Using premium rate mobile services to monetise a site

This is the penultimate post in the monetisation series. We’ll be discussing how to use premium mobile services to monetise digital properties.

‘Traditional’ premium rate services

There has been some negative publicity about premium messaging in the UK, mainly surrounding television programmes. One key issue is the “bill-shock”, of when a customer’s mobile phone bill arrives a few weeks later, and the customer is surprised at the number of premium messages they’ve sent during the month. Mobile operators have walked a tightrope by offering some payment opportunities on their customers’ handsets, without turning phones into complete wallets (yet).

The most common form of premium mobile messaging is to offer a subscription service, for the ‘website’ to send text messages to customers’ mobile devices. While services such as daily horoscopes used to be more common, they are still in use today.

There are other forms of premium messaging such as:

  • Sending a URL in a premium text message
  • Breaking news text alerts
  • MMS messages, commonly referred to in the UK as picture messaging. This can be a good way to distribute coupons
  • Text voting (i.e. users vote using text messaging, and this can involve multiple premium rate messages)
  • Charging for text reminders (such as appointments) at a premium rate
  • Paying for goods under £5 can often be easier with a single £5 SMS than other online billing methods

There are some advantages to using mobile messaging over apps and web channels. The integration can often be more simple – as a more mature industry there are established companies offering services with simple APIs.

Also, the market size is far higher: despite smartphone penetration increasing, there are still tens of millions of mobile phones which aren’t iOS and Android – just in the UK.

Smartphone premium rate services

Smartphones can handle all the traditional premium rate services described above. Smartphones offer another key monetisation option, with similar potential issues, through in-app purchases.

In-app purchases also provide some bill shock, mainly because the purchases are so straightforward to make. The API integration is even easier – most mobile app developers who are able to produce smartphone apps can extend to in-app very easily.


Finally, if you are considering premium rate mobile services it is important to follow the regulator’s advice. And it is just as important to prepare users for bill shock.

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