Tuesday, April 18, 2006

QPass Acquired as Independent Content eCommerce Fades Away

If you're not familiar with QPass from their recent success in supporting content ecommerce for mobile content you may recall them from the bad old dot-com days when they tried with less success to combine an aggregation and cross-portal ecommerce model into a universal premium content access mechanism. With customer management solutions provider Amdocs having announced their acquisition of QPass, both visions of independent success with content ecommerce fade into the scenery. It comes after this year's earlier acquisition of content ecommerce specialist eMeta by content tools provider Macrovision and Bitpass' acquisition of Yaga, leaving few independent suppliers of content ecommerce services. Most content suppliers have implemented basic subscription management and "shopping cart" capabilities already through these and other of suppliers content ecommerce systems. As they do they focus less on transaction and subscription controls and more on leveraging the relationships that come through those transactions and visits into more engaging and profitable client relationships.

Content ecommerce today is less about the transaction and more about using sophisticated tools and marketing techniques to mine the most out of premium content relationships in all of the venues that audiences find to be appealing. One key element of the original QPass model had it right: make accessing premium content as transparent as possible through a wide variety of venues. What they missed is that a separate aggregation of content would make this rather unappealing to publishers trying to develop sophisticated relationships with their audiences, even as they try to broadcast content themselves via RSS feeds, podcasts and other developing channels. Years later we are for all intents and purposes no closer to a universal subscription access model than we were in the dot-com era.

Open-source DRM solutions hold out some hope that the infrastructure will be there to allow standard rights-managed content to pop out the back end of any number of ecommerce solutions, and accelerating markets for video and audio online content may push more producers towards open DRM. But it's more likely that we'll see a Google or other common online access point for content provide hooks that will allow publishers to have more universal access controls that complement their client care strategies effectively. QPass has moved on to new parents, but the problems that they wrestled with remain with us years later.
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