Friday, June 03, 2005

June 04, 2005

Billing for Content in Europe:
Dramatically Increase Revenues from European Surfers

By Marc Jarrett
YNOT news December 9, 2004

Over the years, the US has given us Europeans some great things to do in our leisure time. Undoubtedly the best movies, arguably the best fast-food, and certainly the best internet porn!

But it never ceases to amaze me how US-centric our American friends are. Not only do they seem to assume that everybody outside of the US can read and understand English, they also assume that the preferred payment method worldwide is the credit card. This is not necessarily the case.

In Europe’s largest market Germany, for example, credit card penetration is still relatively low -- and those that do have them are often reluctant to use them online, particularly with overseas vendors. Their preferred method of payment is an "Ueberweisung" (wire transfer) directly into the vendor’s bank account.

Since May 1st of this year, the European Union consists of 25 member states -- that’s 454 million potential customers folks, versus 293m stateside. But unlike the States, Europe consists of a group of countries, each with its own technical standards, billing capabilities, and consumer preferences for paying for goods and services. If you are going to sell to them, it is important to understand the dynamics of each individual country.

And sell you should. Given the underlying nature of the product we sell, the world is our oyster. Let’s face it; a blowjob is a blowjob in any language, making online erotica the perfect global product. However, getting potential customers to part with their hard earned cash for your content is not easy -- no matter how compelling your content might be.

So "Rule Number One" is to translate your galleries and tours into other languages. Our online cousins, the casinos, understood this a long time ago and have long offered their product in multiple languages. And if you are tempted to use online translation tools such as "babel fish" to accomplish this, think again. "Pussy" will be translated into the native’s feline version, and is more likely to do your sales process more harm than good. Employ the services of someone native to the country you are targeting -- preferably a fetish pimp.

Second, if you are to take the targeting of any given country seriously, you should register a domain specifically for that market. Having the translated version embedded within your existing English site is not enough. Having a standalone site for each market will dramatically increase the chances of your site being found by prospective customers who are actively seeking out your kind of content. It goes without saying that you should then place that country’s flag on your main homepage so that foreign surfers who stumble upon your main site can click through and get sold to in their native tongue.

Thirdly, and most importantly, you must offer more than just credit card billing. Make it easy for the customer to pay you. Working with a billing partner that can accept German wire transfers is a good start. Chances are no one partner can meet all your needs for all of Europe, so you will need to work with multiple partners who specialize in specific markets.

In theory, dialers were going to be the ideal billing mechanism for the global market. The end user’s modem dials a local premium rate number for access to your wonderful content, and pays for this on a per-minute basis via their telephone bills. Unfortunately, countless fraudsters thought it was a wonderful billing instrument too, leaving users with horrendous telephone bills for content they might not even have received by being tricked into remaining connected for far longer than they originally intended To this end, the reputation of the dialer has irreversibly been tarnished, and is an instant turn-off to many European surfers. Also, more and more Europeans have "always on" DSL broadband internet connections, rendering the dialer obsolete anyway.

For this growing army of potential customers, you should consider offering LAN-call as a payment option. Here, the customer dials a premium rate (1-900) number on their regular phone and is issued a PIN # which they then enter into your website. They are then granted access to your content whilst the phone is connected -- once they hang up, access to the site is terminated. Broadband customers feel comfortable with this payment method since no potentially harmful software needs to be downloaded onto their computer.

Another interesting payment option you should consider is the text message or "premium SMS" option. Over one million SMS messages have been sent in Europe in the time it has taken you to read this far. Premium SMS is a relatively new billing tool and is quite expensive since the mobile phone operators still keep a disproportionate proportion of what the customer pays -- but at least this way you can make money from the foreign free tour takers who never converted before. But if the old pay-per-call (or audiotex) industry is anything to go by, the margins for the content providers will increase as the industry matures.

Which brings me on to my final but very crucial point. Europe is a continent of cell phone junkies. There are now more cell phones in the UK than there are people. It gets better. The cell phone operators in Europe are currently in the process of rolling out their "3G" networks, for which the networks paid billions when various governments auctioned off the necessary airwave frequencies to gain licenses back in 2000. Vodafone -- Europe’s largest network operator -- has invested over $23 billion in 3G alone, so there’s a heck of a lot of money at stake. 3G handset owners can watch video-clips with ease wherever they are. But nobody is sure where the market is headed or how the operators are going to recoup their enormous investment.

Well, I’ve got some excellent news for you. I know who is going to drive the market forward. You are! Do you know what the ‘G’ in 3G really stands for? Girls, Games, and Gambling, that’s what. And do you know the best part? The Network’s won’t push the content that makes money since selling hardcore pornography will not sit well with the shareholders. That’s where you and I come in. Because, one thing is for sure, the novelty of playing soccer and comedy clips from anywhere will soon wear off -- whereas the prospect of being able of watch beautiful cum-shots anytime and anyplace has an almost universal appeal.

"Find a need and fill it" is the quintessential law of capitalism. We both know the need is there. So fill it we must. Anyone who is in this business for the long haul must begin to "mobilize" his or her content. You can do this already by creating a WAP site, which you can then cross-promote on your website, or offline. And given the fact that Europeans are already used to paying for content such as ring tones and logos, for and by means of their cell phones, the conversions you experience will be correspondingly higher than that of your website.

I’m not going to pretend it’s going to be easy. It’s not. Going global seldom is. But if you want to capitalize on the opportunities afforded by the global village and new emerging technologies, you will need to take action now. So here’s your New Year’s Resolution. Start going global. It’s going to cost time. And time is money. But the seeds you sow now will yield a long and healthy harvest for years to come. Content is King. So you are too.