Coil & Web Monetization in Hugo

I was on Twitter one day and I came across an announcement that HackerNoon had joined the micropayment world and gotten an infusion of cash from Coil.com. That’s a cool $1 million to implement a new method of web monetization.

I think the current web monetization model is broken and power is concentrated into too many corporate silos. Granted Coil.com is one of those corporate silos too but they’re building their model on a proposed web monetization W3C standard, which is a great first start to ‘leveling’ the playing field for content creators.

Make Content – Get Screwed Over by the Big Dawgs

For years content creators, artists, writers, whoever, struggled with being at the mercy of Google Adsense, YouTube, or Medium to earn some money for their content. Their content was siloed behind those corporate systems and if terms changed or they didn’t like your content, it was booted or hidden. They had the power to censor or not, based on whatever corporate policy they decide.

For example, YouTube changed how Creators were able to earn money from ads by making you have a minimum subscriber base of 2,000 people and something like 4,000 view hours per year. This killed the income for many small-time content creators that were actually supplementing their incomes or just making a plain living from it.

I’ve been around the blogosphere since about 2004 but not in an organized manner since 2007 with this blog, so I’ve seen a thing or two. It all started going downhill once Google killed off its Google Reader. The blogosphere fractured and in one fell swoop pushed people to other social media platforms and away from blogs.

Sure there are other RSS readers out there but Google intended to push people from syndicating their content to syndicating content on their platform.

Why would they do this? It’s all about the data, your data. Sure it’s all free but that means YOU are the product. In my opinion, Facebook is even worse when you see how they handle privacy over the years.

So you can see that whoever has the most data, the more they can make money off you. The more they can sell to marketers or politicians, the more they divine the patterns and ‘next best action’ you’re going to take.

Over time, your content was being packaged up on someone else’s platform and your data (which you gave them freely when you accepted their TOS) was being sold to marketers.

Rise of the Indie Web

I’m a big fan of the Indie Web since I discovered it. It starts to pull back YOUR content away from these big silos. I dare to dream that it will reinvigorate a new Blogosphere renaissance but that remains to be seen if it will happen or not.

Taking back your content and your work is really important for Creators. It’s who you are and if you choose you, you should be able to charge for access. That’s what a lot of Creators have been doing via Patreons or toll-gating their entire site. I too did try this many years ago. I experimented with ‘member only’ content here but it turned out to be too hard to manage and no one cared.

While I’m against the idea of ‘toll-gating’ your entire content, I don’t have anything against providing ‘bonus’ content under some ‘pay as you go’ model. The regular content is free and open-source while some stuff is there for readers will pay a few pennies to read it.

Monetizing viewing time

I will be the first to admit that I’ve used Google Ads on this site. At one point I was making like $100 a month at it. It was great, and if I lived in a country where the GDP was low, $100 could be the difference between food and shelter or starving and freezing. So Google Ads were good at one time.

The money was nothing to sneeze at but then the Internet went another way. Google Ads became too onerous. They slow your site down and clutter up how nice your site looks. I’ve since abandoned them for good but there might be one or two bits of code hiding somewhere, like a ghost in the machine.

The thing with Google Ads is that they require you to click on them which is annoying in itself. Firefox and other browsers figured out a way to hide Google Ads when the page loads and that’s led Google to stop this on their Chrome browser. After all, Google Ads is a HUGE revenue generator and it can only work based on YOUR content. See how this all ties back to how you’re getting screwed over by the big dawgs?

There has to be a better way to monetize your content without being obtrusive and fair. Instead of a click-thru model, a viewer time model was adopted. That’s where Coil and the Web monetization system comes in.

Now Coil is the first mover and they remind me a lot of Medium BUT you don’t have to use their platform. You pay Coil $5 a month to view anything that’s subscriber content (locked by the web monetization protocol) and the longer people read or watch your videos, the more micropayments you get. If your content is any good, then people will spend time on it. If it’s full of fluff, like a lot of stuff out there today, then you won’t earn any money. In a sense, it’s going to force you to make great content again.

You need to install the Coil.com browser extension which picks up the web monetization protocol on your site and then starts streaming money to your account when someone views your content.

The cool thing is that this works with the interledger system, a type of blockchain where payments and transactions are recorded and money USD is deposited to your account. This happens in near-real time and sure as hell beats waiting for someone to click on an Ad on your site.

But you’re stuck on Coil?

Yes, this is true for the time being. Coil is pretty darn new but they’re being adopted like crazy. Since the Interledger system and the Webmonetization protocol is open (not yet adopted by the W3C), it will make sense that other providers will emerge in time.

Web Monetization with Hugo

Now we come to the bonus part of this post which will be locked for non Coil subscribers. If you want to know how I implemented it for this site, which runs on Hugo then just follow the link below. Note, this isn’t perfect but it’s a start.

Coil subscribers will see the bonus video content below.

And that’s it. It’s super simple and I plan on making this more elegant over the next few months. You can download the sample coil.html and exclusive.html files. Just remember to call the partial template in your header file. Thanks so much for watching and supporting me.

End Notes

In the long run, I don’t know if I’ll be toll-gating anything. I’ll probably continue writing content in a completely open manner but I’ll have the web monetization code running in the background. This means if you use Coil and come to my site, I’ll get a few pennies. If you don’t use Coil, well then thank you for reading! As always, I appreciate you coming by here to support and read my site.

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