Mobile micro-payments: A largely untapped revenue stream for media


Newspapers have traditionally been somewhat slow to adapt to new technologies. However, there is now a stark realisation from us all that print is no longer the be all and end all.

Readers consume content anytime, anywhere, and the plethora of ways to do so grows by the minute.

The coming Internet of things makes it a truly connected world 24/7, where we are now identified by geo-location or an IP address.

Media companies now get that they can’t just continue to run their businesses the same way they’ve done so for years. They also realise the role interactive technologies are playing and that they will continue to play a big part in future business models.

The trick, though, is how to monetise this new world.

As print revenues decline, digital monies are not replacing them fully yet. Mobile, for example, is seen by many as an “add on” and not the premium channel it deserves to be. You, see, news media companies reach more people today than ever — through a print + digital offering/portfolio. We deserve better.

More creativity abounds now — more investment in trying new ideas, better structures with road maps, bespoke solutions across platforms. These all add to the mix.

And then there is data, the new oil! The future winners, according to Enders Analysis, are those who have a firm grip on their audiences and where they are going. That’s why many news media companies are capturing, manipulating, and exploiting their data.

When adding first-party data (via competitions, subscriptions, etc.) to the market and ad data that’s available freely, a powerful picture can emerge that’s attractive to advertisers.

Interactive media such as Augmented Reality are playing their part in this resurgence, too. The Daily Telegraph recently ran a special edition just for agencies and advertisers, where when scanning the print ads, all the ads were also made available in digital format. This educated agency folks on how to buy both digital and print ads.

This is helping advance the education of what new technologiess can bring. Education results in more creativity, which brings more bespoke ad solutions and this brings higher revenue opportunities. (That AR edition brought in more than US$750,000 new money on the back of that one exercise alone.)

So, it’s all simple isn’t it? Well, not quite, but news media are getting there.

In short, as INMA CEO, Earl Wilkinson points out in the 2014 annual industry report, the future is not print, the future is not digital ... the future is print plus digital plus “something extra.” That something extra is e-commerce, adjacent business tie-ins, data exploitations, etc.

So, where does mobile payment technology fit in?

News media (and other publishers for that matter) are focused on developing mobile products more than anything else. But a whole range of technology companies (app stores, operators, and payment companies such as Barclaycard and Visa) are going to have a big impact on how publishers make money.

For instance, would giving readers the option to pay for media content through their mobile phone operators give a big boost to “circulation” sales?

If someone goes into a shop and buys a loaf of bread, it feels wrong to put it on your plastic card. The same could be said of picking up a daily newspaper.

Consider the logic. There are more people with mobile phones than credit cards in the world, so mobile billing could be a way to increase sales. The potential is there. App stores are already doing a decent job of taking much of the pain and hassle out of paying for content on mobiles, it could be argued.

But for “non-app” sales, or for reaching consumers without a credit card, it could be a good way of tapping into users who don’t yet pay for things with a mobile.

What’s needed is an education exercise to iron out the trust and fear factors from the telemedia industry to publishers. Assuring us there is no risk ... and of the benefits.

Another hot topic is whether or not this would help users make mobile advertising payments.

Near field communications (NFC, now on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus) allows mobile users to pay for items simply by tapping bank cards on payment points. This surely has big potential.

If NFC payments do eventually take off, it could provide an interesting and powerful new way to track the impact of advertising on a range of purchases, particularly at point of sale.

This element has been missing for advertisers thus far and news media companies, as being “trusted” brands at the very heart of buying decisions, could be well placed to take advantage of new developments and efficiencies in the mobile retail process. Think of the e- and m-commece and brand extension opportunities.

Education again is and will be key. There is still not enough knowledge in news media businesses to ensure this is fully explored and ultimately exploited. But slowly its happening.

This latter message of education and support is one I am taking on behalf of our industry in October, to Marbella, Spain, to campaign for support from the payments industry. I will keynote at the World Telemedia annual conference.

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