It could be different. Without losing much revenue, website publishers could share the wealth. Big sites like google.com, amazon.com, yahoo.com, ebay.com and others could help.
As a person who has made his living as a freelance writer, I know how tough it can be. As a publisher, when writers ask if I pay, I regretfully inform then that there's no money to pay them. But I wish I could and I've had a few software ideas that might make it viable without giving up much on my part. It might even help grow my site(s.)
So here's a suggestion to google, yahoo, ebay, and other web advertising sellers and vendors. I'm going to discuss it from the point of view of adsense, since I have adsense ads on my sites and since it is the biggest current ad program that I know of.
Make a version of adsense that allows sites with lots of members to share the wealth-- to let content contributing members earn part of the money earned by at least some of the google adsense advertising.
The idea is to reward users who provide content. I think this will build user loyalty and referrals. Even if content contributors don't make a lot of money, at least they know that they are honored and respected and valued enough to share revenues. And with the "long tail" of the web, they will know that their efforts will continue to reward them.
I assume this would work best with larger sites with a minimum number of page views and or users. But then again, with the sheer massive numbers of the web, it may just work for smaller sites too, especially if users can have accounts that pool revenues.
The way I envision this would work is a member who submits content is offered an opportunity to sign up with google adsense (or comparable yahoo or amazon or other programs.) Then, a second google adsense ad will be designated on the pages with content that member submits (diaries, articles, polls, events, quotations, etc.-- whatever creates a unique page. Comments probably could even have ads too.
The website owner will continue to reap revenues from the usual ads that have been on the site, but one ad (or more) on the page will be designated as a shared revenue ad, and when the java code is generated for that ad, it will grab the code for the partnership between the member and the website owner. An advantage for website owners is that revenue report stats can show the website owner which members/writers generate the most revenue, in terms of page views and income per click and per thousand pages.
My guess is that to make this work, google will provide code for website owners so they can sign up for the program. When they sign up, they'll get some code that enables new members to sign up for the program. And they'll get some code for putting the "member partner" ad into their page generation code and to be associated with each member's user ID, so members get credited by google (or whichever ad company) uses this model.
For any company that develops a project like this, it will probably mean millions of new partners, with a lot more user demographic information. It will also provide reasons for contacting those millions of new relationships, even if they don't get paid until some minimum payout fee (probably $25 or $50) is reached. It might work to offer payout in credits for buying digital items like advertising or added storage for email, etc.
It might be appropriate to reward publishers by setting things up so if an article is crossposted, on another site, there's a way for the re-printer to incorporate the user ID of the partner account of the original site the article was posted on, so cross posting pays the author, the first site publishing the content and the reprinter.
This seems to me to have the feel of web 2.0 or maybe even web 3.0.