ABC tech reporter founds micro-transactions startup


blog Some of you may remember the name of Nick Ross, the editor of the ABC’s Technology & Games site who wrote several in-depth articles criticising the Coalition’s rival National Broadband Network project. Well, what you probably didn’t know is that Ross has also been spending a great deal of time and effort on a side project. Known as ‘Nanotransactions’, the project is micro-transaction technology which Ross hopes will “save high-quality journalism”. I’ve had a look and the technology is actually pretty great — Ross has really gotten a lot of the nuances right here. the good news is that you can click here to support Nanotransactions on the IndiGogo crowdfunding site for as little as $5. I’m about to kick in $50. I hope you can contribute too. Here’s a few paragraphs from the full press release announcing the launch of the project this morning:

Nanotransactions Founder Nick Ross commented: “The Netflix experience in the US has shown us that if content is offered at a reasonable price, using a system that’s simple to use, people will pay. We believe Nanotransactions will deliver a robust and profitable transactional model for publishers of all sizes.”

“Current newspaper pay-wall business models are based on the expectation that less than two per cent of regular online readers will subscribe, but that’s not a sustainable business model for the long term. Paywalls are also annoying for consumers to use particularly when every publisher has a different system. Unless we as an industry take a significantly different approach, our industry will die on its feet,” said Ross.

Nanotransactions is currently being developed by Vivant, the company which created CommBank’s Kaching banking app and its Property Guide app.

Existing micro payment systems cost around 40 cents per transaction in credit card and PayPal fees, which means publishers struggle to find a price point that customers are willing to accept to access content. By contrast, Nanotransactions will charge as little as one cent per transaction, giving publishers the flexibility to set different rates for their content. It is anticipated that the majority of content would be charged from as little as five cents per article, up to 10 or even 20 cents for special or unique content. Payments can also be capped per day or per week or per item of media.

For a major publisher who may see a basic news story achieving a fairly-typical 20,000 views, Nanotransactions offers them the opportunity to potentially generate $1,000 at five cents per view. A micropublisher, or high-profile writer with a dedicated audience or social media following who, would be happy to pay for specialist content, may opt to charge 10c or even 20c per one off article and could potentially generate well over $1,000 a story.

“The current industry standard for freelance writing is just $200per article at best and many freelancers are expected to write for free,” said Ross. These higher rates of return would enable publishers to enjoy greater profitability and in turn pay for more high-quality staff and freelancers, thus improving the general content quality and offering work to the many now-unemployed journalists.

Fantastic news that Ross has gotten this project off the ground — and also that he’s working with Vivant, which created CommBank’s popular Kaching and Property Guide apps. I think this project has quite a good chance of successfully attracting funding and becoming quite large.

Image credit: Nanotransactions


  1. Interesting, Jackson Palmer’s (also an Australian) Dogecoin has been doing similar things when it comes to micro transactions/ tipping. He did a great Foundation interview a couple months ago talking about this kindof service being delivered by companies with existing ecosystems like Facebook and Apple within the next 12 months.

    Not sure the 20% transaction fee will cut it compared to either crypto like Doge (which would be suitable for small publishers but too volatile for big companies) or a big player with an existing ecosystem to subsidize transaction cost, but look forward to being proven wrong.

    • Sorry, are you suggesting that I’m offering a 20% fee? I’m offering flat fees. The lowest is one cent. The highest is five cents. Not doing percentages as they’re unfriendly. Full write up in the FAQ.

      • I think your hardest job is getting people to outlay that initial $5 that goes into their nano-transaction ‘wallet’. That said it will get easier with time and market share.

        • Absolutely. It’s all about getting the people who have the best content to start with it. I’ve got some of those. Just need to build it now!

  2. I like this idea and hope it gets off the ground. I would much prefer to pay very small amounts per article than buying a whole news paper and think it may also encourage more journalists to go it alone like this site which would also mean the good journalists who are writing informative articles and earn enough from this would then be able to keep their income and stick there middle finger up to the boss who had been told all articles must follow a certain political view. Uncle Rupert and turnbollock would then have many more journalists prodding and probing much more than currently are.

  3. I think the time has come for this model to get some traction and succeed. I’d much rather a model where I’ve already gone through the hassle of pre-authorising a certain amount of money but then only consume this credit on a per article / transaction basis, as opposed to that money being for “time”. (An example of this would be Crikey). My reading of some sites ebbs and flows. By paying on a per article basis I’m eating into that credit at a pace I want to.

    This would also need to be ubiquitous enough that reading different sites was seamless from the payment perspective. Good luck, I’ll keep a keen eye on this.

  4. Bitcoin/Cryptocurrencies allow this kind of thing now without having to pay a commission to a third party or rely on banks/payment gateways. This will be the future of online micropayments.

    • Speed of verification is the key, and bitcoin doesn’t have it. If I have to wait even more than 10 seconds waiting for verification to read an article it won’t happen I’ll move on. I’ve waited for a long time for bitcoin when the network is under load.

      • Bitcoin is my desired Second Currency. Once single currencies are sorted, it would be great to have the option.

        Just need to get the first version built now!

        • I don’t doubt it. But before the world FULLY embraces Bitcoin, we need local content creators to get paid in their own currency.

          • Not only that, it needs a low barrier to entry for everyday users.

            “Mum, just install a Bitcoin wallet and then buy some Bitcoin online making sure you dodge the many scams out there on the way. Or mine your own using your commodity PC and come back in a year. Whatever works for you mum. When that’s done you can now pay for articles online (at sites that accept Bitcoin)”

            “Mum, just plug your credit-card into this service and load up some credit. Now you can pay for articles online (at sites that accept that service)”.

            Bitcoin will get there in the long run, but for now it’s just not user friendly enough for every day punters. Apple products aren’t popular because they are the best, or the first, they’re popular because they’re simple enough for everyday people.

            An interesting one to watch anyway.

  5. Sound promising. :-)

    I’d want there to be some sort of universal rating system shown before being told to pay, to help weed out crappy clickbait articles people might try and get away with, but yeah… Has potential.

    Ironically, this sort of platform would have been really useful for Delimiter 2.0 :-P

    • The automated refund system should cope with click bait stuff. And as for Delimiter 2.0, I think I first told Renai about this the day he launched that site. The thing is, D2.0 is actually the perfect example of how to charge a premium price for specialist content to a dedicated audience – one of those rare times a regular paywall actually works.

      It’s sites like this where I think Nanotransactions would thrive. 5c an article capped at 20c a day or a dollar a week? Especially if others like New Matilda used the same account. No? That’s an extra staff member.

      • “automated refund system should cope with click bait stuff” – sweet :-)

        I would have thought a platform like this would first aim for investment from VCs or existing media groups (that had the most to gain from its inception), but then I noticed one of your final points on the Indegogo campaign:

        “The chief has already knocked back an offer to buy Nanotransactions. He doesn’t want to sell out and be a slave to shareholders who will insist on raising prices. It’s far more important to keep the price low and ensure that people WANT to use it.”

        Fair enough. It’s a risky move, for sure, but certainly one worthy of a lot of respect. Best of luck to you mate, and here’s hoping you can reach your campaign goal :-)

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