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Fewcents raises $1.6M to help publishers take payments for individual articles, videos and podcasts

Many publishers are focused on converting visitors to subscribers, but there’s another important bracket: people who want to view a premium article or video, but not enough to sign up for a subscription. Fewcents, a Singapore-based fintech startup that enables publishers to take “micropayments” for individual pieces of content, announced today it has raised $1.6 million in seed funding.

Fewcents can be used to monetize articles, video and podcasts. It accepts 50 currencies and is meant to serve as a complementary stream of revenue to advertisements and subscriptions. Its current clients include India’s Dainik Jagran, which has a readership of 55 million; Indonesian news site DailySocial; and streaming video site Dailymotion. The company, which monetizes by sharing revenue with digital publishers, also struck a partnership with Jnomics Media to expand in Europe.

M Venture Partners and Hustle Fund participated in the round, as well as angel investors from some of the top fintech, adtech and media companies: Koh Boon Hwee (fomer chairman of DBS Bank); Kenneth Bishop (former managing director of Southeast Asia at Facebook); Jeremy Butteriss (head of partnerships at Stripe); Shiv Choudhury (partner and managing director of the Boston Consulting Group); Francesco Alberti (former APAC regional sales director for Bloomberg Media Distribution); Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng (Summit Media president); Prantik Mazumdar (Dentsu managing director), Saurabh Mittal (Mission Holdings chairman and founder) and Nitesh Kripalani (former director and country head of Amazon Video India).

Fewcents was launched last year by Abhishek Dadoo and Dushyant Khare (pictured above). Dadoo’s previous startup Shoffr, an online-to-offline attribution platform, was acquired by Affle in 2019. Khare spent 12 years working at Google, including as director of strategic partnerships in Southeast Asia and India.

In an email, Dadoo and Khare told TechCrunch that only 1% to 5% of publishers’ active users are willing to commit to a monthly subscription. The majority are casual or referred users, and publishers rely on advertising to monetize that traffic.

Content creators are experimenting with micropayments, and other services include Flattr, which allows people to make one-time contributions and Axate’s pay-per-article tools. But publishers still debate how effective the model is and last year, TechCrunch reported that Google decided not to launch a tipping feature for sites.

To successfully implement a pay-per-content model, publishers not only need to produce compelling content, but also make it extremely easy for people to pay for it. For Fewcents, this means solving three key challenges, Dadoo and Khare said. First, they need to create a ubiquitous platform, since casual users won’t want to sign up for a new service every time they visit another site. It also needs to accept cross-border payments in local currency using the most popular payment methods, like digital wallets. And publishers need to be able to manage digital rights, like how long someone has access to content.

Publishers also need to determine price points that won’t turn away buyers, but will generate substantial enough revenue. Fewcents currently uses existing traffic data to manually price each piece of content. “Based on the supply-demand curve within each geography, we retroactively change the price to get the best revenue results,” Dadoo said. “However, as we develop our AI algorithms, the intent is to dynamically suggest the pricing depending on the geography and the semantics of the content.”

Khare said that by unbundling content, Fewcents can also provide deeper data than pageviews, helping them understand the preferences of specific markets and user segments, and develop customized “micro-bundles.” He added that Fewcents’ goal is to be able to automatically recommend customized content bundles for each user.

BuzzFeed News employees vote to unionize

Shortly after BuzzFeed News employees revealed that they had voted to unionize, its editor-in-chief said the company wants to meet with them to discuss voluntarily recognition. Employees announced today that they are organizing as BuzzFeed News Union under the NewsGuild of New York.

“Our staff has been organizing for several months, and we have legitimate grievances about unfair pay disparities, mismanaged pivots and layoffs, weak benefits, skyrocketing health insurance costs, diversity, and more,” says a mission statement posted to BuzzFeed News Union’s site. It adds that employees have been meeting for years and ramped up its efforts last fall when BuzzFeed laid off video staffers and its podcast team. Organizing efforts gained more urgency two weeks ago, when BuzzFeed cut 15 percent of its workforce, or about 250 jobs.

BuzzFeed News’ deputy news director Jason Wells reports that the publication’s editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, told employees “we look forward to meeting with the organizers to discuss a way toward voluntarily recognizing their union.”

Just a few hours after we went public with our unionizing effort, @buzzfeedben has responded to our demand for voluntary recognition @bfnewsunion pic.twitter.com/rgXitJyBcF

— Davey Alba (@daveyalba) February 13, 2019

Wells’ notes that BuzzFeed News is “on track to be one of the last major newsrooms to unionize in the wake of industry pressures that have shrunk many media outlets.” Other outlets with new employee unions include HuffPost and the Los Angeles Times. The NewsGuild of New York also represents the New York Times, Reuters, the Daily Beast and the Los Angeles Times.

In their mission statement, BuzzFeed News Union’s organizers said they want an agreement that “requires due process for termination, a diverse newsroom, reasonable severance amid layoffs, a competitive 401(k), rights to our creative works, and affordable health insurance.”

It also calls on BuzzFeed News’ management to address pay gaps and give employees on contract, or “permalancers, who are paid through a third party but are functionally members of our team,” the same treatment as other staff.

BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti said during a 2015 company meeting that he didn’t think “a union is right for BuzzFeed,” though his recent response to employees demanding that the company compensate their laid-off colleagues for unused paid time off make signal a more conciliatory approach. After the meeting, BuzzFeed News paid out all unused vacation and comp days to laid-off staff even in states they are not legally required to do so.

Pronoun, an ebook service for writers, shuts down

 Pronoun, a self-publishing service for authors, is shutting down after promising free ebook distribution for authors. The company, which raised millions in funding and ended up being sold to Macmillan announced the shutdown in an email to authors and on its website. Two years ago Pronoun set out to create a one-of-a-kind publishing tool that truly put authors first. We believed that the power… Read More

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Kickstarting gorgeous, illustrated slipcased classics with art from Pope, Shimuzu and Sienkiewicz

Zachary Zmith writes, “A Kickstarter is funding beautifully-designed and illustrated editions of classic stories, with illustrations from Paul Pope, Yuko Shimizu and Bill Sienkiewicz. They have already met their initial goal to fund a version of Algernon Blackwood’s ‘The Willows’ with art by Paul Pope. If they reach $100k, Bill Sienkiewicz will illustrate H.G. Wells’ vivisection classic.”
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The Humble Unicorn Bundle, get great, DRM-free fantasy novels, support environmental causes

Steven Boyett writes, “Humble Bundle has released a unicorn-themed Bundle, with proceeds to benefit the World Wide Fund for Nature and Fauna & Flora International. For as little as $1.00, you can get Ariel, by Steven R. Boyett (full disclosure: that’s me); Unicorn Mountain, by Michael Bishop; Homeward Bound, by Bruce Coville; and Unicorn Triangle, by Patricia McKillip.”

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Amazon hints at Prime sales in latest filing

amzn-feature Amazon Prime has driven growth for the e-commerce company for years now. But Amazon has traditionally been cagey about disclosing too many details regarding the popular service. In a 10-K filing summarizing performance throughout 2016, the business did something that drew the attention of Wall Street analysts. It designated a category entitled “retail subscription services”… Read More

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Digital media fell in love with Snapchat, and now Snapchat loves TV

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Three years ago, Nick Bell and a few colleagues at Snapchat stared at a wall of post-it notes. On them were the names of dozens of media outlets like People, Daily Mail, Billboard and The New York Times.

Snapchat wanted brands with strong voices that could connect with a 14 year old. It was up to Bell, formerly senior VP at News Corp., to convince publishers to see the light. 

That was the beginning of Discover, a network of media outlets that elevated Snapchat’s credibility as a company (from a sexting app to a lifestyle brand) in exchange for a new source of revenue for publishers desperate for eyeballs. Read more…

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