The micropayment wars have begun

June 8, 2016
Category: Tech & Tools

Today’s edition of Morning Media (Politico’s daily roundup of everything journalism) contained an interesting item for the future-of-news crowd: Blendle, the Dutch “iTunes for News,” has competition.

The new entrant is Tibit, a London-based firm that expands the concept of micropayments beyond news, according to its website. Using “tibs,” the company’s digital currency, users can contribute to a variety of enterprises — journalism, charities, open software and art, among other things.

The company’s chief innovation is a button that content creators can put on their websites to make donations seamless. Here’s a quick primer:

Tibit’s focus on news puts it at odds with Blendle, which launched in the U.S. earlier this year after accumulating 500,000 users in the Netherlands and Germany. Blendle’s American foothold includes partnerships with major U.S. news organizations such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and others.

But Alexander Klöpping, the co-founder of Blendle and an evangelist for micropayment, apparently welcomes the competition, telling Politico’s Joe Pompeo that it ultimately benefits journalism.

“I’m glad the micropayment war has started,” he said, “because in a world of ad blockers, declining ad revenue and an increasing demand for reader revenue, we’re even more certain of the fact that quality journalism is worth money and that people are willing to pay. As long as it’s easy.”

In addition to Tibit and Blendle, Pompeo cites a third micropayment company, Outl!t, which confines its operations to the U.S.

The new entrants to the micropayment arena aren’t surprising, given the industry-wide push to seek out alternative business lines in the wake of declining ad revenue. But the question, raised by Nieman Lab earlier this year when Blendle launched, still remains: Will people fork over money, even a little bit, in a world suffused with free content?