I have had this idea bouncing around in my head for a few years. It really came into focus after Readabilty introduced the first iteration of theirproduct which was met with a lot of unhappiness from publishers. I thought itwas a good idea that needed to be tweaked a bit to be something I would wantto use.

I think the idea of collecting money as a function of usage is a good one butI don’t think anyone has gotten it right. The Flattr model is uninteresting to me. I will not remember to press a button.

So here is my idea. I have wanted to do it for a while. I have domain names andhave made half-hearted attempts at building it. It is exactly how I want to payfor reading my favorite weblogs:

Rather than a pay wall this is more like a pay meter. A porous sort of wall that really just identifies you as a reader after you become a site’s subscriber. If you are already signed into the application then you can subscribe directly on a publisher’s site with one click via a widget. You don’t have to subscribe to access the site. You can keep reading any participating site as you normally do. The only difference is this application (let’s call it readerkit.com because that was a domain I bought for it) tracks every time a subscriber views a page on the site and develops an inventory of content you have read.

At the end of the month you are sent a bill that you do not have to pay.

For example, let us say John at Daringfireball has signed up and determines he would like 25¢ for all pages viewed in a session. A session being some amountof time where a reader checks the index page and reads some posts.

Let’s say the reader does this twenty times a month. At the end of the montha bill is sent, detailing the use, and displaying a total for Daringfireball(20 x 25¢ = $5) as well as any other site the reader is a subscriber of in that time period.

The email has two buttons: pay now and modify bill.

Clicking “pay now” will take the reader to a page to verify they want to pay the whole bill. Payment is made to Readerkit and then immediately dispersed to the publishers.

Clicking “modify bill” will take the reader to page where they can edit the bill. They can remove some sessions. They can directly edit the total amount going to the publisher—that is increase or decrease what they are paying. It is completely up to the reader, this is just a way to prepare a bill for themand establish their opinion of the value for the content during the month.

Here is the cool part: readers who consistently pay their bills will contributetoward a confidence number that publishers can look at and get a sense of howmuch money will be coming in at the end of the month. In addition, a publisher’s biggest supporters can be identified and viewed along with their support history.

There are lots of things you could do with a supporter list: better tech support, a view into your most loyal readership, but what this isreally about is putting an engine in place to calculate a value on the content that the market agrees with.

I wish I could build it but since I can’t I hope someone out there can becauseI want to use it.

Ever since I helped start Federated Media (8 years ago??) I think a lot about how to support independent publishers looking to diversify their income fromjust advertising. While FM lost the plot at some point, I still believe in theoriginal mission John laid out. That’s why I joined Tugboat. I still believe in independent publishing and I think there are still a lot of opportunities to build support structures to keep them going.