Why We Built a Social Network that Costs 10¢ to Post Content
Most people told us it would never work, but we did it anyway: We started charging 10¢ to post content on our social network. Our users didn’t leave. In fact, they are posting more than ever, and the quality of content has improved. Our experiment seems to be working. People are willing to pay to post content.
That is not the only thing we’ve done differently. Our users can submit content with a pay wall, at a location and price of their choosing, and charge to access the full version of their content. Most users charge 10¢. Quality content sells. Sometimes for $1.00 or more. Many people told us this would never work, but it seems they were wrong. Our users are willing to pay for good content.
Our users also spend money to upvote content. Each vote costs 10¢ and the payment is distributed amongst earlier voters. This is our most popular activity. People love to pay money to vote on things. Who would have thought?
Yesterday, we added a comment feature. It costs 10¢ to post a comment and the money goes to the original author. Our users enjoy paying the original creator to post a nice comment next to their work.
We’ve broken the biggest rule of social media, and it’s working. People are willing to pay for things on the internet!
Micropayments have been talked about since the 1990s. At that time, it seemed like the obvious way to monetize content on the internet. But it never happened. Instead, we have an internet funded by ads and subscriptions. Why didn’t micropayments ever take off?
No one ever tried. Until Bitcoin was launched in 2009, it wasn’t possible to send micropayments over the internet. Companies found a workaround by selling data to third party advertisers and charging monthly subscriptions.
Although these methods have worked well for some businesses, especially Facebook and Google, they have not worked so well for most creators or consumers.
Along the way, a mythology developed: “People will never pay for things on the internet.” That’s because some companies had such great success with ad-funded services that users had grown accustomed to not paying for things, and they would never be willing to change.
We suspected there was something wrong with this hypothesis. People pay for things all the time, sometimes in very small amounts. Why would internet content be exceptional? There seemed to be no empirical evidence for this and no one had ever run the experiment.
Even companies that came close, like Patreon, didn’t simply charge for access. They were based on voluntary donations. But tipping in the real world is a tiny fraction of the world economy. Purchases are much bigger, and investments are the biggest of all.
Our hypothesis is that people are willing to pay for things on the internet if they get more out of it than the cost of the payment. We launched our beta three weeks ago.
We are starting with cost to post, a pay wall, voting, and comments, but we have a lot more in store. Now that we have payments in a social app, there are many different payment mechanisms we can test.
Over the next three months, we will iterate our product relentlessly as we identify what works and what doesn’t. Currently, our basic hypothesis is holding: People are paying for things. And our users are earning money.
There is nothing behind the pay wall, but I appreciate tips :)
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