1 Apr 2009 9:00 am   //   Filed under: Hard times, Technology

Impressions officially recognized as currency

NEW YORK, N.Y. April 1, 2009 — Bowing to pressure from technology companies, major currency exchanges announced today that they will recognize the Impression as a form of money.

Google, Facebook and numerous media companies were expected to immediately switch their accounting systems to Impressions.

“We believe recording Impressions, rather than traditional accounting, is a true measure of our business performance,” said Tim Armstrong, the CEO of AOL. “Also, effective immediately, we will begin paying our employees and suppliers by driving them Impressions, rather than writing them checks in U.S. dollars.”

Since the Web 2.0 boom began in 2006, programmers, designers, bloggers, writers, photographers, musicians, filmmakers and other content creators have been gradually transitioning to an Impression-based economy. That is, the only payment they earn for their services is massive amounts of viewers visiting the Web sites they create.

“Under the economic model we pioneered, we generate Impressions by aggregating content, and we compensate the content providers by driving traffic to them,” said Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington. “The audience dictates whether work is valuable. What could be more democratic?”

Huffington also noted that the new model sidesteps the old-fashioned problems of contracts, taxes and labor relations, since no money ever changes hands.

Through a process known as “linking back,” a site that amasses a wealth of Impressions can drive traffic to other sites, continuing the cycle. A thriving economy has emerged in trading Impressions, but until now it has been difficult, and in some cases impossible, to convert Impressions into any other currency. Some bloggers reported that despite generating thousands of Impressions for their work, they were earning less than $1 a day in advertising revenue, barely enough to pay for the electricity that powers their computers.

Some economists warn that the popularity of free Internet content will lead to rapid Impression inflation. “Web sites can effectively mint impressions,” cautioned New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, in a Twitter update that almost instantly generated 250,000 Impressions.

Wired editor-in-chief and leading Internet thinker Chris Anderson said the new Impression-based economy will yield rich dividends, including a limitless supply of free information available to everyone everywhere. Under the “freemium” business model Anderson has advanced, the economy was already on track to converting Impressions into dollars organically. “Declaring Impressions are a new currency is only formalizing an inevitable shift in the economy,” Anderson said. “Just give it time. Yes, more time. I don’t know, a few more years? After the recession! Gimme a break here!”

Some naysayers note that workers are still unable to exchange Impressions for goods and services, leading many media employees to move back in with their parents or eat nothing but Cheerios and ramen noodles.