Payyattention widget ends. New direction: emergent authority

By Steve Outing

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that I’ve been playing around with alpha and beta versions of some content payment and donation solutions. Today I deactivated Payyattention, which added a widget at the end of article pages asking for a quick, voluntary payment if you liked what you read and want to monetarily support me. (This was a trial, and no actual money was accepted.)

The developers of Payyattention have been working on several concepts all generally revolving around the mission of identifying and funding the best online content. A tipping system, even if it’s simpler than previous ones that have come and gone over the years and containing a social-signal component, apparently isn’t the way to go, they’ve decided, so the Payyattention widget is about to expire.

According to Steve Farrell of Payyattention, he and his partners are moving in a different direction that might best be described as “emergent authority structures.”

That geeky-sounding description can be simplified. Farrell says that his team’s future direction will focus on providing or pointing online users to the highest-quality news and entertainment and bringing it to a wider audience. This will be selected by “aggregating the sum of thousands of individual decisions about who and what is worth paying attention to,” he says. (If that sounds akin to Digg, ponder that the two y’s in Payyattention were inspired by the two g’s in Digg.)

HourlyPress model

An example of this is HourlyPress, a project of Payyattention that uses the linking behavior of a selected group of influencers on a particular topic to identify, each hour, the most important stories published recently online. The first example of this is NewsAboutNews, which has been operating for a few months now and tracks the Twitter link behavior of seven thought leaders on news and media who are frequent Twitter posters.

NewsAboutNews lists the top 10 articles about news and media as determined by article links that the seven selected influencers (“editors”) have included in tweets, combined with tweets and retweets by other “sources” (people who the editors follow on Twitter). A more complete description of the process of best-story selection can be found on the HourlyPress homepage.

Farrell believes this is truly significant and points to the future of news:

“We see this approach as being the future, displacing the broadcast model that we’ve all grown up with, RSS news readers, and haphazardly finding things through your friends on social networks.”

If I’m understanding the direction that Farrell and company are heading, it’s in identifying the best content about any topic or area in realtime by using a combination of computer algorithm and the online behavior of a selected group of humans with a shared expertise or interest, and their like-minded colleagues. You might think of it as in between Google News, which selects news stories purely by machine algorithm, and a website like Digg where lists of top stories are ranked by the recommendations of a mass of self-selected online users.

In between, perhaps there’s not only opportunity, but a better way to identify the best online articles and content streaming through the vast, rapidly moving river of Internet news.

For Farrell, it’s about the belief that consumers faced with news and information overload online will begin to look for the best filtering mechanisms.

As for the financial model that can be layered on top of emergent authority networks, that’s the big thing to be tackled. You can ponder that challenge more deeply by reading this post on “retrospective news” by Lyn Headley, one of Farrell’s partners.

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!