Funding Public Radio (and ITC) with VRM

In a post at Linux Journal about identity and VRM, Doc Searls says that rather than boil the VRM ocean, he would rather pick a specific problem.

Beyond cash for goods or services, I would like the option of having some range in relating. Maybe I want nothing more than give an artist some cash and a high-five. Or I may want a subscription to notices of new work, or to performances near where I live.

The thing is, this mechanism needs to live on my side: to be mine. It must be able to relate to a first source or to an intermediary, but it can't belong to the intermediary. The responsibilities for relating need to be shared. To do that, I need to control my end, free and clear. I can't just be enrolled in a system controlled by the supply side, or by somebody in the middle.

The absence of the power to relate from the demand side --- except with cash or mechanisms controled by the supply side or its intermediaries --- is a problem as old as the Industrial Age, and it's time to solve it.

... we need to pick a problem to solve, not an ocean to boil. Here's one I like: make it easier for public broadcasting listeners and viewers to pay for the goods they receive. Right now public broadcasting continues to raise money in extremely old-fashioned ways. The one I hate most is the fund drive where they turn off programming for two weeks, plead poverty, and then give you a cup or a CD if you send some money. There has to be a better way.
From Putting the Wholes Together | Linux Journal
Referenced Mon Feb 05 2007 21:08:36 GMT-0700 (MST)

This public radio problem is one that's near and dear to my heart since I struggle with how IT Conversations ought to relate listeners and, to be frank, derive some monetary gain from the value that IT Conversations provides.

As Doc says, if this is to really be VRM, then it can't be controlled by the vendor (ITC in this case), but by the user. On the other hand, until someone steps up and builds it, am I just supposed to sit around and wait?

When Doc say that he wants a range of relating, I can think of several things that might work for ITC or public broadcasting.

  1. You ought to be able to express a preference for specific shows
  2. There ought to be a full range of ways to show appreciation (from a positive rating to money)
  3. Expressing preference ought to get you more of what you like

This isn't just a donation and it isn't a subscription. Rather, it's a hybrid mode: it's voluntary, like a donation, but specific to certain shows or classes of shows like a subscription. I think ultimately it has to happen in lieu of, not in addition to, advertising.

The problem with applying these kinds of rules to Public Radio is that Public Radio is wedded to the broadcast model and that's extremely limiting. For example, spectrum and time create a zero sum game where to give me more of what I want means you get less of what you want.

Not so with IT Conversations where with virtually unlimited content (most user-generated), ITC can serve the role of filter, ensuring that everyone gets what they want. Perfectly? Probably not, but much more solidly than in a zero sum world.

You may be thinking: this isn't a relationship, it's just another way for me to pay money. I disagree. When you express preference and that preference really means that you get what you want, that goes beyond the traditional exchange of goods or services for money. That builds a tighter bond between you and the vendor. That's a relationship.