While browsing online for articles about his favorite football team, the Green Bay Packers, Mike Gehl came to a screeching halt when he hit a paywall on the Insider section of ESPN.com. The site charges $9 per month for all its Insider sports news and commentary, but Gehl only wanted to read an article about one specific team.
An idea was formed. What if digital media companies could provide an option to read their content in smaller, a la carte increments, such as by the article?
Gehl developed Brookfield-based iMoneza around that concept. He founded the company in January 2014.
“It’s a company that’s trying to help publishers be more successful than they already are,” he said. “The reason I created the company is because I think publishers are going to have to put more and more stuff online, and they have to be able to get revenue from that to be successful.”
At the same time, consumers don’t get much value from flimsy “listicles” and poorly researched content, Gehl said. Creating an additional revenue stream for publishers, and providing the option to charge more for in-depth enterprise articles, would incentivize media outlets to create better content for the consumer, he said.
“(Right now), they can’t spend 16 to 20 hours on a story because they know they won’t get the ROI back,” Gehl said.
An iMoneza user sets up an account with a digital “wallet” and adds an increment of money – say $10 – to that wallet. As he browses through sites that have implemented iMoneza, the user can make micropayments, usually $1 or less, to read specific articles. This model avoids charging the provider credit card fees for very small payments, Gehl said.
The model could be applied to podcasts and music, as well. In addition to offering a flat monthly fee, providers could charge per podcast or song, he said.
A mechanical engineer by trade, Gehl needed help creating the software to enable the payments.
“The whole company revolves around software, and since I’m not a programmer, I needed somebody to develop the software for me,” he said.
With some research, he found Northwoods Web Solutions in Shorewood, and began working with the company’s developers to map, develop and test the software that would enable the micropayments. The iMoneza software officially launched in March, and the company is now focused on sales and marketing.
Locally, Milwaukee Magazine has implemented iMoneza’s software. When a reader tries to click on a headline in its “Member Pass” section, a popup gives her an option to purchase a single article for “as little as 25 cents” or subscribe to all of the publication’s offerings for $19 per year.
Many users, especially millennials, read a variety of publications, and those annual or monthly subscription costs can add up, Gehl said. Having an iMoneza wallet could allow them to inexpensively peruse a number of sites, paying a la carte for the articles that interest them.
The iMoneza software allows a publisher to set rules for how much an article costs depending on a variety of factors, so it can be customized to that company’s needs. For example, the cost of an article could increase after it reaches a certain level of readership, in a demand-based pricing model, Gehl said.
“If you can have the ability to pay as you go, I think that’s a huge advantage,” he said. “It’s an I-Pass for online content.”
iMoneza, which has seven employees, takes a cut of the revenue from the a la carte micropayments, which is usually between 7 and 15 percent, depending on the price of an article, Gehl said.
The iMoneza concept has forced publishers to reexamine their business models, so it has been challenging to convince them to take the leap, Gehl said.
Publishers are asking questions internally, such as: “What’s our content worth? What are we willing to charge and what are our users willing to pay for?” he said.
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Innovation: Digital media micropayments