What ever happened to micropayments?

Sometimes I really do feel old.  I remember over a decade ago – probably more like 12-13 years ago researching micropayments and how that would be the future of Web-based transactions.

I see that the NYT is looking to charge for its Web-based content starting next year but they haven’t figured out how to do it or what to charge.

There was a time when people were very keen on micropayments (before the IT bubble in 2001).  Take the NYT.  I would have a web-based subscription tied to a credit card and would pay 5 cents to read a David Brooks column or seven cents to read the front page stories, or whatever.  The idea then (and I don’t understand why not now) was that the transaction costs would be virtually nothing (the cost of a Web-based e-commerce server pinging VISA to see if I have money to pay the five cents) and thousands of people paying for just the content they wanted to see (supplemented by ad revenue) would provide a sustainable business model.

It’s kind of like iTunes but even on a more chunked up basis.

There was a time when industry executives were pitching this model for television as well.  You pay for just what you want – 50 cents for 30 Rock, $2 for new movies, 15 cents for the National.

I think it is where we should have gone but never did.

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2 Responses to What ever happened to micropayments?

  1. Tom Rivington says:

    I always wondered why this didn’t happen as well. Someone could create a html tag (not sure if thats the correct term) that resides on your browser, you hit that and it sends the payment from your paypal, kind of like the Digg button.

  2. I presented a paper on an infrastructure that would support them to an IEEE conference a couple weeks ago. But the infrastructure isn’t really going to go anywhere because the content industry is still focused on making people pay ‘full’ price for low-value digital assets.

    They are doing this through proprietary technology, digital rights management, and copyright and trade legislation (if you have not been reading Michael Geist on the latter, you really owe it to yourself to do so). You can’t just buy a digital movie for a few cents on the open internet, you have to go to Apple’s closed marketplace and pay $14. You can’t just buy a 50 cent book online, you have to buy a Kindle and buy one from Amazon’s private marketplace for $9.95

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