Update: Drop.io’s technology was acquired by Facebook in October 2010 and the site was discontinued as it was. I’ll be hunting for site’s that offer a similar approach to easily upload content on the fly and charge users for access to it. If you run across anything on your own, please send it our way.
With the discussion over the New York Times’ paywall plans this week, I thought it would be interesting to explore how an individual could set up her own paywall. This isn’t to make a call either way on whether a paywall is good or bad business, but individual experiments in this area could yield interesting results.
While there are multiple ways to host and charge for content online, drop.io offers a fairly simple option. Drop.io is a collaborative, file-sharing service that becomes interesting when you add its privacy options and real-time nature. In addition to file-sharing, drop.io offers the user a feature (appropriately named Paywall) to charge for uploaded content.
Many kinds of media creators can find benefit in a streamlined system for charging for files. Drop.io offers several use cases, which include the independent journalist who wants to charge for monthly access to an insider news service and the photographer who wants to sell high-resolution versions of his images. To this, I also see usefulness to the data journalist who wants to fund her document digging and visualization time by charging for curated data sets. As well, this could be an option for quickly selling that newsworthy photo you caught at the right place at the right time.
Drop.io has a thorough and well-done how-to on their site, but I’ll give the steps in broad strokes here:
- Create a new drop on drop.io’s homepage. You have the option to add a file in this step and you’ll have to create an admin password.
- Access Paywall and follow the setup instructions. This is done by appending your drop’s URL with “/admin/paywall/”.
- Setup your Amazon Payments Business Account. Drop.io will take you to Amazon to set up a new account or you can use an existing one. One thing to note is that your Amazon Payments name will be visible to buyers. So, keep this in mind if there is a desire for anonymity/pseudonymity.
- Finish by entering your Amazon Payments info and agreeing to terms.
It’s important to note that each site will take a cut from transactions. Drop.io takes 1% and Amazon takes 1-3% and some change based on payment method. As well, free accounts on drop.io go up to 100mb, but it’s $20/month to upgrade to 10gb.
All in all, I believe the simplicity of this approach allows for fast experimentation in terms of the kind of content an individual can sell. For example, PaidContent.org began as a one-man trade newsletter by Rafat Ali. As well, the system could fit into the 1000 True Fans model being adopted by entrepreneurial media creators. This is ripe for creativity.