Posts Tagged ‘Business Models’

The birth, death and resurrection of micropayments

March 7, 2011

Are micropayments dead? They were never born.- Jeff Jarvis, blogger and CUNY J-school prof

My favorite panel at the paidContent 2011 conference was “Paying it Forward: Paywalls, Meters & Subscriptions,” which consisted of an all-star panel including Journalism Online Co-Founder (and former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz), Financial Times.com Managing Director Rob Grimshaw, Atlantic President Justin Smith and Google’s Director of Strategic Partnerships Jim Gerber.

Toward the end of the 50-minute talk, moderator Robert Andrews, UK editor for paidContent, asked a question about micropayments. Surprisingly, most of the panelists were dismissive of micropayments. Gerber, who has helped lead Google’s OnePass initiative, said they had not heard much interest in micropayments from the public because of the friction involved in transactions.

Despite early press materials indicating the inclusion of micropayments in its PressPlus platform, Journalism Online continues to primarily advocate for a metered freemium model.

“Down with paywall, up with freemium,” was Gordon Crovitz’ final salvo during the session.

Grimshaw told me after the conference that the Financial Times’ experiments with micropayments were unsuccesful, but I suspect that has more to do with the nature of its business content (in other words, people are still likely to seek out business news, rather than have it find them as is the case with other types of news in the social web environment).

If the expert panel is any indication, then mainstream newspapers appear to have given up any hope in trying out micropayments just two years after headlines proclaimed them as the way to “save newspapers.”

This, in my humble opinion, would be a huge mistake.  Just a year ago, my colleague Jameson Hayes and I outlined how micropayments could work for newspapers (opens PDF document) at the International Symposium on Online Journalism (a more advanced and refined version of that paper is in press in the International Journal on Media Management).

The bottom line is that the only way to tell whether micropayments will succeed as a viable model for online (and mobile and tablet) news is to try them.  As CUNY professor Jeff Jarvis tweeted during the conference, “are micropayments dead? They were never born.”

This isn’t entirely true.  As we point out in our paper, micropayments were tried in the late 90s and early 2000s to no avail. A 2000 Boston Globe article, for example, shouted “MICROPAYMENTS COULD BE THE WEB’S NEXT BEST HOPE.”  Flooz, Beenz, CyberCash, Bitpass, Peppercoin and DigiCash are a few examples of failed micropayment companies from what can be considered the Micropayment 1.0 era.

The difference between Micropayment 1.0 and Micropayment 2.0 is the emergence of the Social Web.  Newspapers may be  (wrongly) hesistant to adopt micropayments, but that does not mean they are not alive and well.

Micropayments have thrived for song and video downloads on iTunes, and micropayments are poised to become even more prevalent for digital goods, gaming and virtual currencies with big time players like Facebook (Buy with Friends)and PayPal (Digital Goods) enabling them.

Not all newspapers have given up on micropayments, either.  At 99 cents for a week’s worth of issues, The Daily is basically a subscription micropayment option.  Hong Kong-based CarrotPay also offers microsyndication technology for newspaper companies to enable seamless micropayments.

Mainstream American newspaper companies may be reticent to try micropayments as a new digital pricing strategy, but there are at least two other huge underserved markets that could experiment with the new business model. Non-American media markets are ripe for micropayments (Google’s OnePass is already in play in many European countries), as are community daily newspapers (under 50,000 circulation) and non-dailies.

Don’t write off micropayments for newspapers just yet.  Newspapers are perfectly poised to contribute in a big time way to the resurrection and rebirth of micropayments on the Social Web.  The models and technology are both in place.  All that is missing are willing newspaper partners.

Now is the time for newspapers to act.

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The Daily dose of hands-on news

February 4, 2011

Now that The Daily, the first iPad-only newspaper, has arrived I wanted to provide a quick analysis based on my first impressions.  For starters, the iPad is clearly a game-changer for news designers.  The content is designed specifically for the iPad and the interactivity is impressive.  The Daily  is visually appealing with fun hands-on elements and in-app video streaming.  The Daily gets high marks for its interactivity, design and ease of use.

No offense to those involved in the publication, but the journalistic quality of the content is average at best.  Of course, you get what you pay for.  At 14 cents per issue, I don’t expect the type of quality, explanatory, long-form interpretative journalism that I could find in, say, The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times.  In pricing The Daily so cheap and devaluing the content it offers, Murdoch may actually be improving the value of his other newspapers.  I’m certainly willing to pay a premium price for content from The Journal.  The Daily dishes up journalism-lite.  But the lack of breadth and depth make for a quick daily read.

In pricing The Daily at 99 cents per week, Rupert Murdoch has effectively invented a new digital business model.  In essence, Murdoch has created a subscription micropayment.  For news content, micropayments are the idea of consumers paying pennies or less per article.  For non-news content, micropayments are usually priced from about $1 to $5.  The iTunes model of charging $1.29 per song download or the mobile modile of selling ringtones for a few bucks are examples of successful media micropayment models.  The Daily, however, offers 100 iPad pages of content per day in a weekly subscription rate of 99 cents.  Subscription strategy meets micropayment price.

The pricing point and iPad-only distribution strategy could very well work. The Daily could prove to be immensely popular and ultimately a success. But what works for one of the world’s biggest media barons does not a successful business model make for the rest of the industry.  While there’s a lot to like about The Daily, the product still remains a destination-seeking site.  You must find the news by downloading the app, pay the subscription and log on and in, rather than news stories finding you through social networks.

I have serious doubts that this app-fueled micropayment-subscription hybrid iPad-exclusive content model could ever work for the majority of the newspaper industry.  Certainly, most of the local daily newspapers with circulations less than 50,000 would lack the resources and capital to create and staff such a publication.  Few, if any, would be able to draw enough readers to justify the ridiculously low pricing point.  This does not even factor in all the non-daily community newspapers with strong print products.

The purpose of offering digital content and digital pricing structures is to obtain new paying customers.  For Murdoch, The Daily will almost certainly achieve that aim.  Other newspapers, with strong print subscribers but few paying online customers, need a platform that will allow them to earn revenue off new readers whose stories find them through the Social Web.  Micropayments are needed.

Imagine this scenario: You are the owner of a community newspaper.  An odd tragedy strikes your town that captures national attention. The national media converge on your town to cover the story, but no media outlet can provide the same level of coverage as you.  Your reporters write compelling, original pieces that no other media outlet carries but the public is clamoring to read.  In essence, your paper has a viral news story.  With a micropayment platform, you could charge a small amount per article.  Suddenly, you have a new revenue stream from thousands of new readers. Granted this is a one-off source and you wouldn’t want to bank on a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence to add money to your coffers, but the principle ideas behind this scenario remain relevant.

The bottom line about The Daily is it is right for Murdoch, (mostly) good for journalism, but the wrong approach for the newspaper industry.

Nevertheless, I look forward to seeing what The Daily continues to offer. I will gladly plunk down 99 cents each week to read it.  No, scratch that.  I will gladly pay the weekly price to experience The Daily.

Micropayments 2.0: Model signs emerge

October 28, 2010

Last year at this time, Jameson Hayes and I were scouring through academic and industry literature and thinking conceptually in order to create a new theoretical micropayment model for news.  The result was a paper presentation at the International Symposium on Online Journalism.  At the same time, we recognized that our “modified micropayment model” had a wider appeal for online media content, not just news content.  Our theoretical micropayment papers have been accepted to two of the most prominent academic journals for media management and economics and should be published within a few months.

Our “Modified News Micropayment Model” was featured on PBS’ MediaShift blog, where host Mark Glaser commented that “it’s a hard concept to grasp because it doesn’t really exist yet.”

That is changing.  Ever since we developed our model, we’ve seen more and more movement to a media ecosystem where our theoretical drivers of microearning, socialization, hyperlocal focus and a centralized banking system are in play.

This week alone, PayPal unveiled a micropayment system for digital goods and partnered with Facebook.  As the TechCrunch post notes, “the Facebook deal is pretty significant because there are a massive amount of micropayments that flow through the social network on a daily basis with Facebook Credits, gaming and more.”

Meanwhile, Nieman reports that the Associated Press plans to launch a new “ASCAP for news,” an independent business to business clearinghouse for online news content.  While this is envisioned for businesses, not individuals, this is in essence a form of microearning in action.  The Nieman post also goes on to state that it envisions the AP clearinghouse approach will enable experimentation with “hyperpersonalized news streams,” socially curated news channels and payment processing services.

Hyperlocal content efforts are also increasing, with groups like AOL’s Patch partnering with journalism schools to cover neighborhoods and communities.

While news content is moving behind paywalls, free television on the Web is also becoming a trend of the past.

“Consumers must be made to realize that nothing is free anymore,” TIG Research analyst Rich Greenfield wrote in a blog post quoted in Ryan Nakashima’s AP article.

The media landscape is rapidly changing.  What was once futuristic thinking is slowly, but surely, becoming a reality.

Micropayments 2.0 is here.

 

Video of presentation from ISOJ

May 10, 2010

Below is a short, edited video with some highlights from the paper I presented with Jameson Hayes on a modified news micropayment for the Social Web at the International Symposium on Online Journalism in Austin, Texas:

Wilkinson at ISOJ: Newspapers must adapt in “age of micro media”

April 23, 2010

AUSTIN, TEXAS_ Newspapers have to adapt to the “age of micro media” in which every unit of content must have value, INMA chief Earl Wilkinson told attendees Friday morning at the International Symposium on Online Journalism.

Determining their content’s value should be a top priority for newspapers, because content value can serve as a proxy for engagement in the Digital Age, Wilkinson said during a fiery, impassioned presentation.

Even if  newspapers never charge for content, segmenting “content platform,  audiences” forces a market approach to growth and places them in the context of today’s “abundance of information,” Wilkinson said.

The traditional business model will not survive,  Wilkinson said.

“We clearly have reached a point where we need alternative funding sources,” he said.

Advertising will account for a smaller portion of a newspapers’ revenue, but won’t disappear entirely, Wilkinson said.  The pure value of content, however, keeps changing.  Newspapers must find ways to monetize content, which will require significant leadership and industry collaboration, Wilkinson said.

The global recession accelerated changes to the news industry.

“It’s transformed our business models and we’re never going to go back,” Wilkinson said.

Newspapers are going through transformation and evolution, but they’re not going to die, Wilkinson said.

The future media landscape will consist of less advertising and smaller companies, Wilkinson said. There will be less journalists, but more editors as print complexity is replaced by a digital one.  According to Wilkinson, newspapers should invest more in sales, marketing and research, while focusing on product development and speedy delivering of news enhanced through social media.

Wilkinson says that  “Value= Audience + content + platform”

I found myself often nodding in agreement during Wilkinson’s presentation because, in my humble opinion, he “gets it.”  His presentation, more than any other, has me fired up to present my paper proposing a new business model tomorrow.

SM and Economics, Business Models, Online Strategy

February 16, 2010

Favorite Tweets about Social Media and Economics, Business Models, Online Strategy

jbhester

Social Media For Economists: Part I – Connecting to Intelligent Sources http://bit.ly/9OvrmJ

LizzyNephew

Need help convincing a company that social media can be beneficial? Try these responses: http://bit.ly/9e5hRM

ksablan

One way news orgs can leverage location-based social networks: partner with them to “become their sales force” http://bit.ly/a6l7ua Bingo.

ksablan

RT @jeffsonderman: World Newspaper Congress forum theme: “The new information ecosystem: Link, share, cooperate or die” http://bit.ly/bjBQE9

themediaisdying

EUROPE, WILL YOU STILL CONSUME? More European papers put up paywalls http://bit.ly/aypy62 (RT @mediaguardian)

ksablan

By @BenLaMothe: Why Facebook could be the next big news publisher http://bit.ly/czWo8X Competitive implications (by me): http://post.ly/Lq7X

AEJMC

Hulu talks premium pricing on the Web: $4.99 for ad-free, or $14.99 for complete seasons. But what about Hulu on TV? http://bit.ly/cXFJMQ

jbhester

SmartPulse poll results: New York Times’ pay wall equals virtual strings attached http://bit.ly/aezYpS

ksablan

Social media budgets edge out SEO in 2010 > http://bit.ly/cEebyW (new Social Freedom post from @carmenb )

TechCrunch

Mark Cuban May Hate News Aggregators, But He Also Wants To Invest In Them http://tcrn.ch/cZYkRe by @arrington

MsStallings

Social Media Business Plans and Revenue Models – Takeaways from @SherryHeyl‘s talk at #SoCon10http://bit.ly/bJTDfs

SethCLewis

Class today: how journos create value http://bit.ly/4Wil6e; models of subsidy http://bit.ly/3cdl3H; and being iterative http://bit.ly/2DFe52

suzanneyada

The Numbers Behind the Paywall http://bit.ly/8TGL15. A thorough analysis of the @nytimes paywall from @mondaynote.

TechCrunch

The New York Times Announces Paid Content Plans For 2011 http://tcrn.ch/5eZSfJ by @robinwauters

TechCrunch

How eBuddy’s Mobile Monetization Strategy Helped It Turn A Profit http://tcrn.ch/72uj99 by @robinwauters

jbhester

Poll: Most (77%) won’t pay to read newspapers online http://bit.ly/8UMNr5 #fb

reifman

@timoreilly Thank you for RT of digital cash idea. Using our cash should be free of private fees. Ref: http://bit.ly/7OQJQN @talesofchange

AEJMC

(Monday Note) 2010 Media Watch List http://bit.ly/76X6nd 2010 Tech Watch List http://bit.ly/6atFl4

TechCrunch

Top Ten Digital M&A Deals For 2010 http://tcrn.ch/7Vwogs by @erickschonfeld

jbhester

Does Social Sell? (part of AdWeek’s Digital Special Report) http://bit.ly/bpuOo1