trends

Alternative Website Billing

Marc Jarrett
Although some of you are probably not feeling it, thanks in main to tubes and torrents, if the research companies are to believed, we are all part of a multi-billion dollar industry whose primary billing mechanism has historically been the credit card, and more recently, the debit card.

However, if Visa and/or Mastercard were to seize the moral high ground for whatever reason, premium web content owners will have no other alternative than to source alternative billing mechanisms to turn all those bytes into bucks.

Of these, phone billing is probably the most well known method. The successor to the dialer, phone billing is powered by premium rate numbers whose tariffs and out-payments vary from country to country.

With such billing, there are two primary mechanisms: pay-per-access (PPA) and pay-per-minute (PPM). With PPA, the ordering process creates the revenue — how much access time is granted is up to the content owner. As for PPM, immediate access to the desired content is granted for the time that the customer remains connected to a premium rate number.

Premium Short Message Service (PSMS) is telephony based payment channel that can be used to charge for access to premium web content. Subscribers are charged either when they send a short-code text message to request a product (known as Mobile Originated or MO billing) or when they receive a product on their phone (known as Mobile Terminated or MT billing). PSMS revenues are shared by the content provider, aggregator and the operator. PSMS is currently supported in 28 territories, across Western Europe, North America and Asia.

Whilst a raft of other alternative processors exist that facilitate anonymous payments to capitalize on the growing army of 'digitally nervous' customers who are afraid of using their cards online, a credit or debit card is usually needed in order to fund their accounts.

One notable exception to this is the London based www.ukash.com whose patented solution allows end-users to pay for online content or tangibles using cash at one of over 275,000 points-of-sale such as convenience stores, corner shops and post offices. Users are then issued a secure and unique 19-digit voucher which assures payment when presented online. Research conducted by the company has concluded that approximately 80 percent of users already have a credit or debit card, but prefer the safety and anonymity afforded to them when paying for goods or services this way.

Clearly, cash, which is still the favored form of money in most countries, has not been suited as a payment method for ecommerce in the past for obvious reasons. But with such a wide and extensive network of vendors already in place who can readily convert it to a valid e-voucher for online commerce, industry observers are predicting that such billing is set to become an increasingly popular payment mechanism with both merchants and users alike.

In an era of increasing online fraud and identity theft, the more payment options that webmasters can give prospective customers, the better. Perhaps one day such payment methods might just become the primary, not secondary, methods of payments on join pages.

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