Native advertising is all the rage these days as an emerging form of startup monetization, particularly for media companies and social networks. If you can seamlessly marry advertising with content, the thought goes, then the user experience won’t suffer much, and the ad is more effective. As native advertising matures, the web will get better for users. But an ad is still an ad.
Instead, what If you could monetize in such a way that the user experience doesn’t simply avoid harm, but could be improved? What if you could truly align the business model with the product and its users?
I see nascent signs of what I’m calling Native Money everywhere. This is a movement away from the traditional checkout experience on the web. Near invisible purchasing experiences, like one-click buying on Amazon or Uber are a step in the right direction, but native money is something even deeper than that. You can feel native money when you experience it. It’s a core part of the product - it has the ability to improve the user experience. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the product wouldn’t exist without this type of transaction embedded in it.
Here are a few different forms of native money I’ve seen recently:
Money as Communication – IOU is building a wonderfully interesting product that is thinking about what it might look like to communicate with money. Of course, Google also recently implemented google wallet into gmail and MessageMe is no doubt thinking about native money with their grayed out $ feature. Venmo is the category leader and building a social network around payments.
Money as Support – On Patreon, money only exists as a connection to an artist in the form of support. It’s a micropayment as small as $1 and the transaction actually makes the experience real, it makes it mean more than simply pressing a follow button.
Money as Math – Bitcoin.
There are many more examples, but native money is still in its infancy. It will not be possible for every Internet product to embed these types of transactions into their experience. But for a special few, native money has the potential to fundamentally change the Internet. I’m excited for this impending movement, mainly as a user, but also as a potential investor in future companies that will be built to advance it.