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Cover image for Mini-Report #3: Sustainable Monetization Explorations

Mini-Report #3: Sustainable Monetization Explorations

brandon_mhzcurationist profile image Brandon J. Roy ・6 min read

MHz Curationist is a mission-driven, not-for-profit, online arts and culture platform. MHz Curationist offers an open access space for contributors to collaboratively curate global arts and cultural content. The MHz Curationist platform is intended to be clear, easy to use, and entertaining.

MHz Curationist is poised to become an important contributor to, a next-generation platform and publisher of, open access cultural content. The site is contributed to, and managed by, a collaborative team of freelancers enthusiastic about sharing arts and culture in dialogue with others.

There is a financial burden associated with normalizing and storing content that has been curated from worldwide sources. First, we have to understand the best way to fund our base operations on an ongoing basis. Second, it is important to understand how MHz Curationist might best financially incentivize people to curate content on an ongoing basis.

In this report, we will explore five means of monetizing MHz Curationist:

  • Micropayments
  • Corporate sponsorships
  • GLAM Data Store
  • Grants
  • Services

We will evaluate each monetization strategy against its ability to: a) fund ongoing operations, and b) incentivize content creation.

Micropayments

Micropayments are small transactions, often carried out online that can be as small as a fraction of a cent. Depending on the payment system and platform, a micropayment may be as small as $0.01 USD or as large as $5.00 - $20.00 USD.

When it comes to utilizing micropayments as a means of funding operations and infrastructure, our research has not produced a model that invites participants on a platform to contribute to that platform’s base operations. However, due to the administrative overhead and fees associated with processing micropayments, we could build in an overrun on each micropayment that we receive in order to sustain the micropayment model.

Meanwhile, our research has revealed that it is possible for us to integrate a micropayment system that financially rewards the creator of the content. We believe there will be enough of an upside from these micropayments for people to not only create content, but to promote the content they have created within their own network.

Therefore, while we do not see micropayments as a way to fund operations, we do see a way to make micropayments self-sustaining, such that they do not add cost to operations and infrastructure.

Corporate Sponsorships

Corporate sponsors make sponsorship investments in nonprofit organizations when one or both of the following benefits is present:

  1. The nonprofit organization has attracted a sizable audience, whose demographics complement the corporation’s demographics, or represent a demographic that the corporation wants to pursue; and/or
  2. The nonprofit organization is engaging in a project that would bring value to the marketplace, and thus to the corporation, by solving a problem that the corporation no longer has to solve or invest its time, energy, and human resources in first-hand.

When we consider how Curationist is positioned against these two criterion, we come to see the following:

Curationist is an emerging platform currently operating with a beta site. Accordingly, financial modeling, operational sustainability exercises, and digital platform management work is currently underway. Curationist has not yet reached the brand-building stage in its life cycle, thus it does not have the traffic metrics that would entice a corporation to invest marketing dollars into the site. While Curationist has long-term goals of approaching corporations for funding, who wish to associate their business with its global audience of culturally interested individuals, pursuing this as a source of short-term funding is premature.

Curationist is engaged in a massive digital undertaking that would benefit corporations who are motivated by bringing open-access, cultural content, to a global audience in a way that helps raise underrepresented voices through digital storytelling. Curationist is positioned to attract funding from corporations who value the creation of such a GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) data store.

We will focus on opportunities to draw revenue from the latter in the next section.

GLAM Data Store

There are multiple online locations where one can find Creative Commons content. Many large organizations are providing their own streams of CC0 and CC BY content, typically via API, such as the Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Originally, we planned to connect to the API of organizations such as these, bringing their CC0 and CC BY content into a central source. However, this was problematic because every institution’s API and content is unique. Trying to bring everything together in a single-search algorithm that was functional and easy to use was nearly impossible, resulting in non-normalized, slow results.

Thus, we turned our focus to normalization. Specifically, we are making the CC0 and CC BY content that we gather part of a data structure (a taxonomy) that puts content into categories based on a GLAM taxonomy that we have created. In addition, we have created standardized ways to handle metadata with normalized tagging.

The output on the Curationist site is a massive amount of hosted content that is:

  • free and openly accessible via uniform methods
  • categorized and uniformly-tagged
  • standardized in its appearance on the site
  • easily searchable; and,
  • returns results quickly

Now that this normalized GLAM metadata and taxonomy systems has been created, it can expand over time. Our aim is for these systems to be useful to others, so that people who are new to the idea of putting their content into CC0 and CC BY, will use our metadata schema and taxonomy, bringing their content into a much larger, global pool of content.

Corporations who find such a data store of GLAM content useful for themselves and/or their users, members, or customers, will see a benefit in investing money into this project. Such funding would achieve the objective of funding operations, but not necessarily incentivizing content creation.

Grants

Curationist was conceived out of a desire to tell curated stories about cultural objects in ways that help raise underrepresented voices. Information about the cultural objects that can be searched and found on the platform is enhanced by the stories that are shared about the objects themselves - this is made possible thanks to the normalization of the data store at the metadata level.

In this way, Curationist is providing an open educational resource (OER), with an eye towards ensuring that the systems we are building are freely available to be used around the world.

When it comes to grant funding, we are looking for organizations that see alignment with our ambition to overcome colonial voices with digital storytelling. We want to give voice to narratives that are true to an object’s original creator and/or culture, and do so in a way that makes it easy for underrepresented voices to plug into the system. Ultimately, we want small institutions in the far corners of the world to have the same access to contribute their narrative to cultural objects, as the more well-heeled, prominent cultural locations.

The right grantor will help us take what we are building and bring it to a larger audience, so that it lives well beyond the Curationist website. The right grantor will help us make the platform more accessible for smaller GLAM institutions to plug into.

A grant will help fund certain aspects of the Curationist operation, but it is unlikely that it would incentivize content creation.

Services

Curationist’s content is a valuable resource for groups to use in support of their educational efforts. Structuring customised access to this resource can unlock a revenue stream.

We see two types of service offerings as paid add-ons to that which Curationist offers for free: 1) docent services, and 2) technical support services.

Docent Services
Starting a virtual storytelling program with a college, university, or school district, could provide Curationist with an ongoing revenue stream. For instance, a docent could walk a class through a certain type of art that is physically isolated to certain parts of the world but that, through the data store, has been brought together in one virtual museum. There are numerous ways to model online offerings after ticketed offerings available in-person in modern museums.

Technical Support Services
Certain people or institutions may need digital support services. While access to our API will be free, there may be specific technical needs that require hands-on support for which we can charge a fee.

Over time, each of these service offerings will evolve based on consumer demand and user feedback. The goal will be for all fees collected for services to cover the cost of providing those services, plus a modest profit to contribute toward the cost of general operations. Ideally, we would seek to provide services to people regardless of their ability to pay, but to accomplish this we would need to seek further grant funding to generate a pool of resources, from which we would draw down need-based access to services.

Conclusion

In summation, there are several means through which operational and platform-level financial sustainability could be achieved. In our next report, we will outline our conclusions and next steps, offering our recommendations for which model we intend to pursue and how we might do so.

Discussion (1)

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Christian Dawson

Looking forward to our fourth and final report, where we will focus on next steps and detail how we plan to go about our chosen monetization paths, including micropayments. Eager for feedback along the way, so that once we are done we can revise all reports, with community feedback considered, into a master submission report.