Skip to main content
 

Decentralized paid subscriptions for independent publishers

3 min read

A real problem that needs to be solved is making it easier to subscribe to independent publishers putting out great, regular content. Online magazines, blogs, podcasts, etc. Independence and autonomy are important, but discovery and ease of use are too.

RSS is a pretty ancient technology, but it's in far more use than you'd think. For example, every podcast runs on RSS. There are a lot of sites that use MRSS behind the scenes, to power portals like AOL News, and to ingest multimedia content in back-end systems. Readers are largely gone, but not the backbone technology.

What RSS is missing is authentication. Knowing who the user is would allow for more personalized experiences, and it would also allow publishers to add business models to monetize their distributed content.

So what if we added OAuth 2.0 as a really simple auth layer, so that content providers could accurately assess who was requesting a feed, podcast, etc?

Add three new tags to the RSS feed:

  • The URI of the OAuth endpoint
  • A human-readable URI where an authenticated user can pay to subscribe or manage their account
  • Whether this feed contains premium content or not (maybe a label for the content level - "free" / "subscribed")

This way, a compatible feed reader / podcast client could tell a user if it's possible to subscribe to get premium content. They could auth the user (possibly allowing them to register with the publisher) and point to a subscription page.

From then on, the reader makes a signed request whenever it looks for the feed. The publisher is responsible for figuring out whether to serve premium content or not based on the user's identity.

The publisher gets to decide which CMS to use, which payment provider to use, how much to charge, etc etc - they retain full autonomy. If they want to use Stripe; fine. Bitcoin; whatever. The only major standardization point is authentication itself.

The market is then open to anyone who wants to create a hub for finding content. Publishers might pay the hub to promote their sites - or lots of business models are possible. But paid subscriptions are baked into apps and readers, and are totally under the publisher's control.

Everyone gets to have their own website and content model. Everyone gets to have a standard way of pointing to a built-in revenue model, and decide what that is.

Imagine if Apple News, Flipboard, Medium, and maybe even the Facebook news feed, as well as hundreds of independent apps, could all feed directly into independent publisher revenue streams.

Anyway, just a thought I've been having. Thought I'd share.

 

This piece was originally a tweetstorm.