Tokenfee: the First Micro-Transaction Platform for Digital Publishing, an Alternative to Advertising and Paywalls

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Paywalls Not the Only Option Left to Publishers, Micropayments a More Flexible Alternative

Nanocritical Corp. introduced Tokenfee, a micro-transaction platform specifically designed for digital publishing. Tokenfee delivers one-click access to paid content, such as articles, videos, or blog posts, straight from the publisher's existing websites. Tokenfee handles transactions between 1 US cent and 1 US dollar, and charges publishers a 10% transaction fee. Micropayments increase revenues for publishers, without imposing subscriptions or a change in online behaviors.

Tokenfee is built around the Payment Widget, an innovative interface that enables the secure purchase of a single article or video, in a single click, directly from the publisher's website.

“We created Tokenfee starting with a simple observation: on the web today, nobody really wants to have to choose a single website and subscribe to it”, said Eric Rannaud, co-founder and CEO. “The Internet is great for its flexibility and openness. We constantly follow links from emails, tweets, posts on Facebook or on blogs, to any website. Often, we care more about where, or whom, the links come from than where they go. The subscription model is too restrictive to be compatible with typical online behaviors.”

Tokenfee is not an attempt to change how people use the web. “We're not telling users to buy a special app to read their news, or to go to a stripped-down website, or to buy a new device,” insisted Mr Rannaud. Instead, Tokenfee's mission is to make existing online behaviors sustainable.

Tokenfee makes it possible to sell individual articles for a few cents each, and even casual visitors to a website can access its paid content very easily. Readers have a single Tokenfee account that they can use all over the web. Their account balance is paid regularly using a credit card or a PayPal account, with no pre-payments necessary. “Our motto is: 'You only pay for what you read,'” explained Mr Rannaud.

Tokenfee will launch with a unique refund system that allows readers to get their money back if they are unhappy with a transaction. “The refund mechanism is a fundamental part of Tokenfee's contract with its users,” said Mr Rannaud. “Browsing the web is a very dynamic experience and, frankly, a bit chaotic. Visitors to a website may come from anywhere and know little of the quality of a given piece of content,” he explained. Refunds make the purchase of unfamiliar content less daunting. “If it turns out that you don't like it, just get a refund!”

Tokenfee also brings publishers closer to their readers. With micro-transactions, consumer satisfaction has a direct, immediate and measurable impact on revenues. Whether in print or online, the traditional model has been very indirect: “As a publisher, when you create better-than-average content, even an enthusiastic response from your readers will be muted and delayed,” explained Mr Rannaud. “You will eventually get more subscribers, more advertisers, higher advertising rates. But it will take time, and it will be challenging to isolate which articles had the most impact.”

With micro-transactions, editorial teams can point to the extra revenues directly generated by their high-quality work. It becomes easier to justify the cost of original reporting or investigative journalism. “With micro-payments, the whole dynamic is different, the thinking changes completely,” said Mr Rannaud. “Online ads don't really differentiate between a Pulitzer-winning article and a regular news report. But readers do, and will instantly reward the work they value most.” Online ad rates rarely depend on the quality of the content, but Tokenfee can be used to charge a premium rate.

A Tokenfee purchase will bring around 5 cents, projected the Tokenfee team. This compares with an average of just 0.77 cents in advertising per pageview, for a US newspaper (comScore, May 2010).

Tokenfee integrates seamlessly with existing web delivery infrastructures. The Tokenfee payment widget is added to content pages via the insertion of a single HTML tag. The Tokenfee widget handles the full payment transaction and loads the paid content immediately. The paid content is delivered directly from the publisher's web servers, after authentication of the purchase certificate generated and cryptographically signed by Tokenfee.

“Today, we're releasing a live demo of Tokenfee. In particular, we want to showcase the simplicity of our payment interface, and how easily and seamlessly it integrates into existing websites,” said Mr Rannaud.

Tokenfee has also released a demonstration-only browser extension that can inject the payment widget in the pages of selected newspaper websites. “We want publishers to go on their own websites, and see what it's like to use Tokenfee for a week. Paying for news has never been more convenient.” The extension is for demonstration purposes only and is not used by Tokenfee in production.


About Tokenfee

Tokenfee is a micro-transaction service that offers publishers an alternative to advertising and subscription paywalls. With Tokenfee, digital publishing generates sustainable revenues from popular content without disrupting well-established online behaviors.

Tokenfee is available for evaluation now at Tokenfee will be released for worldwide use later in Q1 of 2011.

About Nanocritical Corp.

Nanocritical Corp. is a technology company based in Vancouver, Canada. Nanocritical was founded in 2008 and is privately held. Tokenfee is the first product released by Nanocritical.


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