Blog Post

Zombie knocked out by a money bag

JavaScript Monetization API: How to Fund your Human Resistance Cell after the Apocalypse – Part 2

Editor’s Note: Since this book was originally written Coil has stopped operations, which has put implementation of this on hold. That said, the content here should be accurate if/when another company takes up Coil’s mantle.

Continued from Part 1

Merchandising requires literal user buy-in—that is, users buying products or services from you. Again, this can be lucrative, but it requires a loyal user base. Since the income isn’t recurring, as it is in a subscription model, you’ll need to come up with new and interesting products or services for your users and/or find new users. It’s also a difficult balance between pushing your merchandise to keep the site alive (advertising your own products) and the interests and preferences of your audience. 

Crowdfunding (Kickstarter, Indiegogo, etc.) could be considered a separate model, but when it comes down to it, you’re just trying to sell something (typically a product) before you make it—which, in my opinion, puts it squarely in the merchandising model.

Donation-based sites could be considered a separate model, as the users are not (usually) getting something for their money (unless it’s Public Radio/Television and they’re getting a tote bag). While the single gift and recurring gifts could fall into merchandise and subscription models, respectively, the set of motivations and incentives of users to donate will be different than those of the other site-support models. You will also need to consider how much you push donations (basically advertising that you need donations) or not, which is yet another difficult balance.

The “Patreon” membership model is a variant and combination of the subscription, donation, and merchandising models seen most famously with Patreon’s services for artists and creators. In this model, most things on an artist’s or creator’s site are free, but you can go to the next level by either donating to support them or paying to get exclusives, freebies, and/or early access to content.

Web monetization takes pieces from these different models but looks to reduce friction on the user’s side while also preserving privacy and making the process as seamless as possible for both sides (though there is a bit of setup to get there). 

The major innovation here is micropayments, the ability to stream money in tiny amounts (as small as fractions of a cent). Once set up on the users’ end, this allows them to support the sites they love without a major financial investment by visiting them and consuming content. They pay more the longer they stay. This places incentives in the right places for sites to keep creating content their users love.

When users initiate a payment stream, you can give them an enhanced experience, such as ad removal or additional/exclusive content. In this way, a website can be loyal to its users and put their interests first without having to bow to an advertiser.

There is a downside to web monetization, at least for now. It isn’t very widespread yet. As of August 2021, it’s unlikely to be sustainable as a single source of income. The marketplace for providers (the service a user would use) and receivers (the service a site owner would use) is very small, with one and two entities, respectively. Having additional players would help push the technology along. All that said, monetization is so easy to add that anything it brings in is a bonus for site owners and can continue the push for wider adoption by users who are willing to pay.

One other thing to consider is that the current web monetization receivers are first and foremost crypto-currency exchanges. For some this may be a plus, for others a minus. It does, however, make it feel less accessible and more risky to site owners who haven’t dealt with that side of the Internet or are used to a more stable and regulated banking environment.

To Be Continued