For example, a day care center started fining parents who picked up their student late. In a way, the center offered a financial incentive to parents for picking up their children on time. This, however, did nothing to encourage parents' punctuality. Because being late now had an economic value, the parents no longer felt an obligation (intrinsic motivation) and instead were willing to pay the occasional fee when they need a few extra minutes. In a more relevant example, a community was surveyed about their opinions on the construction of a nuclear power plant in their community. When they were told they would be offered a financial incentive if the plant was built, their acceptance of the construction actually decreased, which brings us to our next point.
How does a person determine whether a motivation is extrinsic or intrinsic? Frey explains that rewards have a controlling and an informing aspect. The controlling aspect strengthens the perceived feeling of being controlled, while the informing aspect strengthens the perception of one's competence and feelings of internal control. In the nuclear plant example above, when people were told of the financial incentive the controlling aspect of the construction project replaced the informing aspect, causing people to distrust the project. Now, hopefully from here we can make a leap back to the world of news distribution and my original point.
If a news organization offered a monetary reward for readership, the number of readers may increase, but those readers might be driven more strongly by extrinsic motivation. What side-effects this may cause are purely speculative, but I can easily imagine these new readers less engaged with the editorial staff, since many of the readers are simply filling a quota rather than seeking information about their interests and passions. Also, this most likely would damage current reader's trust in the organization. Any feeling of mutual consideration between the editorial staff and the readers in the newspaper would become a commercial transaction.
Now, one could argue that reading news content is already a commercial transaction, but when we pay for news content, we are paying for the informing aspect of the content. We surely don't feel the as though we are controlled by news content when we pay to access it. Also, most people already get the bulk of their news content for free, whether it's on Google News or broadcast television, which means that if a person is accessing the content, they are most likely doing it because of intrinsic motivation. Some people probably do read the news due to extrinsic motivations. Perhaps a person's job requires them to read the newspaper or particular content each day, but most people read the newspaper to get informed, which should point to the strength of the informing aspect inherent in reading the news. What I mean by trust is also an important questions - perhaps legitimacy is a better word than trust - but is not within the scope of this article.
How would a news organization that offered a financial incentive to readers ever be profitable? Perhaps an organization only offered financial incentives once a week, hoping the spike in readership on that day would carry over into the rest of the week. But, given the problems above, this idea might also ultimately be doomed. While I'm ultimately not sure if this incentives-based model of news distribution is even viable, this speculative exercise has hopefully illuminated some of the effects of monetary incentives to existing relationships and the dangers of tying these type of incentives to a news organization.
In the end, this also may point to the strength of games as a tool to increase readership. People mostly play games for the entertainment they provide, a purely intrinsic motivation. Thus, a news organization that strongly utilizes games or distributes its news in game-like structure, might draw new readership composed entirely of people driven by intrinsic motivations and avoid any of the problems of an extrinsically-motivated readership. Now, whether the intrinsic motivation of playing a game can lead to an informed, engaged, and dedicated readership is unknown. This may point us in the direction of a new question, which perhaps ultimately, is just a question of proper design.
One possible design path might include integrating achievements, such as those found on Xbox Live. Achievements are typically earned during gameplay when the player meets certain conditions. Oftentimes these are earned by following the standard path of gameplay - for instance, usually players earn an Xbox Live achievement for beating a game - but sometimes achievements are rewarded for performing time-consuming tasks not connected to the central gameplay experience , such as finding all the glowing pigeons in Grand Theft Auto IV. Unlike in-game rewards, these achievements have life outside of the game itself and are usually integrated into the broader online gaming experience. In the case of XBox Live achievements, the player is awarded with gamer points which contribute to a total gamer score, ideally offering a way for gamers to compare their gaming abilities with their friends or other gamers. It's also worth noting that these achievements are no longer an option for designers but a requirement. One of Microsoft's standards requires that a certain number of achievements are integrated into each game.
What if a news game was developed that integrated Xbox Live achievements into the experience? For instance, one could imagine an Xbox Live Arcade game with a quiz format similar to Shuffletime, but instead of offering raffle tickets, doled out gamer points as the player consumed news content and answered questions about that content. Would this be enough to draw new readership? Many gamers already play games they would otherwise not play in order to earn the gamer points - the slang term "achievement whore" is a result of this phenomenon. It's not hard to imagine that people who enjoy collecting these points would also play this news game, even if they would not normally be inclined to consume news content. Whether or not that content would be retained or lead to deeper understanding of issues is again a question of design, but that question aside, a game that integrated achievements would most likely attract some new readers.
This might serve as a possible way in which the intrinsic motivations of a gamer could be harnessed to increase news readership. Some editors might balk at the idea of their content being used to feed a gamer's online ego, but in a world where news organizations are desperately seeking new paths to create revenue, achievements might be enough to convince people to purchase a news game, consume content, and perhaps, create regular, informed readers. Ultimately what this points to is that news organizations still have unexplored options in their search for new readers, and many of those readers might be waiting, controller in hand.