Fraxion Payments: A micropayment system for science journalism
“Putting up content for free on Internet is a rip off,” according to Chris Wilkins, founder of Fraxion Payments, a new Internet tool that pays royalties to science writers whose online articles get read.
In development for more than 10 years, Fraxion Payments evolved from being a hobby to a micropayment system for authors. The concept is simple: a reader clicks on a link, pays a few “fraxions,” or pennies, to read the article and the journalist/author of the article is rewarded with a few pennies.
It’s very convenient for publishing articles. Once you have opened a Fraxion Payments account, authors/editors need only stick a tag into the article marking where the “lock” should fall ― i.e. an indicator that the reader has to pay to access the rest of the article ― and then enter a few details into the Fraxion Payments form about how many “fraxions” to charge and some descriptive text for the online catalogue. Fraxion Payments are quick to state that they are not publishers; they simply run the technology that is compatible with blogging software such as Wordpress.
Money transfers are done through PayPal; deposits are made regularly in the author’s account once payments reach a minimum of $20. Royalties are aggregated under email addresses and not magazine sites, which adds the possibility for journalists to publish their articles on different sites. Copyright remains with the posting magazine or the author’s website.
|Fraxion payment system
“Science journalists are very interested because free Internet has damaged more science reporting than other types of reporting,” suggested Chris Wilkins. With the advent of free Internet publications, print publications, especially newspapers and magazines, have lost readership and advertising revenues. Even though revenues in digital magazines and newspapers are growing, they still don’t fill the gap created by the loss in print ads.
As a founding member of Fraxion Payments, Danny Stevens, now senior editor of the recently created online magazine Science Works (mid-2011), got involved “because of the lack of any sensible method for running commercial magazines that are entirely on the Internet, i.e. without a paper version.”
“I like the system not for its technology, but for what it does,” Stevens explained. “It’s a return to selling your content directly rather than selling advertising indirectly. Also, there is the network effect.”
Recently, Alison Binney's New Science Journalism online magazine converted to using Fraxion Payments, and Sheffield University set up a magazine to publish their science journalism faculty’s articles using the Fraxion Payments system. Each has brought a few more readers into the network – about 135 science reporters have signed up with New Science Journalism. “These additions can only build sales for us all,” Stevens added. “And of course, it allows me to give editors and reviewers a piece of the sales.”
“I would certainly recommend it to other online magazine publishers. Besides the sturdy technology that Chris and Danny have built, I believe it will need a critical mass to have a greater effect. The more of us who integrate it, the more readers will be exposed to it, and the more readers who will sign up to pay their micro sum of money to access the content.”
– Alison Binney, editor of online magazine New Science Journalism
“Technologically and ideologically, Fraxion Payments is fantastic,” lauded Alison Binney, editor of New Science Journalism magazine. “I applaud Chris and Danny for their bravado in joining the pay wall media market. I think the idea to specialise in science publications has strength. And it would be great if across the board, readers of similar publications signed up for Fraxion Payments… Fraxion Payments has a catalogue system that facilitates access to NSJ (New Science Journalism) content by readers of science news without actually visiting the NSJ website.”
If not affiliated to an online magazine, reporters can easily create their own site and post their articles. Using Fraxion Payments they can get royalties, mind you not big amounts, a few pennies per read.
For Ester Nakkazi, a Ugandan science journalist, using Fraxion Payments was “like a double gain ― having the world beyond Uganda read my stories and then get paid for it is good.” So far, one of her articles has been read 14 times – 14 “unlocks” in Fraxion Payments jargon ― a pretty good result considering that paying a few cents for reading a science article online is a relatively new phenomenon. Nakkazi hopes the new website where she has posted her articles (www.newsciencejournalism.com) becomes popular so she can have more readers and also widen her scope of coverage. Convinced of the benefits of using Fraxion Payments, she has prompted her Ugandan colleagues to use the new system.
“Because it ― posting articles on New Science Journalism using Fraxion Payments ― was free, not many journalists in Uganda took it on, but for me it worked fine because I wanted a bigger readership for my articles than the regional audience.”
― Ester Nakkazi, science journalist
As the word spreads, improvements are integrated and more science journalists start using the micropayment system, Chris Wilkins hopes Fraxion Payments can foster more collaboration among universities: “It’s all about fair exchange.”
For science reporter Ester Nakkazi, continuing to use the Fraxion Payments system “will be a
major motivation for me to write more and it will help the entire science journalism fraternity.”
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