Navio Personalizes Content Commerce

Imagine a digital content-commerce environment where buying and selling the rights to a game, song, or ring tone is as easy as buying a newspaper. That is exactly the goal of Navio, a digital commerce service provider that launched a brandable version of its primary customer interface this month. Navio offers a transaction service that handles identity management, payment, and title transfer for any type of digital content, intending to pave the way to wide-spread use of digital commerce.

With the Navio Companion, initially launched last October and updated in January to facilitate branding, "retailers of digital content will be able to offer a transaction service that carries their own brand while leveraging the Navio service to build new revenue streams for digital commerce," according to the company's director of marketing and communications, Stephen Jones."The new version allows major content providers to monetize and encourage C2C distribution of content that carries brand awareness and extends reach from hard goods to digital products," Jones says.

Navio's president and CEO Stefan Roever believes that the potential for digital commerce is currently hampered by the lack of a unified payment method. "Transactions are still sufficiently complex that the majority of consumers are not yet comfortable with Web commerce," says Roever, who also thinks that consumer fear of giving credit card details to multiple vendors remains justifiably great.

In addition to potentially serving large content sellers, Roever envisions all shapes and sizes of content users and sellers interacting with unlimited potential for buying and selling digital content legally using P2P networks, email, or Web pages. In the Navio vision, anyone could be a potential seller of material they create or are interested in without the overhead of maintaining an ecommerce site. Content companies could create what Navio calls Super Distribution networks of unlimited size without additional marketing staff. They've dubbed this potential for exponential growth "viral selling."

In the Navio vision, armchair disc jockeys could distribute their favorite music and even earn a portion of the profit or reward points in the process, Roever says. Teenagers without credit cards could spend Navio dollars on whatever they wanted; to keep the metaphor simple, these are represented as individual currency icons by the Navio Companion, which loads as a browser applet.

To those who think micro payments are too small to bother with, Jones would argue that the potential market is actually too large to ignore. And, under Navio's model, sellers don't have to track every sale, but just "watch the money accumulate in their Navio account." Micro sales of content to mobile phones in the US has been slow to take off, but it is a much bigger market in Europe where, as Jones points out, ring tones now outsell music singles in some countries.

Navio's technology is based on moving the rights or "titles" to content around from seller to buyer, not the digital content itself. It's up to the content provider, whether that is an individual, a reseller, or a media company, to decide the terms of use and method of distribution. Navio provides the template for the title document—which the original seller creates—certifies the identity of the seller and buyer, and guarantees the financial transfer.

Roever envisions Navio titles acting as bearer instruments, like cash bills certified by the Federal Bank or stock certificates. If the current owner of a title has the right to sell it to someone else, presumably with the originator getting a percentage of each sale, content could be passed on and resold without the involvement of the original creator or license holder. The terms of the title are tracked by Navio and the service credits each participant automatically. Subscribers can receive full reports, or data exports to import into their own accounting systems.

Because Navio titles are like cash or receipts, they need to be kept in a safe place. The Navio Companion applet provides a folder view of titles in the user's "digital locker." Each title is a single XML document with metadata fields recording the item description and terms, then wrapped in HTML tags so that it is viewable by any browser.

Normally the title contains the right to use or sell content, but not the content itself. Navio is not specific to any given method of DRM and leaves it up to the content creator to decide how to encrypt or otherwise protect their copyright. Navio facilitates the description of the item and the transaction of the sale, but does not have any involvement with the content itself.

With Navio you don't need to register your credit card and other details multiple times or worry about the reputation of the seller as Navio handles all user authentications, eliminating the risk to the buyer and seller, Jones says. He contrasts Navio's guarantee with a service like eBay that merely rates sellers.

Offers to sell content can be posted on Navio's Marketplace site, currently in beta testing, due to go live late this month. According to Jones, content can also be advertised on a content creator's own site, with links back to Navio, or sent via email or any other distributable document. With its newest version of Companion, Navio aims to make it easy for content providers to add personalized content commerce features to their sites without the overhead of maintaining it themselves. They can add their logo to the Companion and let Navio do the rest, Jones says. "The branded service still carries the single sign-on advantage in terms of identity management. An email and password log-in will work across multiple brands."