Micropayments are a hot topic these days in the world of artists, writers, music download sites, and small independent websites and publishers. The following post describes our experience over at Small Business Trends using the BitPass micropayments system to purchase content, specifically photographs.
From time to time we post photographs on the site to add visual interest to our pages. Most of the images come from istockphoto.com, using BitPass to purchase them.
Admittedly our sampling size is tiny — one person, me. But based upon my experience I can report that using BitPass on about 10 different occasions, the experience has been uniformly positive each time.
- BitPass is a Web-based system, so all I need is a browser — no software to download. The BitPass user interface is streamlined. Screens don’t get much simpler to use.
- Setting up my account initially was quick and easy. Just the bare minimum of information is requested. I was not required to provide age, gender, household income, hobbies, mother’s maiden name, or even number of pets.
- The way micropayments work is that you purchase credits for your account (similar to buying a gift card). That process was very easy, too. I was given several ways to pay, including PayPal and credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard. I chose PayPal, and the interfaces with the PayPal system worked without a glitch. My initial $3 (USD) was transferred from my bank account to my BitPass account instantly.
- Once I had a few dollars in my account, I went shopping. Off to istockphoto.com, where I downloaded photographs for $1(USD) each. Here again, using BitPass was fast and easy.
As a user, I saw only two issues: First, photographs are twice as expensive using BitPass versus istockphoto.com’s own in-house version of micropayments ($1 versus $.50). Somehow BitPass is going to have to close that price gap. Second, outside of stock photographs, today there is very little content I would want to purchase using micropayments. Until there are more vendors offering desirable content who accept BitPass, usage will be limited.
All signs suggest the market might now be ready for micropayments to take off. The last time around, before the Internet bubble burst, micropayments never got much traction. Most of the original micropayments providers went under. But we are now in a different era, with paid Internet content gaining greater acceptance and music download services going mainstream and creating demand for micropayments.
That said, a major issue looming on the horizon for BitPass and other micropayments providers is competition from PayPal. A representative of PayPal has said “we think the stars are coming into alignment” on micropayments. PayPal recently kicked off its own micropayments rate. Backed by its parent, eBay, a cash-rich and well-run powerhouse of a company, PayPal could be a formidable competitor.
Note: Check out Small Business Trends to see how we use photographs in our weblog to add visual interest. We are happy to report that the photographs are also picked up in our RSS feeds, and are viewable when our readers access our posts through news aggregators such as Feedster and Bloglines.