Patronism and monetizing the social web

July 19, 2011 | Leave a comment

This post is adapted from something I wrote on Google+. There are more comments over there; also see Evan Promodou’s riff on the same idea.

Google+’s combination of streams and circles works. So here’s something I’ve been mulling over for a while:

I really like Patronism‘s central idea. Rather than buying an album, you subscribe to an artist’s feed, and get access to songs, photos etc as they’re produced. That makes a lot more sense to me as a 21st century model for music.

I also follow a lot of writers that I admire, mostly over on Twitter. They don’t post their work there, of course, because there’s no revenue stream for it. But I do get to see what William Gibson, Margaret Atwood et al are thinking on a daily basis. Awesome.

What if I could pay a subscription to the writers & artists I admired, and see their latest content as part of my stream? Short stories to peruse offline, songs to pull to my iPod, and so on. Not to mention academic articles from journals, mini-games from indie developers and so on.

This works best on a decentralized web of nodes. The artist has their home base, eg at artistname.com. They then push out their content, and people can subscribe on Google+, Facebook, in their RSS reader, in a specialized app, from their WordPress dashboard, and so on.

And suddenly you have a monetized decentralized social web. Paid licenses are just one of many kinds of access controls on stream content; circles and access control groups are certainly another. And of course, content can be made available publicly too.

PubCasts: subscribe to publications through RSS

January 28, 2010 | 1 comment

This is inspired by the iBooks launch, but it’s applicable to any ereader that uses the ePub format. (Or, indeed, it could use any ebook format – MobiPocket, Kindle, DAISY, etc.)

A podcast is just an RSS feed with a file enclosure – part of the RSS standard – that points to an MP3 file. Similarly, video podcasts point to video files. An obvious evolution, then, is the pubcast: periodical publications delivered through RSS feeds.

Free publication subscriptions

In the free case, a user would simply subscribe to a public pubcast feed with a compatible reader. The reader software would check regularly for updates, and new publications would be downloaded and fed into the user’s ereader software on release. Easy.

Paid publication subscriptions

In the case of paid publications, there are two options:

An authenticated pubcast feed. When you subscribe to a publication, you get an address to an RSS feed that requires a username and password to download content. (Gmail is an example of an application which already does this.) This authentication ensures that only paid subscribers can access the file, but you could go a step further and watermark the publications themselves.

Activation within the ebook file. The RSS feed itself is public, but each downloaded publication could require an access code to read. This would open the door for public feeds of paid journals, where users could buy each issue individually to read.

Making subscriptions an open standard

Either way, this approach would allow any ereader using any compatible software solution to subscribe to periodicals. It could be used for newspapers, magazines, journals, zines, or new kinds of periodical; they could be hosted anywhere and, in the case of paid content, use any payment provider. I love reading, but dislike monopolies, so this is something I’d like to see.