Microsharing – a future we’re ignoring?*

Today, in an attempt to get people talking about something I’ve been mulling over for a while, I had thought I accidentally invented an awful new word: Microsharing

Luckily,  I hadn’t.

Some chap called Tony Obregon (I’m guessing this  Tony Obregon) did the hard work slapping it up on Wikipedia back in 2006.

However, I’m slightly miffed we haven’t got around to talking about it from the perspective of making money from content until 2011. Hopefully, this post gets the ball rolling.

So to microshare is:

…to offer access to a select piece or set of digital content by a specific group of invited or otherwise privileged guests in a controlled and secure manner.

So, why does it interest me?

Well, in what was a glorious example of perfect linkbait keyword combos, a VC chap named Bradford Cross recently put across his view on how the iPad would destroy print journalism.

Most of what he was saying has been said a million times before, but when Bradford starts thinking about how payment models might integrate with the social web it suddenly gets interesting:

What should I be able to do with that Economist article?  Should I be able to share it à la carte so I can discuss it with the people I want?  Should I be able to share it within my network, or within the intersection of my network and the network of paying Economist subscribers?

Should I be able to share it publicly?  Maybe I could share it with a special shortened link that encapsulates a special key – that key could charge me if I share it with my friends and I want them to read it, or it could charge the clicker of the link if the Economist decides to allow à la carte payment on some new kind of media platform.

This is the first time I’ve seen anyone think beyond the “if it’s not free it can not be shared on the social web” line… and I’ve been looking out for someone to do it for quite a while!

In real life humans are perfectly capable, and generous enough, to purchase something of value to them and then to loan or give it to someone they care about, trust, or share an interest with. It’s a nice thing to do. We feel good about it, especially when we loan something to someone who finds it really valuable too.

However, with the social web this doesn’t happen. Shared stuff is either free and shared with everyone or it’s paid for and can be shared with no one (unless they too feel compelled to pay for it).

Why the difference, if paying for stuff doesn’t stop us sharing it in real life? Perhaps the social web hasn’t yet evolved to a point where we can share like this as easily as we do in real life?

I think it might be rather nice to have something in the middle: a “licensed sharing of paid-for content“. I think it might even create another strata of the online gift economy.

The trick, however, is to find a way to do it that moves beyond voucher codes and limited previews and puts the power to share in the hands of the person who has paid.

I like the idea of integrating with an existing network then defining the people you want to send the content too (much like you would send an link out to a group in an email). I’m told, however, this is may be too laborious.

So I’m wondering what you think? Do we need it? If so, what form do you think it could take?

*Or, following the Bradford Cross school of post titling: “Why microsharing will destroy the future… OF EVERYTHING”

**And Kindle have on this very day announced book lending – microsharing in action! :)