Agate: the publisher and consumer network of the future

This blog is about Agate, a start-up business that I am working with.

Why have I written it? Because Agate is exciting and doing something great. An added bonus is that, if you have an interest in the future of the media and are a high net worth individual, you can invest.

What’s the story? I first learned about Agate when I was recovering from cancer just over a year ago. Dominic Young and Victoria Silberbauer, its co-founders, came down to Bath to explain what Agate was and find out if I would like to help them launch. Straightaway, I was impressed by the profile of some of their backers, their deep knowledge of the commercial challenges facing news media, and the global potential of the solution that they had devised: Agate.

What does Agate do? It helps people make small payments for online content through a really simple to use digital wallet that follows a reader around as they browse the web. You only sign up once and you are good to go on any Agate-enabled site.

Why does that matter? If you are a reader of digital content, you will be bored of being asked to sign up for onerous subscriptions to access material that sits behind gated pay-walls. It can be really irritating going through yet another sign up process, particularly if you only want to read the occasional article from that publication.

If you are a publisher or media owner, you will be painfully aware of your waning revenues from the traditional sources of advertising and cover price sales. The shift to online has meant that Google and Facebook are hoovering up most of the advertising revenues. Subscription pay-walls mean that many of the people that want to read your articles do not bother.

Yes, but does that really matter? Should you really shed a tear if the old media moguls are hitting hard times? Probably not if that were as far as it went, but if the shape of what is replacing them is worse, particularly when it could be better, it should give you pause for thought. Why is the new digital publishing world worse right now? Because:

  • falling revenues means failing businesses and less money to pay for good journalism. This leads to click-bait, fake news and ensuing challenges for freedom and democracy.
  • the monopolistic dominance of Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple in the digital world is not a good way to preserve a thriving and diverse media ecosystem. We can already see the problems that arise from the control of such dominant global organisations. Unless their dominance is challenged, the scandals will only get worse.

Why does Agate help? It creates a normal, healthy competitive marketplace by providing the means for consumers to pay for the content that they consume. The split of revenues in the Agate business model means that a diverse group of publishers will be able to build revenues, compete and survive without power being focused in the hands of a few. This means that publishers can focus on what they are good at: sourcing, editing and distributing great content. As with all ecosystems diversity will lead to health and sustainability for all those with a popular enough product to survive.

What should you do now? If you think Agate sounds interesting give it a try. You can see it in action on these two websites which express views on the opposite sides of the Brexit debate:

If you are a high net worth investor and would like to found out more about getting involved please get in touch and I will arrange to send you some more information.

If you just want to let me know what you think, drop me a line.