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Universal Paywall Disclosure Number: IPCOM000236179D
Publication Date: 2014-Apr-11
Document File: 3 page(s) / 65K

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The Prior Art Database


Disclosed is a mechanism to provide a universal paywall that allows web-based content subscribers to pay a single monthly fee to a single service, rather than to each individual publisher.

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Universal Paywall

Journalistic web sites have two means of raising money. One is advertising, which works but does not raise enough to support investigative journalism. As a result, newspapers and magazines transition to the web and use the second option: a paywall. Paywalls, however, are imperfect solutions. In the age of paper, one subscribed to the local paper, and bought the occasional out of town paper when it looked interesting. Paywalls, on the other hand, require reader to subscribe to buy a full subscription just to read a few articles. Even those that allow a maximum number of hits without paying are deeply flawed, because a user can exhaust that number of hits in less than an hour on a single commentator . Potential readers find the paywall price too high for casual browsing; the web, after all, is more like a library than a bookstore. Nag popups are annoying, and few people read enough of any given provider to warrant a full subscription. The newspapers and magazines have to strike a balance between giving too much away, and surrendering the very content that might lead people to subscribe, or giving away too little, and losing all the readers. Neither model is a good fit for the web. However, it is clear that investigative journalism requires a better business model for raising money than advertising. Getting it fast is easy; getting it right is expensive.

The solution to this problem is a universal paywall that allows subscribers to pay a single monthly fee to a single service, rather than to each individual publisher. This monthly fee is then distributed amongst participating publishers according to how often the subscribers visit the associated sites, permitting the subscribers entrance into sites that would otherwise be protected by individual paywalls. The price of the single service is low enough to be attractive to users, but provides the ability to spontaneously choose

which newspapers and magazines to visit as users read and follow links. The web behaves like the web again, subscribers browsing the web are able to access high quality content transparently, and publishers supplying high quality content are able to make money without the risk, expense, or inconvenience of single site paywalls. Above all, casual browsers are able to support preferred sites, and publishers can profit from casual browsers, who are probably the majority of the readers.

The main mechanism is an authentication cookie, encrypted with the user identification (ID), a unique session ID, the current Internet Protocol (IP) address of the user when the cookie is issued, and the date and time at which it is issued. Only the date and time are also included unencrypted, indicating when a cookie has expired. Including the IP address and time for the session in the encrypted data makes the authentication useless to anyone else, so that the cookie cannot be farmed. When the user hits a page

whose publisher subscribes to the paywall service, the...