Although the Lightning Network is most often touted as a way to reduce transaction burden on the main Bitcoin blockchain, various other use cases are becoming apparent as more people experiment with it.
One of the most potentially revolutionary is the ability to make incredibly small payments for online content. This could have a massive impact on the way content creators monetise their work and, if the largest names in publishing get on board, could be massive for Bitcoin adoption generally.
Is Lightning Network Poised to Strike Online Publishing?
It is no secret that the internet has had a detrimental effect on the quality of journalism. Where advertising revenue is king, sensationalism pays the bills. Some once-highly-respected publications have tried to avoid the temptation to rely too heavily on such “click-bait” tactics by using subscription services.
However, the problem with these membership schemes is that many readers don’t want to pay for a whole month’s access to a publication just to read a single article. This poses an interesting opportunity for Bitcoin’s second layer payments network, Lightning Network.
Since Lightning payments are cheap and fast, they could easily be used to provide pay-per-view services at publications both large and small – a use case highlighted in a post last September on crypto portfolio application Crypto Millionaire’s blog.
The author of the piece, titled “I sent letters to top newspapers asking for Lightning Network micropayments. Here are their responses so far”, claims to have done just that. In a letter addressed to “Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, New York Times, and many other”, they outline the above argument that many people wanting to read articles behind pay walls would be happy to pay for them. However, the current subscription model does not cater to the occasional reader:The solution proposed is for publications to implement Lightning Network micro-payments for content. The author of the letter argues that publications implementing LN payments for content would:
“… get a lot more revenue, a lot of hype from the crypto and millennial communities and, most importantly, look cool and like keeping up with the times.”
Old subscription models could even be retained for those wishing to pay the full monthly fee and enjoy unlimited content. Meanwhile, a lot more casual readers would be contributing to the publication’s overall profitability. This increased revenue could then be spent on quality investigative journalism, rather than perpetually budget-cutting to keep costs down and relying more heavily on click-bait-style content.
In last year’s piece, a few of the publications responded. The Washington and Wall Street Journal stated that the suggestion was being forwarded to the relevant departments. Meanwhile, the Financial Times were rather more positive:
“You have a good point in suggesting Lightning Network micro-payments in which customers can use if they want to read an interesting article on ft.com. We take onboard your suggestion and hopefully one of the things that our marketing teams would consider.”
Bitcoin Micro-Payments at Major Publications Could Seriously Drive Adoption
It’s been six months since the publications were contacted and unfortunately there is still no sign of Bitcoin Lightning Network micro-payments at any major news publication. This feels like the beginnings of a missed opportunity for both the publications and Bitcoin.
Although initial uptake might be limited, if visitors to a pay-walled article realised that there was a way to pay for a single article, many of the keenest readers would likely choose to explore it. Not only could such a payment model serve to increase the quality of journalism across the board but it could be a serious boon for Bitcoin adoption too.
That said, it is still early days for Lightning Network. The size of the network and the value it’s capable of transferring have been growing at a rapid pace, however, it still might be moving a little too quickly to have the Wall Street Journal announce Lightning micro-payments right now. The network is still very much in its infancy. That said, when the network has matured, integrating Bitcoin micro-payments with leading publications is surely the perfect way to both reinvigorate a struggling industry and promote BTC adoption.