So you liked that blog post you just read--why don't you toss the writer a buck or two?
That's the rationale behind new-media outlet Salon's latest initiative. Members of its "Open Salon" user-generated content community can now "tip" one another with real-world money if they like what they see. You know, like street musicians. Popular content will also appear on the main Salon.com homepage.
Plenty of sites have instituted virtual reputation gauges (i.e. Yelp's "compliments") and a handful of amateur-content-driven media sites like GroundReport give their contributors a cut of ad revenue, but having members compensate one another is a pretty novel concept.
Salon's micropayments are handled through technology from Revolution MoneyExchange, a member of the Revolution corporation founded by former AOL czar Steve Case. Each Open Salon member who registers for Revolution MoneyExchange is given a complimentary $10 with which to start rewarding other bloggers for their stories, images, and videos uploaded to the site. But those would-be recipients can only accept the compensation if they've registered for MoneyExchange accounts themselves.
"Open Salon eliminates the gatekeepers," editor-in-chief Joan Walsh said in a statement. "It makes our smart, creative audience full partners in Salon's publishing future."
Will it work? Sure, while that free $10 is still available. After that, it's less certain. If the results of Radiohead's pay-what-you-want In Rainbows album are any indicator, Web users tend to cough up the cash when they have to and take content for free when it's possible. But on the flip side, there are plenty of people willing to pay for virtual "gifts" in Facebook, not to mention shelling out alarming amounts of real money for the spear-and-magic-helmet offerings in role-playing games.
And the highbrow, left-leaning Salon is a pretty civilized environment in which to institute this kind of system. If "tipping" were added to a more rabble-friendly site like Digg, well, that might spell chaos.
But the idea of this might make me inclined to write something of decent quality for Open Salon and see if I get some pizza money in return. Especially if I knew that Bill Gates were reading, or something.