthly unless I have to. Everyone and their dog wants recurring revenue but the only ones I'm happy to pay constant recurring fees to are: hosting providers, email providers and all-you-can-listen/-watch services that contains everything [0]. Especially bad are local newspapers that are all paywalled - but won't sell me access to that one article someone linked but instead wants to sell me a subscription.

- Blendle: I'll be happy to pay for more articles on Blendle (Computer magazines, this one goes to you.)

- Blendle-like services from other actors.

- I'd even be happy to pay for ads to disappear. I'm a nice guy and I'm looking for ways to support the places I visit. Sadly Google closed that experiment before I could even try it.

[0]: At the moment this list contains just one entry, Spotify.

Check my other comment in this thread.

People don't want to pay per article. It's too much friction to decide every time they read something (or worry about refunds after the fact), and many users spend hours on these sites going through hundreds of pages. Easy discovery of other stories is a major part of publisher value. Blendle pricing doesn't work at scale for mainstream users and they say that themselves, but they have a beta in the US if you still want to use it: https://launch.blendle.com/

That seems to imply that the products people are selling aren't products people are willing to buy. Spending millions trying to figure out how to get people to buy things they don't want can only go so far.

I think it has to do with the human perception between "free" and "any amount", no matter how small.

This very much depends on the humans in question.

Not that simple. Buying something requires value judgement, and doing that repeatedly takes effort. Also many people can't afford it.

I'd love to hear more. (And thanks!)

(Feel free to PM me too if you'd like.)

We had an extension (web and mobile) called Sterling with monthly subscription tiers. It would automatically block ads on all sites and signin for paywalled sites that joined the network, or we would use some sneaky techniques to gain access to the article anyway (api/reader views, etc) to at least test the viability.

Each users money was split by time spent on each domain monthly which was the only collected data. Held in escrow until publishers claimed each domain. Biggest problem was getting people to consider that subscriptions were worth it, even if they were spending 10s of hours on these sites. $0.99 had interest but was not viable. $9.99 had some uptake but under 1% conversions.

Overall didn't make enough money and pubs also too scared/proud to work on anything other than their own subscriptions. Lots of politics in this industry and lack of cooperation is a major obstacle.

I'm not sure upfront per-article micropayment is really that great. Comparing to traditional newspapers, the difference is that with the newspaper, you pay for a collection of articles, perhaps because you trust the paper to be interesting because of its reputation, perhaps because a headline caught your attention. Having paid, you also get added value from any number of articles you wouldn't have paid for on their own, and might not have even read if they were presented to you by themselves, for free. And yet you'd often find some of these articles the most interesting.

This doesn't happen if you're paying per article, based on a preview.

I think one of the main challenges here is subscription-overload. Once you have a subscription to, say, the NY times, and the Washington Post, you're unlikely to get a third subscription to read an article on the Economist.

Charging, say, 10¢ for the article can help them generate revenue from those that don't want to shell out for another subscription.

I think one of the main challenges here is subscription-overload.

Bingo! I had been using Patreon as a "poor man's micropayments." I was implementing the "spend what you would on a cable subscription" idea and spreading mostly $1 payments across nearly 40 YouTubers. I would love a system that just makes micropayments as I browse/watch.


Just don't fall into the trap of many others that wants to take an amount from my account every month. I'm quite fed up with that.

Instead allow me to pay per view. I'll happy pay a sum in up front to reduce friction.

I think Flattr now has a system that is close to what you describe for YouTube. Micropayments are hard and Patreon is the 1st company to produce serious results experiments like Steem are interesting but siloed in the cryptosphere.

This is exactly what I currently do. I like it: It gives me the feeling of a personal relationship with a creator.

I don't want to pay for everything I watch eiher; I don't think I need to give money to people who repost memes on YouTube.

I am however missing some way to toss creators who don't create frequently, but made something really valuable to me a bit of money.

I'd also like to be able to more finely split the money I give to creators.

I agree. I believe a subscription which bundles articles from different publishers and brings down the cost and pricing, would be more effective.

A company doing this is Noa[1]. They have humans read articles from a bunch of publishers, and have a subscription.

[1]: https://www.newsoveraudio.com/

Has anyone who promotes micropayments studied behavioral economics? If so I'd think they'd play a different tune. Pain of paying is a real effect.

It's basic stuff around loss aversion that's real and documented in real humans as opposed to homo economicus

Retailers solve for loss aversion by offering free refunds, no questions asked.

Why wouldn't the same thing work for micropayments?

Click the link, pay $0.10. If you discover the headline was clickbait, or the writing was bad, or for any reason you didn't like it, click the "refund" button.

Yeah, a few people will abuse this and just refund everything. Retailers have solved this problem, too. People with a refund rate more than 2 sigma from the mean don't get refunds on that site anymore.

To play devil's advocate:

It's not worth the time. People don't want to make decisions about quantifying if something was worth $0.10 of enjoyment. They'll just go elsewhere to slightly worse but totally (guilt-)free content.

Yeah but the whole idea is that if Quid is seamlessly integrated (e.g., paypal integration is often quite nice and 'painless') -- then more people would pay.

FWIW i have no problem installing a micropayment plugin in Chrome that is connected to my credit card, and paying $.05 or something if I find an article I enjoy. I say this -- but I'm terrified of what future that will bring to the internet. Where now everything is behind a micro-paywall.

It's still not even worth it to ask for it as a writer. I've written a few long-form articles (hour plus reads) that have 25k+ reads on Medium. If I was able to get that readership as an author, I'd be a best-seller -- potentially making $100k or more from my writing.

Mind you, this is insanely successful for a writer.

Even still, if on Medium, 3% of people who read my articles are willing to pay $0.25 for them -- I'd make about about $600.

TBH, I'd rather not bug my readers for that little bit of money.

This is exactly why I don't even bother with donations.

Turned out ads were a nice middle ground for most people on most sites. Most ads were boring banner ads. Most people could ignore them. I wasn't hustling for pennies. People who couldn't pay didn't have to. People didn't have to grapple with loss aversion for visiting a website. The model had issues, but it worked.

Now that ad-blocking is ubiquitous, I'm left running my sites (chiefly, a large forum) as a charity. Unless something changes, the internet will soon be centralized corporation-run megasites like Reddit/Facebook... and then the few charity sites run by individuals who can find a niche not dominated by the former.

I don't see a replacement for ads on the horizon. Micropayments still don't work. Nobody wants to have that "will it be worth it?" anxiety every time they click a link. Not every website on the internet can erect its own paywall. Even if you're in the rare position to negotiate private ad deals, then you're probably big enough to get your own entry on Easylist.

As I speak, there's a frontpage submission lamenting the death of individual/smaller sites and weirdness on the internet. There's much more death to come.

How does Medium track reads?

AFAIK, time on page and how far down the article you scroll.

> I say this -- but I'm terrified of what future that will bring to the internet. Where now everything is behind a micro-paywall.

I feel like it couldn't be worse than the current situation where everything is "free" = ad-funded. Especially when those ads are consolidated under few giants.

I'd love an easy, trustworthy system to donate on articles I found particularly useful/entertaining/whatever. They wouldn't have to be behind a paywall. With the scale of the internet, maybe a pay as you will model is possible.

That’s Flattr’s model maybe they can make a comeback...

I think I had heard of Flattr before but wasn't really aware of it. From your comment, has their usage waned?

Why are you terrified of that outcome?

It's like all the paywalls that stop you from consuming premium digital content now. Except micro-paywalls are more pernicious because sites that were once free just require a "small" $0.05 donation before enjoying the rest of the article.

True, but then do you not want it? This is really why ads are better for most. They are fast, passive, and egalitarian. The only problem is the implementation but that's more about politics and regulation than anything else.

There's a lot of naysayers here: it's been tried, it can't be done, etc. But I have a hard time believing all that. They said the same thing about the music industry. The cable TV industry is going through a huge change now. I think someone can figure this out, and I wish anyone taking this on the best of luck! I think it's something we really need to counter the constant barrage of ads, privacy invasions, etc. that we have to deal with today.

Personally, I'd be happy to have some sort of pay-per-article "account" I could use as-needed. But it's really hard to decide whether something is worth reading up-front. And after-the-fact I'm guessing most folks will just not bother. So I'm not sure how you address that. But again, best of luck to anyone taking this on. I'm rooting for you.

It's good to look at previous experiences that failed, but conditions are ever-changing. Ad clickthrough is down, ad-blockers are up, more media outlets closing. Eventually, it will be advertorial content or subscription. Or some other awful end-state like that. Maybe on the way there there is a point where an alternative model that failed in the past, or a new one, is possible. I like the pay upfront, free returns model, block only abusers. It works for stuff where returns have so much friction, it should work for content.

Hi folks -- co-founder Mo here. Happy to answer any questions about this.

We've spent the last year building this platform, and done a ton of surveys and studies to support the thesis behind the product -- users are fatigued by subscriptions, and ads are annoying.

The platform is also technically very interesting, and I'm happy to talk about that too.

There’s no explanation on your site anywhere (at least without signing up) but as a content creator what would my readers expect to experience with your service? Am I basically counting on people to go to your site, set up a new account, and load up their “wallets” with USD that can be semi-automatically siphoned off when they visit a Quid-enabled site?

Good question. There are no wallets, and users don't have to go to QUID to signup beforehand.

One integrated, the payment flow is smooth -- they click pay on your site, it pops up a credit-card entry form, with an e-mail textbox for signup. Once verified, the goods are paid for and you get a signed receipt to deliver your content. (User's cards are charged after they hit a payment threshold.)

More about it on our knowledge base: https://how.quid.works

(Also good point, we'll make that clearer on our site.)

Nice, I like this model. As stated, this would be really useful to have in the site.

Does Quid take risk on shoppers who never hit a payment threshold?

Partly -- we payout only captured fees, but carry chargeback and fraud risk. We're trying to find a balance between practicality and utility, and all this will evolve as we learn more.

Seems ripe for fraud, seller delivers and never gets paid due to threshold (one time shoppers). Good luck.

Isn't this Flattr all over again?

Handily I just recently wrote up my standard list of problems/concerns with micropayments and microfraud: https://github.com/pjc50/pjc50.github.io/blob/master/micropa...

Blockchain is a game changer in that regard. Micropayments we just not economically feasible to this point because of the high fixed costs to settle and process payments. I.e if I want to sell an article for 50cts with PayPal, PayPal would take 30 cts. Blockchain enables much cheaper processing. We at Satoshipay (https://satoshipay.io/) have built such a solution for Publishers and just announced our first big partnership with Europe's leading digital publisher, Axel Springer (https://medium.com/@SatoshiPay/satoshipay-and-axel-springer-...)

You know, PayPal has a micropayment offering. 50¢ would only cost you 8¢


which is a 16% fee :DDD

Some friends of mine built a micropayments platform.


Conclusion: micropayments are hard.

Awesome, I'm glad someone is solving this problem. Micropayments are an ideal route to solving surveillance capitalism and breaking the ad-supported internet.

This looks like it aggregates credit card payments. [1] Charging you on a biweekly basis or when your balance hits 10$. Since it is built off of credit card infrastructure that means it is saving money on the fixed per-transaction fee. Unfortunately, this model can never get below a credit card fee (2.9%).

If you instead made a wallet based app (funded via ACH) you could start pushing 1% transaction fees.

1. https://how.quid.works/buying-with-quid/how-do-i-get-billed

I signed up but I see they're using credit card payment...can this work?

Very cool. Are there any sites already using this platform?

I can only hope for a decentralized alternative using the Lightning Network instead of this model where everybody has to sign up for Quid.

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