Google Plans Tools to Help News Media Charge for Content

R.A. Hettinga rah at
Thu Sep 10 07:52:25 EDT 2009

Stands to reason. Google's in the advertisement microbilling business  

Turn it upside down and you get book-entry micropayments.



- Bits Blog -

SEPTEMBER 9, 2009, 8:51 PM
Google Plans Tools to Help News Media Charge for Content
Update | 11:19 p.m. Added link to Nieman Journalism Lab, which first  
publicized the Google filing.

Google is planning to roll out a system of micropayments within the  
next year and hopes that newspapers will use it as they look for new  
ways to charge users for their content.

The revelation was made in a document that Google sent to the  
Newspaper Association of America in response to a request for paid- 
content proposals that the association sent to several technology  

The Google document, which was first publicized by the Nieman  
Journalism Lab, indicates that the micropayment system will be an  
extension of Google Checkout, a payment system that Google rolled out  
in 2006 and positioned as a competitor to eBay’s PayPal service, the  
leading system for online payments.

“While currently in the early planning stages, micropayments will be a  
payment vehicle available to both Google and non-Google properties  
within the next year,” Google wrote. “The idea is to allow viable  
payments of a penny to several dollars by aggregating purchases across  
merchants and over time.”
Ten other companies responded to the association’s request, including  
Microsoft, I.B.M. and Oracle. But Google’s plans are particularly  
interesting because of the delicate relationship between the newspaper  
industry and the company.

In the document, Google said that newspapers could also use Checkout  
to charge for subscriptions, but it described the system for managing  
the subscriptions as “fairly rudimentary.”

Newspapers have been grappling with an industrywide financial crisis  
that has devastated many dailies. The industry is trying to find new  
ways to earn revenue, and several publishers are evaluating ways to  
charge for content.

Randy Bennett, senior vice president of business development for the  
industry association, said the request for proposals was made  
following a meeting of its members in May. He said it is now up to  
individual newspapers to decide whether to pursue relationships with  
any of the companies that submitted proposals.

Google, which has long relied on advertising for the overwhelming  
majority of its revenue, said that it believed that paid content could  
be a good complement to advertising.

“While we believe that advertising will likely remain the main source  
of revenue for most news content, a paid model can serve as an  
important source of additional revenue. In addition, a successful paid  
content model can enhance advertising opportunities, rather than  
replace them,” the company wrote.

The Google proposal, if it goes forward, could put the company in  
competition with Journalism Online, a venture backed by Steven Brill  
and L. Gordon Crovitz, which has recently said that it had tentatively  
signed more than 500 newspapers for its services. Those services  
include “hybrid models for paid content.” Journalism Online is one of  
the companies that presented a proposal to the association.

In a statement, Google said:

The Newspaper Association of America asked Google to submit some ideas  
for how its members could use technology to generate more revenue from  
their digital content, and we shared some of those ideas in this  
proposal. It’s consistent with Google’s effort to help publishers  
reach bigger audiences, better engage their readers and make more  
money. We have always said that publishers have full control over  
their content. If they decide to charge for it, we’ll work with them  
to ensure that their content can be easily discovered if they want it  
to be. As for Checkout, we don’t have any specific new services to  
announce but we’re always looking for ways to make payments online  
more efficient and user-friendly.

Google has been experimenting with new ways to highlight news content  
and new ways to display it.

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