Micropayments datapoint of the day

By Felix Salmon
November 12, 2009
Joe Brancatelli reports on airline fliers' stubborn refusal to pay even a nominal sum for wifi:

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Joe Brancatelli reports on airline fliers’ stubborn refusal to pay even a nominal sum for wifi:

Passengers “want to be connected, [but] they want it to be free,” Doug Murri, Southwest Airlines senior manager of technologies, told a group of airline and entertainment executives this past summer. Alaska Airlines, testing the same satellite-based WiFi system as Southwest, reports that passenger usage plummets when it charges a fee. The higher the fee, the faster the decline. “Even when we charge $1—and we did try $1—we see a drop-off in people willing to pay,” Alaska Airlines executive Craig Chase recently told the Wall Street Journal.

There’s a lesson here for anybody wanting to put a paywall around their website. Fliers are perfectly happy to pay $7 for a copy of the Economist to read on the plane, or even $4 for a copy of People magazine. And I’m sure if they spent their flight on the internet they would claim to value that experience at least as much as the experience of reading a single magazine. But getting them over the hump of paying anything at all for web content is still turning out to be all but impossible.

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