Online Content Spending Up 18% Last Year

Consumer spending for online content in the U.S. grew to nearly $1.6 billion in 2003, an increase of 18.8% over 2002. The top three paid content categories – Personals/Dating, Business/Investment and Entertainment/Lifestyles – accounted for 64% of total online content spending in 2003, up slightly from 62.6% in 2002. The Online Publishers Association commissioned the study, conducted in partnership with comScore Networks. According to the report, 16.4 million U.S. consumers paid for online content in Q4 2003, up 2.1 million over the same period in 2002. The proportion of the total U.S. Internet population that paid for content in Q4 2003 grew to 11.1%, representing year-over-year growth of 7.7%. With monthly eCommerce penetration ranging from 22% to 30% in 2003, OPA says there is still plenty of room for growing the number of paid content consumers within the population that is currently making transactions online.

Online Content Spending ($ in millions)
2003 % Growth
1. Personals/Dating $449.5 48.8%
2. Business/Investment $334.1 14.4%
3. Entertainment/Lifestyles $214.0 -5.9%
4. Research $108.6 1.8%
5. Personal Growth $90.7 104.5%
Source: Online Publishers Association/comScore Networks

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Cambridge Credit Makes Sweeping Changes

MA-based non-profit credit counseling firm, Cambridge Credit, which is currently facing lawsuits over its business practices, yesterday announced a new fee structure, consisting of an initial fee of $75, followed by a monthly maximum maintenance fee of $50, for each customer. Cambridge Credit is also instituting a sliding fee scale for consumers who have difficulty paying the monthly maintenance fee. The firm also announced it will add four additional outside directors and will establish a Compensation Committee to set and review compensation levels of all officers and senior executives at Cambridge Credit and its affiliates. Also, taking over as acting President and CEO of Cambridge Credit is Chris Viale, formerly the organization’s Chief Operating Officer. Cambridge Credit also says it will reorganize its relationships with its for-profit affiliates (Debt Relief Clearinghouse, Ltd., Brighton Credit Management Corp., Brighton Debt Management Services, Ltd., Cypress Advertising and Promotions, Inc. and the Cambridge Consumer Credit Index), which will become wholly owned subsidiaries of the non-profit organization. As a result, transactions between Cambridge Credit and its for-profit subsidiaries will occur at fair market value and any earnings of the for-profits will be captured by Cambridge Credit, acting as holding company for the benefit of its customers.

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AAMS and EWI Ink a Prepaid Processing Deal

ABN AMRO Merchant Services has signed a deal to provide access to its merchant base to EWI Holding’s product suite of prepaid services such as prepaid wireless, long distance and digital content. This alliance will provide AAMS merchants and agent banks with the ability to process payments for a broad variety of prepaid product offerings. National Processing, Inc. through its wholly owned operating subsidiary, National Processing Company, LLC., is a leading provider of merchant credit and debit card processing. EWI Holdings is a leading provider of advanced payment processing technologies to the prepaid and cash payments sectors in the US and Latin America.

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MBNA and GMAC Launch a Rewards MasterCard

GMAC Mortgage and MBNA have teamed to launch a co-branded rewards card that assists cardholders to pay down their mortgage balance with GMAC Mortgage by applying the rewards directly to the mortgage principal. The new “GMAC Mortgage Equity Rewards Platinum Plus MasterCard” offers one point for every dollar in net retail purchases charged to the card. Each time a cardholder accumulates 2,500 points, $25 is credited automatically to the cardholder’s mortgage principal with GMAC Mortgage. There is no annual limit on points and no annual limit on how many “Equity Rewards” can be applied to the reduction of mortgage principal. Redemption is automated and occurs once each quarter. The new card is offered at a 7.9% APR and includes an introductory rate of 0% on cash advance checks and balance transfers until April 2005, as well as credit lines of up to $100,000. As of December, GMAC Mortgage originated $112 billion in residential mortgages, representing 773,135 transactions. The company’s servicing portfolio of more than $196 billion represents nearly 2 million customers throughout the nation.

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Lipman First Quarter Revenues Up 44% as Gross Profit Rises 24%

Lipman Electronic Engineering reported for the first quarter that revenues were $32.1 million, an increase of 44.2% over the first quarter of 2003. Net income for the quarter was $4.8 million, compared to $5.8 million for the comparable year-ago period. Gross profit for the quarter was $15.7 million, or 49.0% of revenues, compared to $12.7 million, or 57.1% of revenues, for the first quarter of 2003, due to penetration and expansion into new and emerging markets. During the quarter, Lipman was awarded tenders from AK Bank, Isbank and Yapi Kredi Bank in Turkey to supply a total of 89,000 terminals during the first half of 2004. Lipman also recently received Interac certification for its “NURIT 8000S” wireless terminal for the Canadian market. Lipman is a provider of handheld, wireless and landline POS terminals, electronic cash registers, retail ATM units, PIN pads and smart card readers, all under the “NURIT” brand name.

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MasterCard Asks the High Court to Review CPP Ruling

MasterCard yesterday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirming the judgment that MasterCard’s “Competitive Programs Policy” and VISA’s “rule 2.10e” violate “Section 1 of the Sherman Act.” MasterCard said it is asking the high court to review this case in order to clarify the serious and important issues the decision raises about how all joint ventures are treated under the antitrust laws. MasterCard contends that Judge Barbara S. Jones and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals applied the wrong legal standards in reaching their decisions on the “CCP” and “rule 2.10e,” and that when the appropriate standard is applied, the decision should be reversed. MasterCard and VISA’s policy prohibit proprietary card rivals American Express and Discover from gaining access to the network of banks the associations each spent more than 30 years building. Both AmEx and Discover have opened their networks to bank issuers. To-date, MBNA has inked a deal with AmEx to issue cards if the U.S. Supreme Court fails to reverse the lower court ruling.

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Banco Itau Launches MoneyGram Payment Service in 2,400 Locations

Banco Itau and MoneyGram Payment Systems have launched a money transfer services in more than 2,400 Banco Itau locations. There are nearly 4 million Brazilians living abroad who send money
home to their families in Brazil. Banco Itau is the largest privately owned bank in Brazil, with more than nine million customers and $40 billion in assets. MoneyGram has 68,000 agent locations (excluding Banco Itau) in 160 countries. It is a subsidiary of Travelers Express Company, which is a subsidiary of Viad Corp.

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Incurrent Expands Sales Team by Two

NJ-based Incurrent has hired Keith Ginsberg, formerly of CT Corporation, and William Davit, formerly of Uponus and Mobius, as two new account sales executives. The new sales executives will facilitate the expansion in the company’s product offerings in order to meet increased demand for its services due to unprecedented growth in enrollments. Incurrent develops and operates advanced online products for financial institutions in the global payment card industry, including issuers of consumer, small business, purchasing card, corporate T&E, and private label cards.

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BOTTOMLINE & ABM MICROBANK

Bottomline Technologies has acquired the assets of ABM Microbank, the fifth largest BACS solution provider in the UK. Albion Business Machines Limited (ABM) provides electronic funds transfer software to more than 1,500 users. Bottomline Technologies also recently reported that revenues for the first calendar quarter were $21.6 million compared with $18.6 million for the year-ago quarter. The net loss for the quarter was $241,000, compared with a net loss of $2.2 million in same quarter one-year ago. During the quarter over 90 new orders for Bottomline?s “BACSTEL-IP” versions of “PayBase” and “WebSeries” were received from leading UK-based organizations including Trinity Mirror, BNP Paribas, and PayPoint. In addition, over 150 companies in the United Kingdom have subscribed to and are now running Bottomline?s recently launched “BACSTEL-IP” subscription service. Bottomline Technologies, founded in 1989, is a global technology provider of “Financial Resource Management” solutions. Bottomline’s “FRM” offerings enables businesses and financial institutions to more effectively manage their critical financial transactions, cash decisions and trading partner relationships, leveraging the Web. “FRM” applications include “Electronic Payments and Cash Management,” “Electronic Invoice Receipt and Management,” “Electronic Invoice Presentment and Payment,” “Electronic Banking and Information Reporting.” The Company’s corporate headquarters is located in Portsmouth, NH with international headquarters in Reading, England.

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