Google is the latest company to offer a way for content sites to provide material to their users while not losing their financial shirts: A site using its Wallet system can reveal the first few paragraphs of an individual article and then offer to reveal the rest for a small fee (usually less than a dollar). Fortunately, if the reader wants their money back, they have 30 minutes to get an instant refund to their account. Oxford Reference is one of a small number of sites that are using this system.
What’s the Big Idea?
Most sites that charge for content set up a paywall, which tends to push readers away. News sites with lots of exclusive material see more success with paywalls, but journalism think tank director Charlie Beckett says other news sites aren’t as fortunate: “There’s a myth that people ever liked news. [It’s] entertaining – but it’s not as entertaining as a pop video.” There’s also the interaction cost, says usability expert Jakob Nielsen: “What is the extra hassle for the user?” He suggests that in order for micropayment systems to work, they must be as simple as turning on a light: “[I]mmediately it starts charging you. But you don’t have to log in to turn [it] on.”