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Why Did We Start Keyosk?

Every wonder why so much content online is free? We have.
Matt and I have been talking about online content and digital sales models since we met in 2016. At the time, I was starting a nonprofit publishing company called Critical Read. We were making what we then called longform articles about the nonprofit arts. We needed a developer. Matt built the company’s first site.
It’s fair to say that writing about the arts isn’t popular. E-book length articles about Susan Glaspell or William Forsythe, to name a few of our early efforts, aren’t likely to go viral. Initially our work was available for free. I knew that we were on the so-called “long tail” of the web. If we could reach a lot of people, we could hook them with our hard-to-find content. More people would translate to more fans would translate to a larger readership that we could sell to.
But it turns out that Critical Read had a supply problem. The number of writers who could do the research and reporting and analysis that was necessary to create a Critical Read was small, and growing smaller as the field of professional arts journalism contracted. This meant that Critical Read couldn’t promise content delivery on a regular schedule. There was no way to set up a membership or paywall if we couldn’t consistently deliver content. Our work was special, sure. It was respected and well-received. But it wasn’t easy. We couldn’t churn it out and rely on ads or memberships.
Matt and I talked regularly while this situation was developing. He had gone to work at Condé Nast and saw the publishing industry from a different perspective. Whereas I was focused on the small picture of my specific project, Matt was looking at larger trends in more commercial and more popular media. As a Mozilla fellow he spent a lot of time thinking about alternative monetization strategies for the web. We both loved editorial, and wanted to make it easier for people with good ideas for publications to support themselves. We exchanged emails about revenue models, paywalls, ads, subscription services, you name it.
What Matt and I have in common is that we both believe in great content and we both think it should be easier to get paid for it. The web runs on content. So why don’t the creators get paid for the value they bring to the web?
We decided that a big part of the reason is friction.