Let's return to the subject of money. If I thought the market for collaborative manuscript transcription software were a lucrative one, I might launch a business based on selling FromThePage (If you wonder why I keep referring to different software products, it's because I'm trying out different names to see how they feel. See my naming post for more details.)
I sincerely doubt that the market could sustain even a single salary, but it's still a useful exercise to list revenue opportunities for a hypothetical "Renan Systems, Inc."
- Fee-for-hosting (including microsponsorships)
This is the standard model for the companies selling what we used to call Application Service Providers and now call something high-falutin' like "Software as a Service." In this model, a user with deep pockets pays a monthly fee to use the software. Their data is stored by the host (Today's Name, Inc.), and in addition to whatever access they have, the public can see whatever the client wants them to see.
This is the most likely model I see for FromThePage. Work owners would upload their documents and be charged some monthly or yearly rate. Neither scribes nor viewers would pay anything — all checks would come from the work owner.
There's one exception to this single-payer-per-work rule, and it's a pretty neat one. One of the panels at South by Southwest this year discussed microsponsorships (see podcast here, beginning at around 8 minutes). This is an idea that's been used to allow an audience to fund an independent content provider: you like X's podcasts, so you donate $25 and your name appears beside your favorite podcast. The $25 goes to X, presumably to support X's work.
The nature of family history suggests microsponsorships as an excellent way for a work owner to fund a site. The people involved in a family history project have amazingly diverse sets of skills and resources. One person may have loads of interpretive context but poor computer skills and a dial-up connection. Another may have loads of time to invest, but no money. And often there is a family member with great interest but little free time, who's willing to write a check to see a project through. Microsponsorship allows that last person to enable the previous two, advancing the project for them all.
Hey, it works for Wikipedia!
- License to other hosting providers
Perhaps I don't want to get into the hosting business at all. After all, technical support and billing are hassles, and I've never had to deal with accounting before. If there were commercial value to FromThePage, another hosting company might buy the software as an add-on.
Where this really does become a possiblity is for the big genealogy sites to add FromThePage to their existing hosting services. I can see licensing the software to one of them simultaneously with hosting my own.
- Affiliate sales
The only candidate for this is publish-on-demand printing, a service I'd like to offer anyway. For finished manuscript transcriptions, in addition to a PDF download, I'd like to offer the ability to print the transcription and have it bound and shipped. Plenty of services exist to do this already given a PDF as an input, so I can't imagine it would be too hard to hook into one of them.
Ugh. It's hard to see much commercial value to an advertiser, unless the big genealogy sites have really impressive, context-sensitive APIs. And besides, ugh.