“People have to be patient,” said Typaldos. “It’s going to start slow, because you have these two sides, [the sites and the supporters], and you have to kind of ratchet them both up at the same time. Now, obviously, if we got a really big site, that would completely jump-start this. You know, like The Huffington Post or The New York Times or something.”
A lot of personal blogs are participating, as are a handful of news sites along the lines of The Daily Camera in Boulder, Colorado and the Center for Investigative Reporting. CJR columnist Craig Silverman just signed up for his personal site, Regret the Error, after reading the MediaShift article. But none of the big guns have signed up so far.
Typaldos blames bureaucracy. “At some of these newspapers, I was just blown away by how knowledgeable the media people are, but you know, they’re not the ones running the show,” she said. “They all got really interested, and—you name any big media company, we were talking to them. But the media people weren’t running the show.”
This may be the biggest problem for Kachingle, as it is for many start-ups. The quirkiest, coolest ideas—even those embraced by industry opinionators at first—are still no match for the realities of organizational behavior. Unlike a personal blog or a site with a handful of people on staff, corporations don’t make decisions quickly; they can’t. Size is an asset to large media companies when it comes to having resources on hand and commanding influence in a community of readers; it also makes those same companies inflexible and resistant to change. Structurally speaking, the bigger a structure becomes, the harder it is to move.
Fitting a little Kachingle widget seamlessly onto a homepage isn’t actually as easy as it sounds, if the homepage you’re talking about is nytimes.com. Figuring out how to get the money into the right account might be difficult, too, or at least enough of a hassle to not seem worth the trouble for the small amount of money they’d be getting at first. And—I’m just speculating here—maybe some sites wouldn’t necessarily appreciate the transparency of Kachingle’s process, where all contributions are publicly tracked? Whatever the reason, big media companies are just slow to move on everything. Even on a low-risk experiment like this one.
What’s more, between the time that Kachingle was first noticed and the time it actually launched, the “monetize online content” conversation seemed to have shifted from micropayments to paywalls. If most major news organizations are mired in plans to transition to paywalls, signing up with a micropayment site with a goofy name (sorry) might seem to them like scooping out water from a sinking ship with a paper cup.
Still, despite the lack of any big-name partners, and despite the recent lack of media attention, Typaldos remains convinced Kachingle is on the verge. “It’s the perfect time. It’s the perfect time!” said Typaldos. “It’s hard to get the dinosaurs at first. But we’re getting the innovators.”
Update: This post originally identified Flattr as a Dutch company; it is Swedish. The error has been corrected.