Who, why and what we are

Hello World!

Agate is a new thing so I thought I’d give you a quick introduction to who we are and what we’re about.

I set up Agate after working for a long time in newspapers and other so-called “traditional” media. I was around when one of our newspapers was on the internet BEFORE the invention of the World Wide Web. It was a gopher site. Anyone remember those? Not many of you.

So I had a pretty close-up view of the internet as it built and developed, and of the ways in which the news media tackled it.

That story is pretty long, so I’ll save most of it for now (it’s also pretty interesting so I’ll get around to it at some point). The thread running through it has been that the news media has never really known how to make money from the internet.

That didn’t matter for quite a while, because the old ways of making money were still working. Selling actual newspapers, mainly. So as the internet evolved, the media products evolved with it and the justifications used for continuing with an activity which didn’t make money evolved alongside. At the start it was all R&D, just experimentation. Then it was building an audience which would later become valuable. Then it was traffic that mattered, and the ad revenues which would eventually take off. Then it was all about data and gathering more of it.

What DIDN’T evolve was any answer to reliably making money from these online products. Which has, as it turns out, become a rather important thing. The old products can no longer be relied on to make money because fewer people want them and the ad revenues have collapsed. Online ad revenues are pretty good if you’re Google or Facebook but not really if you’re anybody else. Content, however, is still as expensive to produce as it ever was.

Where the news media have led, other media have followed. It’s incredibly hard for anyone to make money reliably from creating popular content for the internet.

Agate sets out to solve this dilemma. At it’s heart is a simple idea, which is that things work much better if your consumers are also your customers. If the people who read, or watch, or listen to, or play with your creative content are also paying for it. This idea is hardly new, or controversial, even on the internet. Subscription based products have been taking off in recent years – whether “mega-bundle” products like Netflix, Spotify for Amazon Prime, or narrower offerings like The Timeses (London and New York), the Washington Post and others.

But there’s nothing in the middle ground, the place where people casually browse from one thing to another, driven there by social links or whimsical interest or passing interest. Yet this is where most of the actual consumption on the internet happens. No great commitment, no specific plan to come back and consume more, no desire to pay money every month. Until this kind of activity is addressed, the opportunity remains unaddressed.

Agate addresses it – in a way which works fantastically well for consumers as well as creators of all kinds of content – new and old, big and small, prolific or infrequent.

In further blog posts I’ll explain how, why it matters for the next phase of the internet and why paying for content is a liberating and rewarding thing for consumers as well as publishers and creators.