Epik is pleased to announce the general availability of Masterbucks™. Masterbucks is both an online barter currency and the “stored value” digital wallet in which those monies are stored. With Masterbucks, you can purchase goods and services not just within the Epik Network but from any site that supports the Masterbucks API. Masterbucks are easy to spend, and even easier to earn.
A Brief Bit of History
Those of you who have followed Epik are familiar with EpikBucks. The original concept behind EpikBucks was to create an online barter currency that would inject liquidity into the domain name market. Domainers, often “domain rich but cash poor”, could exchange some of their domains for EpikBucks, and then use those EpikBucks to improve their remaining holdings by purchasing other domains and domain development services. EpikBucks has been extraordinarily successful, creating the liquidity needed for hundreds of domainers to improve their domain holdings. Successful, certainly, but limited to a very particular audience and set of use cases.
With Masterbucks, Epik materially broadens the concept behind EpikBucks into an online barter currency available to anyone, and with which they can purchase just about anything, anywhere. Within the Epik Network, Masterbucks will be the primary unit of exchange, and as of today, replaces EpikBucks. As with the now-replaced EpikBucks, a dollar and a Masterbuck are equivalent, i.e. $1.00 =
Content Creation for Fun or Profit
Masterbucks is a key component of the larger Epik ecosystem, and one of the linchpins to solving a huge problem in the domainer industry. As is widely known, good SEO and high Google page rank depends on high quality, unique content. Most domain investors are not in the business of producing an abundance of original content content, especially if they have to do it for more than a handful of sites. Up until now, the answer has been to source content from “content farms”. However, as Google’s Panda initiative made clear, a lot of the farmed content is poor at best, and it’s use can backfire. How then can site owners source high quality content in a cost effective, scalable way?
The answer is user-generated content (UGC). If dozens or even hundreds of people write content for your site, then you will have copious amounts of the very thing that Google’s web crawlers prize the most: unique, continuously refreshed content from subject matter experts. This content can take many forms, from full-blown articles and product reviews, to comments, questions, and answers.
But why does someone contribute UGC? What’s in it for them? Up until now, the answer has mostly been the psychic benefits of sharing one’s thoughts with a large audience of readers — the boost to one’s reputation, and the sense of self-worth that comes when that content is appreciated. Ego satisfaction is certainly an excellent motivator, but, especially in these challenging economic times, so is money. And that is where Masterbucks comes in.
Site owners can offer, and users can accept, assignments for content generation which are paid in Masterbucks. The more they write, the more they earn. More importantly, the better they write, and the higher the reputation they’ve earned in various subjects (as determined by ratings, thumbs up, etc.), the higher they are paid; there is, essentially, a multiplier factor for highly reputed authors. Please note that this is a bi-directional effect — a poor writer will automatically earn less than the baseline fee just as a good writer will automatically earn more. Since the amount earned for any particular article is directly affected by their reputation, it is in the author’s financial best interest to write quality content. Write well, and you are paid more. Write poorly, and your compensation drops. In this way, Masterbucks helps ensure higher quality content.
New Infrastructure for Content Distribution
Epik is reworking its entire content generation and syndication infrastructure in order to support this concept of paid content. Previously disparate system such as Comments.com and Questions.com, as well as articles and reviews, are being rolled into a single new platform. This system will offer common mechanisms for editing and rating content, and allotting earned revenue. Below are some sample design comps. Please note that these are not final designs, but they should give you a general sense of where we are going.
You will hear much more about our new content creation platform over the coming months. Suffice to say, Masterbucks and UGC are tightly intertwined and integral parts of the larger Epik vision.
As E.M. Forster once wrote, “One of the evils of money is that it tempts us to look at it rather than at the things that it buys.” How then, to buy things with Masterbucks?
As with EpikBucks before, domain investors can use Masterbucks to purchase domains and development services. As for end users, the challenge is to integrate Masterbucks seamlessly into standard e-commerce workflows so that using Masterbucks is even easier than using more standard forms of payment. Over the next several weeks, Epik will be rolling out a unified shopping cart mechanism through which Epik sites (and any non-Epik sites that adopt the technology) can offer a single-click purchase experience using Masterbucks as the medium of exchange. Among the more obvious uses for this technology will be an updated “Buy Now” button on all Epik Product Portals and eCommerce sites.
Perhaps of even greater interest, however, may be a related technology rolling out several weeks after that: an “embedded paywall”, Epik’s solution for restricting access to certain online content to paid subscribers. Most sites charging for online content, e.g. The New York Times, place their content behind a paywall; users can either subscribe for a period of time, or in some cases, can purchase access to a specific article. The problem with paywalls is that the protected content must, by definition, be accessed only from the site containing the paywall. This limits one’s ability to syndicate revenue-generating content. Epik’s plan is unique: instead of placing the content behind the paywall, we wrap the content inside a portable, embeddable paywall that can be placed on any site, anywhere.
Content owners can distribute and/or syndicate their content anywhere they like, and users can view it, for the required fee, without having to leave the site they found it on. Attaching the paywall to the digital asset(s) instead of to the site itself makes it trivial to build premium content sites without having to develop an expensive paywall system. Instead, they simply upload content, and the paywall functionality comes along with the data. Naturally, the payment medium is Masterbucks.
Domain Investors can also continue to earn Masterbucks by selling domains to Epik and/or Epik members; as of today, Masterbucks replaces EpikBucks, and all transactions formerly done through EpikBucks are now done through Masterbucks. Existing EpikBucks balances will be honored for purchasing domains and domain-related services.
A Brief (But Illuminating) Digression
One of the alien races in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” is the profit-obsessed Ferengi, who do not allow their women to wear clothes, hold jobs, or earn latinum (money). In one episode, a character named Quark attempts is challenge these customs:
NILVA: Let me see if I understand. Giving females the right to wear clothes allows them to have pockets. Once they have pockets, they’re going to want to fill them with latinum.
QUARK: Which means they’re going to need jobs.
NILVA: And once they start earning latinum, they’re going to want to spend it.
QUARK: Which means Ferenginar will be expanding its work force and its consumer base at the same time.
NILVA: (excited) There will be plenty of profit for everyone!
That, in a nutshell, is the value of Masterbucks. Masterbucks provides each member of the Epik Network a digital wallet into which they can store earnings. Naturally, users will want to find ways to fill this wallet, especially by writing high quality, original content, precisely the commodity most needed by site owners. Those users can then use their earnings to purchase the products available on thousands of Epik e-commerce sites. Masterbucks thus provides users a mechanism to earn, store, and spend money, turning them into both a potential content-generating work force for site owners and an expanded, newly enriched customer base for those very same domainers. I trust that you, like our excited Ferengi, see the opportunity for everyone to profit, users and site owners alike.
For both end users and domainers, the first thing you should do is go to Masterbucks.com and create an account. This digital wallet is associated with your Identity.net account, so if you already have an Identity.net account, you can sign into your Masterbucks wallet — it already exists. You can add money to your Masterbucks account using Paypal or major credit cards.
For domain owners, we encourage you can create and post assignments, such as writing articles for your sites, that can be accepted by other Masterbucks users; this is an excellent way of getting original content onto your sites. If you like the content they provide, you then simply transfer the appropriate funds from your account to theirs.
End users should review both the current offers to earn Masterbucks, and special purchase offers available on various e-commerce sites. The volume of such offers will increase dramatically when the Masterbucks e-commerce modules become available next month.
We hope you are as excited about Masterbucks as we are. We believe that this game-changing technology can help make the Internet a more useful, engaging, and profitable place for users and site owner alike.