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  • Writer's pictureBart Melton

In the beginning...

Once upon a time in early 2019, I was driving home from the store and listening to NPR on the radio. I happened to catch the last few minutes of an interview about a startup doing micropayments for content. To this day, I don't know what company it was or if they still exist.

Micropayments for content are a dragon that has been chased many times over the last 20 years, but I was hopeful. I loathe internet ads. I have multiple ad-blockers installed. I was happy to hear that we would finally have an option to pay a few cents and get our content without ads or anti-ad-blockers or anything else like that. Then the screaming started. To be precise, I started screaming, "you can't do that, it won't work" at the radio. Why? Because the company was offering it's users free articles in exchange for users giving them personal information about themselves. As a consumer, this was a big red flag. There is an old saying about the internet, "if you can't figure out how they are making money, you're the product". This is how the "free" internet is paid for. Ads stalk us everywhere we go, even if you don't see them, create profiles that would scare the hell out of anybody if they saw them, and use that information like psychological warfare to get you to purchase things online. Thus the reason I loathe them. Now there is a company that wants me to be both the consumer, buying access to the content, and the product, giving personal information to profile me and sell? NO!!!! No no no no no no no. While many have given up on the idea of privacy online, I knew that many more had not. The use of ad blockers has been rising by leaps and bounds for years. When I got home, I set out that night to start figuring out how to do micropayments for content. CentiPenny has since expanded our focus to areas such as apps and games, but we were started as a micropayments for content provider. What makes us different is that we started from a consumer's perspective. What would it take to get consumers to buy in? The first one was a no-brainer. If you are paying for content, then you shouldn't be the product. No targeted ads. Next, we aren't going to make the same mistake (in my view) that got me screaming at my car radio. We have been told that the data we collect would be an awesome tool even, just keep it anonymous. No! We are not going to profile our users. Period. As a user, absolute privacy is a must have in order to "buy in" to paying for content. So we collect only what we need to do our job, which is facilitating payments. Looking at the numbers, for businesses, the loss of ad revenue, compared with what businesses earn with micropayments, is a no-brainer. Micropayments can pay orders of magnitude more than ads. The challenge is getting users to accept that they have to pay for what has always been "free". That is why privacy is so important. It is integral to getting users to accept a new way of doing things. Once people accept that "this is the way", nobody cares about spending $0.01 or $0.05. It is trivial. Everyone can afford it. More on that later, but for now, this concludes our superhero origin story. Thanks to NPR for being our genetically modified radioactive penny.

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