Times' m-payments trial signals profitable future

Widespead use of mobile payments will take a step closer to becoming a reality in the next few days, when media giant News...

Widespead use of mobile payments will take a step closer to becoming a reality in the next few days, when media giant News Corporation is expected to be granted intellectual property protection rights for its m-payment systems.

News Omnimedia, News Corporation's mobile division, is currently trialling m-payment systems on the Times Online Web site, allowing users to pay for premium content via their monthly mobile phone bill.

The company is planning to open up the payment platform to other online publishers in the UK, including Times' competitors, on a shared-revenue basis, with differing amounts being taken by Omnimedia, the client and the mobile operator.

Adam Daum, chief analyst at GartnerG2, said Omnimedia's move is the next evolutionary step in the m-payments market, but warned Web site owners not to be over-optimistic.

"This is a positive move in that it could create a behaviour pattern where consumers get used to adding content charges to their mobile phone bills," he said. "However, companies should not get too excited as research has consistently shown that consumers are only prepared to pay for exclusive or personalised content."

The overall m-payments market could receive a boost if Omnimedia makes its m-payments platform affordable. "A lot of Web sites want to charge for content but have been scared of alienating their customers," Daum explained. "If Omnimedia's platform is cheap and simple enough to implement it ought to reduce the risk."

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Times Online's mobile payments system
At the moment, Times Online users must pay £10 up front with their credit card to download a minimum of 10 articles. However, this has only had limited take-up, leading News Corporation to trial its m-payment system on the site.

To use the system users have to input their mobile number to unlock restricted parts of the site. They are then charged for usage on their mobile phone bill. The user only has to input their number once - they will then be sent a Pin number via text message for subsequent use.

Times Online is currently testing the system internally. If the trial is successful it plans to launch m-payments across all mobile networks in the next few months.

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