Time Inc.’s move to accept bitcoin payments for subscriptions to some of its publications marks a step forward for traditional publishers exploring new business models that can be enabled through mobile devices.
Time’s tie-up with Coinbase will allow consumers to pay for digital and print subscriptions of Fortune, Health, This Old House and print subscriptions of Travel + Leisure using bitcoin. The move reflects the publishing industry’s quest to meet the demands of consumers who have the power to control their media choices on mobile while also underscoring the marketing buzz that bitcoin can generate even though it is an unofficial currency.
“Content remains king,” said Jeff Hasen, founder and CEO of Gotta Mobilize, a Seattle-based marketing consulting firm. “The first hurdle for a publisher is to produce material that someone wants. The second is to command a price for it. The third is to provide flexibility in payment options.
“Do you know one person who held off on subscribing because bitcoin wasn’t accepted previously?” he asked. “I don’t. Still, with all things, especially mobile things, it’s about providing choice.”
Time, which reaches more than 130 million consumers each month across multiple platforms, said the integration would help the company further engage and expand its audience by providing consumers with a convenient, secure and fast payment method for subscriptions.
One Time-Coinbase bitcoin application under study is micropayments, which would allow consumers to make small payments for content in an open network.
Exploring new business models.
The publisher has 62 million unique mobile users on a monthly basis. Some users only use mobile, some only desktop and others regularly move between platforms.
In other mobile moves, Time is striving to create targeted experiences on mobile despite the lack of cookies on the channel by matching its own user database against social media user databases.
The company is leveraging its database of over 104 million print users and matching it up with user profiles for large digital platforms to look correlations.
This strategy has enabled it to identify users who are readers of one of its magazines. From here, the publisher is able to deliver content on third-party sites that is relevant to a user. For example, a Real Simple reader might see a chocolate recipe gallery while on a weather site.
For a campaign with Infiniti, Time Inc. paired knowledge of a user’s favorite magazine with knowledge of preferred content types to deliver a personalized content feed on third-party sites with the brand woven in throughout the experience.
The publisher is also beginning to look at how content is trending across social environments. For example, it is tracking the volume of shares that content gets per hour to determine what content is breaking and becoming popular.
Brands of all stripes are warming to bitcoin.
In September, PayPal announced that it was partnering with Coinbase and fellow bitcoin processors BitPay and GoCoin to allow its merchants to accept the cryptocurrency for digital goods like online games and downloadable songs.
In July, 1800Flowers.com said it would start accepting bitcoin payments in the fall to reach a growing audience whose financial dealings and purchasing increasingly happen in the digital realm, including mobile.
Giving consumers options.
The florist said it would accept the virtual currency through the Coinbase platform already used by Expedia.com, Overstock.com, DISH Network and other brands across its sites, including 1-800-Flowers.com, 1-800-Baskets.com and FruitBouquets.com.
“As long as Time gives consumers options, this move isn’t a bad thing,” Mr. Hasen said. “But will it move the needle in the short term? No.”
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York.
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