NFT Subscriptions Are Better Paywalls
It’s all fun and games until you have to unsubscribe from something. The august Times is an object example. The internet has painstakingly documented the difficulties of extricating oneself from a subscription agreement with the writer of history’s first draft.
Take for example, its place of honor in a subreddit called r/assholedesign: A screenshot of its subscription cancellation page attracted nearly 3,000 upvotes and 123 comments. The Times offers subscribers two ways to get out of it: have a chat with a “customer care advocate” or dial an 800 number within, admittedly, generous operating hours (up to 10 p.m. on weekdays!). Of course, all the customer care advocates are occupied, so a chat with them isn’t possible.
The author Cory Doctorow calls the Times’ cancellation page an example of late-stage capitalism’s inevitable creation of “paperwork tsunamis”: You can get in easily, but there’s an “infinitude of hurdles” to get out. So … do blockchains fix this? I’m glad you asked! (Sorry, Cory, I know you’re not a fan.)
Tokenizing subscriptions turns them into bearer assets, and that flips the relationship between publisher and reader on its head. Instead of a publisher holding a readers’ account details, it’s the other way around – readers now hold the keys to the content gates, and they can do what they like with those keys.
As more paywalls are erected, a future where readers are trapped by various “paperwork tsunamis” looms. What if readers had a single key that could unlock various content gates? Even better if that key were a token they held in their wallet.
Another page legacy media can take from the crypto playbook is self-custody. As the nightmarish un-subscribe experience above illustrates, readers would be better served if they could cancel their subscriptions at any time. But doing this means they, not the publisher, have to control the keys.
With Unlock Protocol, for instance, anyone can in theory tokenize a paywall with its system because the code is open-source and the smart contracts have been deployed to the Ethereum network. A publisher doesn’t have to create its own system or rely on the efforts of a company. Instead, it can leverage an open technology, and in Unlock’s case, even hold its native tokens to propose and vote on changes.
As paywalls proliferate, both publishers and readers must be careful not to get hemmed in. We can lock up content, but we must have an equitable and sustainable way of doing so – or else, we simply create a Kafka-esque bureaucracy to trap readers, while excluding others who can’t afford to enter this walled garden in the first place. The solution rests on making sure the right people are holding the keys to our paywalled future.
This content was originally published here.