Eftpos is testing an AUD stablecoin on Hedera Hashgraph for micropayments
The constant search for revenue from web content has already changed the world, and will continue to do so.
Eftpos is collaborating with Hedera Hashgraph on a micropayments proof of concept, intended to enable seamless online payments for web users, especially as an alternative to paywalls and subscription models.
It will take the form of an AUD stablecoin, and consumers will try it out by loading a wallet with a few dollars and then using it to pay for Internet content. For example, someone might pay per second while streaming a video, or pay per page on a website instead of subscribing.
Paying the way
“We are excited to work with eftpos to simplify the micropayments process for merchants and retail audiences. eftpos has developed a compelling and impressive proof-of-concept that showcases an alternative to traditional paywall solutions," said Hedera CEO Mance Harmon. "Working closely with companies and applications like theirs, we are confident we can facilitate the next chapter in the payments evolution, delivering a secure, transparent, and level playing field to conduct micropayments."
Beyond the impact it will have on payments, it's also well worth considering how something as seemingly innocuous as web revenue models can quickly cause a world-changing domino effect.
One constant in the history of web content is the scrabble for monetisation. This has given us everything from clickbait to paywalls to perfectly uniform but fantastically obnoxious thumbnails on YouTube videos that are exactly 10 minutes and 23 seconds long.
It's also been a factor behind the rise of populism, political polarisation, "fake news" trends and all the consequences that follow as news outlets in search of funding have gathered around wealthy patrons to act as mouthpieces for political agendas, and cut back on expensive activities like investigative journalism and fact-checking.
While it's easy (and fun!) to attribute the current state of media discourse to these kinds of political agendas, it remains true that printing lies is faster, cheaper and easier than researching and publishing facts, while also making it easier to target specific audiences for the benefit of advertisers.
Web revenue models are the reason people with cancer end up getting bombarded with ads for snake oil and content about natural remedies rather than banner ads saying "see a doctor and don't believe everything you read online".
The endless search for web revenue is also partly responsible for Facebook's simultaneous rise to the position of a ubiquitous giant, the gutting of independent media and what followed.
A few years ago Facebook allegedly lied to publishers about its video stats, inflating the potential viewership that content creators could attract on Facebook. Consequently, many Internet publishers already feeling the pinch of ad blockers, and traditional media outlets trying to make their way into the digital age, eagerly grabbed this lifeline only to find there was nothing on the other end of it.
Journalists and writers were laid off by the thousands to make way for investments in video, and then those video creators were laid off shortly afterwards when it became apparent that all the perceived views and revenue just weren't there.
Now here we are a few years later, with misinformation on Facebook allegedly being a pivotal force in affairs from Brexit to the Rohingya genocide, while most news outlets have either barricaded themselves behind paywalls or devoted themselves more wholly to advancing their patrons' agendas.
Meanwhile, far away in Australia, the organisation running the country's card payment network is experimenting with a new way for people to monetise web content. And if there's one thing we've seen, it's that developments in this area have the potential to change the world.
Opinion: Cause and effect
Let's consider a system where people micro-pay for video content by the second, and can choose to make a small payment to unlock an article whenever they encounter a paywall, rather than needing to get a subscription.
In the short term, we might see video content optimised towards squeezing every second of viewing out of an audience and fostering constant engagement, rather than hitting certain thresholds to squeeze in more ad breaks. Audiences might become more demanding and less patient, unwilling to tolerate extended intros, cameras that pan the scene a little too lazily or YouTube tutorials whose hosts don't speak fast enough.
The content would change to meet audience demands. Imagine what the average movie would look like if it was normal for audiences to pay by the minute, and if they could save money by walking out early?
And in written content, hitting the right headlines and introductions would become even more important, because those would have to sell the rest of the article. You're going to have to pay for the entire article if you ever want to find out what that one simple trick is, why doctors hate her and which common ingredient causes/cures cancer.
If it gets enough traction, a new system for monetising web content could start another unfortunate race to the bottom.
There's also the chance that audiences and publishers just won't bite; that viewers prefer to watch videos at their own pace and without leaking money, and that publishers can't find a fair price for each article that's low enough for people to happily pay, and high enough to compensate for any lost subscription revenue.
One common thread running through other web content monetisation-related crypto projects is that the people aren't terribly interested in paying for content, and that people aren't directly paying for content mostly because they don't want to, not because they can't.
Typical Steem payouts were so low that even the plagiarists left in search of something better to do, while Civil's best attempts at saving the world also failed because it just couldn't find enough people willing to pay for public interest journalism.
The success stories are more about giving something back to users. Brave (BAT), which shares ad profits between publishers and their audience, has continually grown at an impressive clip to become one of the most-used crypto projects in the world. And Oyster (PRL), leveraging a similar principle of giving back to users, seemed to be going pretty well right up until it turned out to be a scam.
In the end, the secret to success for this eftpos-Hashgraph trial and subsequent efforts might lie in flexibility, and additional functions like letting people send funds to each other's wallets, letting you pay on behalf of others as you share a link with them and letting content creators pay money back into consumers' wallets.
This opens the door to new tricks like trying to make content go viral by reimbursing people if they share content after reading it, or even just outright paying them if they spread a video or an article far enough, in the hopes of the extra ad revenue and exposure making up for the cost.
There could also be a future beyond AUD and other fiat stablecoins with tokens that can only be used to pay for specific content, making it easier to build online communities around that, not entirely unlike how Amazon Prime comes with a free Washington Post trial and Twitch subscription. If someone wants to support a specific publication while sharing its message more widely, they can take steps to make it more accessible by distributing its tokens – once again not entirely unlike Amazon and WaPo.
Our choice of online content is an extremely important and very telling social signifier. If you don't think that's true, just try to imagine not forming an opinion of someone based on where they get their news from. It can't be done. It's only natural that we'll eventually look for ways to further identify with and evangelise content that meshes with our worldview. New ways of monetising content might help accelerate that process, for better or worse.
Micropayments for content as in the case of this trial are the basic building blocks. But with time their potential value, and the inevitable unforeseen consequences, could be much greater than we anticipate.
Disclosure: The author holds BTC, ETH, BNB, KDA, BAND, CELO at the time of writing.