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Bringing quality back to the web: milliPay

“We hope to change the way content can be consumed – there is quality content on the web and we believe in it. It needs to be financed – and people must be willing to finance it.”

Whether you like it or not, we’re in the midst of a consumption revolution. The way we read the news, watch our TV and pay for our content is undergoing a global shift. Online newspapers and media streaming portals have flourished at an unprecedented rate while traditional media is on a slow and steady decline.

Now the business model of content is being disrupted too – we begin to question our own standards. How do we recognise quality? How do we demand and encourage it? Which payment model is an appropriate solution to this model?

Andreas Sprock, CPO, co-founded milliPay in 2011. I spent time with him and his CEO Gerrit Sindermann. Their mission? To simplify our access to content through one-click payments across the web for transactions as small as £0.001.

MilliPay’s other co-founder and cryptographic expert, Tomas Hruz, began working on a crypto protocol to handle transaction security in 2001. A further 10 years was spent researching and refining the product. It’s allegedly 3000 times faster than encryption protocols used by banks – the protocol is patent-pending and forms the intellectual property for this Swiss startup.

Security is a priority for milliPay - the micro payments are transferred in real-time, anonymously. They're backed by the Swiss financial services standards association, VQF, to provide accounts and deposited money is protected by Süd-West-Kreditbank.

“There’s a reason for all kinds of advertising – it’s not black and white – but too many businesses overemphasise advertising – leading to ad blocking software. A nice kind of advertising can be useful for a user”

User experience is important too. Andreas and Geritt are passionate about simplicity and seamless operation. In most cases, when a content provider implements milliPay they place a small ‘pay with milliPay’ button alongside content. A user clicks the button, signs in and pays to enable access to a video, to a news article etc.

This brief process is designed to keep a customer engaged with the content and not turned off by sign-in screens and payment pages. It’s also geared towards flexibility – small, micro payments are attractive for customers on a tight budget or those who only wish to view a specific item.

“At the moment we’re signing up streaming providers – video sites – we’re working with second-tier platforms; anyone who wants to compete with the market leaders and differentiate their business model – how can you make it more convenient for the customers?” says Geritt.

He explains some situations – a music streaming website that lets you play music for just one night; a party. A video streaming website that charges per episode or programme. While the ‘pay-per-article’ model is already established for students at universities – it doesn't have traction in the consumer world.

The fact is, paying for content reinforces quality, it lets a publisher know what content is in demand and focused revenue can fuel its growth. Free media channels like YouTube are plagued by low-quality, amateur content. Its saving grace? The few shining stars that excel through its partner earnings programme.

“Social media is a special aspect for us – because milliPay is integrated into content you can use it with social media – you could share paid content among followers and receive cash back”

The way milliPay is designed allows for transactions to flow back and forth between customer and content provider. In a typical scenario a user tops up their milliPay account and pays for content. Conversely, a provider has the option to put cash back into a customer’s milliPay balance – rewarding them for sharing, ad clicks and site participation to increase customer loyalty.

Right now milliPay is fully operational – it’s been tested with news and streaming content in Germany with positive results – they’re gaining new clients without much promotion and observed that 80% of users who are opening up accounts are topping up their balances.

The world is changing - a new generation is now in control, a generation which thinks in digital - a generation that will rarely touch a newspaper, go to a rental store or buy a physical album - how do we take advantage of that change? milliPay has an answer.

Andreas and Geritt: Bringing quality content to the web
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