Major news outlets all ask (fairly) for subscriptions to access their digital content after reaching a monthly cap. This poses a problem when you read from multiple outlets, but only barely cross the thresholds, or don’t feel you’d get enough value from a full subscription. Dave Winer proposes an interesting system to grant access to multiple news outlets with one payment:
So how about forming a trust of some kind, and I pay money to it and that creates a allocates a certain number of reads for me per week across all participating publications. And the money is distributed at the end of the month according to how many articles I read on each site.
Dave Winer, “I’d like to pay more for news, but…”
I’ve read about micropayments as a solution to this problem: instead of subscribing to an outlet, you’d pay for each story. Even done well, though, this carries the burden of constantly calculating how much you’ve spent, and managing payments across outlets.
Outlets could also offer tiered subscriptions: access to more or less articles according to a higher or lower monthly fee. This alleviates the value-for-your-dollar issue, but doesn’t address the difficulty of managing subscriptions across multiple outlets.
Winer’s idea neatly solves both these problems: one payment for access to all participating outlets. Your money is appropriately allocated, and you don’t have to maintain multiple subscriptions.
The key to this is also its stumbling block: it only works if enough significant outlets sign on, and they’ve all wholeheartedly embraced the subscription model. Would be happy to see this change—I’d pay for it, even.