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Readers tipping writers: ideas for micropayments on publishing websites

Australian music and entertainment publisher The Brag Media is implementing a micropayment option across its brands allowing readers the option to “shout its writers a coffee”. 

The micropayments feature was launched in May 2019 following consultation with readers, who expressed their desire to donate to writers directly and ensure their support directly benefits the writer. On launch, The Brag Media said that it hoped the feature will help strengthen the bond between its readers and its writers. 

The Brag Media Managing Editor Poppy Reid said at the time “We are so excited to roll out this feature across The Brag Media’s titles. We’re always looking for fun ways to connect our fans with our content creators and with this idea coming direct from the fans, we just had to jump on it. I don’t personally drink coffee though, maybe shout me a tea?”

The option of leaving a donation in return for quality content isn’t a new idea in publishing. The Guardian is well-known for successfully using this strategy. In May this year, The Guardian reported that it broke even financially for the first time in “recent history” thanks to the help of financial contributions from readers – 300,000 of which made one-off donations to its website. 

But publishing companies providing an option for readers to directly reimburse the writers for their contributions is – to my knowledge – unique. 

The ‘Buy the writer a coffee’ micropayments feature appears on each article across The Brag Media’s websites and lets readers choose how much they would like to donate and leave a personalised note. Payment is easy, redirecting to a PayPal option once an amount has been entered and submitted. 

The ‘shout a writer a coffee’ micropayments initiative on The Brag Media’s Industry Observer website.

On logistics, 70 per cent of the donation goes to the writer, with The Brag Media retaining a 30 per cent administration fee. For full-time staff, donations are added to their regular wages, whereas freelance staff tally their donations on their invoice. 

Now that the initiative has been running for over six months, The Brag Media CEO Luke Girgis says that the company has seen “a small regular uptake every day, however twice a month we see huge spikes in donations when particular articles go viral”. 

He says that it is hard to measure a change in the dynamic or morale of the editorial team since the introduction of the micropayments, but he proposed taking it down at one point to make room for another initiative “and all the writers were quick to squash that idea. They love it and didn’t want it to go!”

“It’s very heartwarming,” he says. “The writers absolutely love getting shouted coffee by our readers and many of them reach out to their donors to thank them and engage in further dialogue about the related story.” 

Established in 2017, music and entertainment publisher The Brag Media currently reaches over 5.3 million Australians per week via its Tone Deaf and The Brag platforms. The publisher recently signed a licence agreement with Penske Media Corporation to publish Rolling Stone Australia from January 2020. 

The Brag Media’s content offering includes editorial, interactive and video. The company employs 18 staff in Sydney and Melbourne.

Written by Lyndsie Clark

Niche Publishing Network Founder and Editor Lyndsie Clark has over 10 years of niche publishing experience, working in a variety of roles spanning B2B editorial, sales, operations, events, BD, and management.

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