Charlie Brooker’s latest posting about how to get people to pay for online newspaper content where he says that all that’s needed is for “someone [to] perfect a system of universal online micro-payments once and for all”
Argh! What does it take to kill this meme? There are micropayments systems everywhere online! The problem is not that there is some technical barrier to implementing them – it’s the fact that it is yet one more thing demanding you take time and pay attention: the problem is cognitive not technical!
Imagine the scene: there you are, deeply engrossed in the latest edition of your favourite paper and you click on a link, and up pops a message saying “this article will cost you 1.25 pence to read: do you want to continue?” – and your train of thought is shot: suddenly you have to switch mental tracks and stop thinking about what you were reading and what you were about to read and make a decision as to wether you want to cough up that amount of cash.
And there’s the rub: it is the making of a new and totally unnecessary decision that annoys people: you can only make so many decisions per day – and being forced to make them where you didn’t have to before is profoundly distracting.
Micropayments have been tried before and they have failed before. As a model for payment for content they just don’t work.