Here’s my theory and it’s not as bad as the title of this blog post might have made it seem.
You might have been reading a lot about online fake news recently and much of the controversy is based on Donald Trump and his election but fake news…Or at least exaggerated/non-researched news… is a bigger problem than you may realize.
This is down to the way the internet currently works or to be more specific the economics of the internet.
Let’s look at news sites as an example. The majority of news websites make money through advertismets placed around their articles. The website will make a small amount of ad revenue for every click the article gets because new ads are refreshed each time. It doesn’t matter if the reader likes the article or engages with it, the only important factor is that the title of the article is clicked in the first place to bring the reader to the page, therefore exposing them to ads.
So what’s the issue? Well, if the news site is being payed per view then the content of the article, in theory, has no relevance. Getting paid relies solely on getting the click (this is where the term click-bait comes from).
How does this tie into fake news? The most profitable course of action for a news website under the current economic conditions is to pump out as many news stories as they can, in the fastest possible time, with the most luring headlines available.
The lack of time online journalists are given go hand in hand with a lack of research. This combined with the fact that the headline needs to be clickable means that it’s not only easier but also economically profitable to release stories without any research based on the most controversial rumors available…And this is what leads to untrustworthy news.
What makes this worse is the viral nature of the internet. Once one blogger releases a fake news story others are bound to jump on the bandwagon in an attempt to get their share of the pie. Before you know it, a false or partly false story is being spread all over the internet and even well known news outlets begin to cover the story.
Can this problem be fixed? This is where my theory for the future of the internet comes in. What if the economic model of online ads was partly replaced with a small fraction payment (like 0.001) every time you visited a website.
Sure websites would still benefit from attracting you in with clickable headlines but would also benefit from proving well researched articles to keep you trusting their brand and encourage you to visit on a regular basis.
Internet users would be more picky about the websites they visit and would only engage with what they feel is worth their small payment.
To be honest, I doubt this would solve the problem completely but I still think it’s a potentially interesting economic model to think about.
And if you are wondering how this micro payment system would work. Look no further than the rise of digital currency. As an investor in Bitcoin I want to cover this topic more fully in another post BUT..
IMAGINE using a browser with an online wallet build it. You have access to your balance at all times, there is no middle man, payments are instant and automatic, you can send and receive money from every corner of the world with an internet connection and there are no fees or regulations.
This is a real possibility and could be the way you start paying (a small amount) to surf the internet.
Let me know what you think. Would this payment system be a good thing or a bad thing? Also how do you feel about fake news? Any solutions?
Thanks for reading