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Will Facebook Credits finally change the game for media content micropayments?

03 Mar 2010  |  Toby Beresford 
Toby Beresford

Toby Beresford, commercial director for London creative agency Nudge Social Media, says Facebook Credits could change the way we view micropayments.

Micropayments for content? Pah! It's an argument as old as the web (Jakob Nielsen is for and Clay Shirky (O'Reilly) is against).

For me, it hasn't happened before because of the payment overhead - when compared to cash (our traditional micro-payment system!) most solutions from PayPal down have too much overhead in terms of transaction costs (PayPal charges a minimum fee) and time (authentication, authorisation and approval all take clicks and precious brain energy).

However, Facebook Credits is the new kid on the block and might yet be the game changer.

Currently in pilot testing with just 21 apps from a limited set of publishers, it is expected to get a wider roll out very soon indeed. Facebook has some big advantages that might unlock micro-payments for media content from video to games.

So, what does Facebook offer that's new?

First up, you're already authenticated - Facebook knows who you are (that's an active user base of 400 million people) - so there is no need to "leave the shop, sign in at the bank, and return to the shop with a permission-to-buy slip" as one wag described the traditional e-commerce purchase experience..

Second, you've likely already set it up - if you bought a virtual gift for someone a few years ago then Facebook already has your credit card details.

Add to this the option for a very smooth payment via your mobile phone bill (also likely to be set up, if you're one of the 100 million mobile users of Facebook) and you have a strong, smooth and fast micropayment solution.

Is this just what content providers have wanted for years? Yes! Facebook credits is "cash for the web".

I put this to the test by extending my Happy Island quay. In the game I manage a South Pacific island and look after the travel, entertainment and accommodation needs of my virtual tourists.

My new Happy Island quay

My new Happy Island Quay

So, at a cost of 2 Facebook credits (£0.50), I upgraded to a slightly bigger quay. I paid with my mobile phone bill and after a few clicks, I was able to start taking more virtual tourists round my virtual island. Indeed, a rather swanky yacht stopped and offloaded shortly after I'd paid up.

More importantly though, when I then returned a few days later to upgrade my air strip for even more tourists, I didn't even need to re-authorise Facebook with my mobile phone details - I just needed to click once to confirm - "yes, I'll spend a couple of Facebook credits on this."

What a payment experience! It hardly impacted on my enjoyment of the game. Smooth and appropriate, I just gave Facebook and Crowdstar, the publishers of Happy Island, some of my hard earned money without feeling the overhead.

For me, there's no doubt Facebook credits rock, and I just bought a few extra pixels and some great entertainment.

So what should MediaTel subscribers do about this?

For online media companies looking for new revenue models paid-for content with Facebook Credits should be your number one priority for 2010.

Facebook rules aren't the web's rules - what people do when they are anonymous differs greatly from what they do when their real friends are watching. You need new types of publications or "social features" as we call them here at Nudge, to attract customers who will still pay to consume your content, but are doing so in a new way.

Self expression, social remixing (another Nudge technique), virtual currency, virtual gifting, sharing, commenting and continual personalisation are what differentiates the Facebook crowd (about 23 million of your fellow UK subjects ... ).

If you don't tailor content to this new global audience then someone else may well beat you to it, and with Facebook credits they'll have a great way to monetise too.

My recommendation - get ready for Facebook credits and create online properties that exchange virtual content for virtual currency

Now, back to more important matters, like where shall I put my new Beach Bungalow and Crab shack? I wonder if the beach will get the most footfall ....

airport upgrade

I haven't earned enough coins in the game so can only upgrade my air strip if I pay real money ...

upgrading the airfield

I've already set up Facebook credits so to pay I just need to click Confirm

purchase confirmed

Wow! Painless and I've now got a new air strip

tourists on Happy Island

And within a few seconds the first tourists arrive on a bigger plane ...

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