Felix Salmon

The FT’s mini-payments

By Felix Salmon
March 3, 2010

The way that the FT’s meter-model subscription works, you have a certain number of stories you can read for free each month; after that, you have to cough up something in the region of $200 a year to read any more.

But that’s going to change: the FT will start selling one-day and one-week passes, via PayPal, in the next few months. So when you approach the end of the month and you run out your monthly quota, you then have the option of buying a daily or weekly pass to get you through the rest of the month until your monthly free allocation reappears.

This will both increase the total number of paid online subscribers (if you include in that number people who subscribe at any point over the course of the year) while at the margin reducing the likelihood that someone who’s reached their monthly limit will end up becoming a fully-paid annual subscriber. And even if it doesn’t increase total FT.com subscription revenues, it might well help the bottom line by making the site more attractive to advertisers, who love enormous paid-subscriber numbers.

It’s also interesting that the FT is using PayPal for its smaller payments; it’s unclear whether PayPal will be an option when it comes to paying for annual subscriptions as well. It’s also unclear whether the cost of a daily or weekly subscription will be refundable in the event that the reader converts to an annual subscription — that would certainly be the user-friendly thing to do.

I also assume that the FT’s decision to use PayPal is an indication that they failed to persuade Apple to open up its iTunes payment system for web-based micropayments. Paying is still going to be a relatively laborious process, involving being sent over to the PayPal site, logging in there, making the payment, and then being sent back to the FT — at which point it will almost certainly have forgotten which page you were trying to get to in the first place. I don’t know when things are going to get easier, but the day can’t come soon enough.

One comment so far | RSS Comments RSS

I’ve never quite understood why Paypal don’t create plugins for the major browsers so you don’t have to go through the site. I assume it’s to do with security risk, but you’d have thought there’d be a way. It’s not like Paypal’s website approach is super secure either. It’s vulnerable to keyloggers and to the usual password hacking approaches.

Posted by GingerYellow | Report as abusive

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