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Can Micropayments succeed for online content ?

 As per a survey done last year online users preferred free content to paid content . However more than 50% could change over if micropayments are introduced.  A new online payment system using Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn identity for registration will commence testing in June this year. It promises to pay newspapers, magazines, internet publishers or music stores for single articles read or a piece of music downloaded in a one click transaction.

Till now media giants operate on a yearly or quarterly subscription basis. This  has not really taken off due to consumer resistance to shell out a large sum of money for a small read at one time or a single music title download. This especially when competing with free reading material that is available on the internet. It is assumed that if the micropayment concept picks up, readers would not mind shelling out a few cents every time they read an article on the internet provided registration hassles do not prove time consuming.

The Belgium start up called Paycento who created the system says “The payment is really seamless … so it’s like a one click payment on the internet,” explaining that it is actually a registration free one click operation if the authorization procedure is not used. The time consuming registration procedure is waived once you enter the portal with your social media password, waiving the lengthy form filling exercise for account holder details thus making the exercise user friendly. The Paycento system is scheduled to be Beta tested by an European media giant from June this year.

The success of Kindle Stores and iTunes and mobile phones  to persuade users to pay online for content through micropayments have created hope that the micro ‘Pay Wall’ model once considered doubtful will eventually succeed. Besides the big names there have been other ‘Pay Wall’ programs that have been raging successes in the recent past. A couple of weeks ago a single high quality science story format started appearing in the Kickstarter campaign that at $ 0.99 a read had earned $ 50,000 in 36 hours and $100,000 in the first 9 days. It was called ‘Matter’ and was home to an investigative long format journalism narrative about science and technology. It gave the hope that paid journalism can survive and even prosper against the Google model of ad driven content. If that happens then high quality content will survive even if they are outside the closely protected domain of Apple or Amazon who have been successful monetizing content.

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