Revenue / Reward Idea: Tips to Authors

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Seeking Alpha (SA) should provide a way for readers to "tip" or otherwise reward authors of public articles. SA should learn from related subscription platforms like Twitch which offer both subscriptions AND the ability for viewers (readers in SA) to show ad hoc appreciation to content-providers. Twitch calls these ad hoc contributions "bits"; some similar branding cleverness would be appropriate for SA; Twitch (Amazon) gets a portion of the contribution to fund ongoing operations and for profit, the content provider gets the majority.

The advantages of this are:

* Such "tips" are a secondary, parallel revenue stream independent of the subscription stream.

* Tips help monetize public/free content that is otherwise going unmonetized EVEN in the face of the fact that some consumers of public content would make such contributions from time to time.

* Tips access revenue from the largest consumer group: the free content consumer. In Porter terms, this would be the "short armer" group, and tips functionality help the short-armer from straining themselves as fail to reach for their wallets to make a full subscription.

* Unlike subscriptions, tips are deliberately small and provide no additional value to the contributer other that showing ad hoc appreciation. This distinguishes them completely from subscriptions where extra value is the attraction. There is no revenue poaching as a result. 

* This smallness aids in the conversion of non-revenue readers. While this group of readers will not pay subscription rates, they will pay small amounts over time. In some cases, as Twitch has shown, they may pay annual contributions as tips that equal that of a single yearly subscription or more. Again, conversion.

* This parallel revenue stream is a small-amount but volume-based one. Completely orthogonal to subscriptions, to which it is complementary.

* While distinct from subscription features, it is not mutually exclusive with subscription. A reader with some subscriptions may wish to show appreciation to favorite authors they do not wish to subscribe to. A function to show ad hoc appreciation collects revenue that would otherwise be lost, even for existing subscribers.

* A tip program like that of Twitch operates out of a user tip-funds balance that is funded in advance. That is, you collect the money the consumer intends on spending in advance and they make ad hoc contributions over time. While those funds are a liability until contributions are made when they become realized revenue, the value of in advance funding cannot be lost on you.
 * Properly approached, ad hoc contributions are community building and a positive influence. Consider again Twitch: the ad hoc tipping is incorporated into their live chat during video streaming and is announced to all. Viewers having made such a tip are tagged with an icon, and their tip-based chat message is similarly tagged. Thus contribution is public and shown to be backed with money (i.e. it is real appreciation) even if small. This encourages others to do the same; the tip jar is glass. Furthermore it has a positive effect on the chat/comment stream--there is evidence of appreciation, however small ($1-$10 value is typical), in the comments rather than just air. This has some positive influence on the tone & topic of comments. For Seeking Alpha, the natural corresponding location is the comment section; tag tippers with icons, tag their comment containing the tip, tag them in other comment streams for up to 1 weeks since their last tip. Tips of course can be made anonymously, at the choice of the contributer.

* Finally, in addition to being a sensible new, independent revenue stream for SA that promotes positivity in the public discussions, and from a completely untapped revenue source, but it directly rewards content authors both financially and mentally/emotionally for public content--something that is poorly handled currently and only occurs through untagged comments lost in the noise (tagged tip comments are obvious) or indirectly through purhaps a new sub.

Let me sign off of this proposal by saying this: I have NO subscriptions (short-armer). I read SA every day. I follow a number of interesting authors. I occassionally comment. I tip on Twitch. I would tip on SA. But my potential revenue is being left on the table.

SA Jacob Maltz
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Thanks for the idea.  I forwarded on to our contributor success team.