A $2 Million Award to Reimagine the Economics of Online Journalism


By Mozilla | Sept. 15, 2020 | Fellowships & Awards

Today, Grant for the Web is announcing a $2 million award to Distributed Media Lab (DML), with the ambitious goal of providing online news publishers with a revenue stream beyond digital advertising and paywalls.

The Palo Alto-based DML will use the award to build a platform that pairs Web Monetization and AMP technology to power a new business model for supporting online publications and the important work of journalism.

Web Monetization is a proposed open web standard that allows users to easily make small payments — sometimes just a fraction of a cent — to publishers. In exchange for payments, publishers can provide a premium experience, such as allowing access to exclusive content or removing advertising. AMP is an open-source HTML framework that provides a straightforward way to create web pages that are fast, smooth-loading and prioritize the user-experience above all else.

DML will harness Web Monetization to build support for a distributed consumer- or reader-revenue model. The platform will enable independent news organizations to collaborate on product offerings that provide their readers with a broader value proposition across numerous publications on the web, but in an experience that is seamless to the reader and efficiently scalable to the participating publishers. DML has engaged with numerous global and local publishers across the industry to collaboratively develop this concept. Part of this grant will be used to fund a publisher pilot of the new platform capabilities in 2021.

Says Dave Gehring, CEO of Distributed Media Lab and former Mozilla Fellow: “The news industry is in a state of fundamental economic transition. This has significant implications for the sustainability of our democracy. New technologies are required to power new business models that support online journalism. We believe those technologies must be built on open standards. Web Monetization and AMP have emerged as new standards to support a new economic foundation for the news publishing industry.”

Says Janice Wait, Program Officer at Mozilla and Grant for the Web Executive Council Member: “Often, digital advertising is conducted in a way that harms both online news publishers and online news consumers. This project brings a much-needed — and privacy forward — approach for supporting journalism and diversifying the economics of news media on the web.”

Distributed Media Lab is a content distribution platform for publishers and brands across web, email and social platforms. Its mission is to build technologies that power media business models to enable advertising and consumer revenue streams tailored to the decentralized (or post-destination) open web.

Grant for the Web is a $100 million fund supporting innovation and open standards in Web Monetization. It is funded and led by Coil in collaboration with Mozilla and Creative Commons. The initiative aims to offer alternatives to the web’s reigning business model — digital advertising — that give both consumers and creators more independence and control online.