Microtransactions were seen as a way to prevent spam: if you charge .001 cents per email, average users can pay Google a dollar or whatever and never pay another dime for twenty years. The average 10 million email per day spammer, however, would be eating $100k per day. It bloody well better be profitable at that point.
What blows my mind is that people could look at that model and go "yeah! cut the spam!" but then look at 50,000 Instagram followers and go "no, no, all that shit is valuable!" or look at 85 Huffington Post articles and go "no no, totally worthwhile journalism!" or look at CPM and go "no, no, we should totally be paying seven cents per click this shit is valuable!"
Paul Carr argued, first at NSFWCorp and then at Pando, that a thousand readers at a dollar a month counted more than a hundred thousand clicks at a penny a month. But then, Pando mostly serves up sour grapes and hatorade so we'll never know. There's a reason I let my Mother Jones subscription lapse.
Meanwhile, The New York Times is doing fine.