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Google Proposes Micropayment System to Save Newspapers

Gordon Kelly by

Google Proposes Micropayment System to Save Newspapers

Google thinks it can save the humble newspaper...

In an open letter to the Newspaper Association of America, Google has revealed it is working on a micropayment system based around Google Checkout which it believes may represent the future of the newspaper business model.

"Google believes that an open web benefits all users and publishers," it stated. "However, "open" need not mean free. We believe that content on the Internet can thrive supported by multiple business models — including content available only via subscription."

Google admits the payment system is "currently in the early planning stages" but reaffirms the "micropayments will be a payment vehicle available to both Google and non-Google properties within the next year."

The irony in all this is Google has effectively been making money out of newspapers for free for years. Its Google News aggregation service is ad supported and drops users directly to the online versions of the newspaper articles they want discouraging purchases at news stands and general browsing. Google Reader can also pull the full content from web pages without visiting the site directly.

Whether the newspapers would accept this bold approach is open to question. News International has already declared it will move to a part subscription based model and others will follow. Of course whether the entire model of newspapers and even the greater concept of generalist titles bringing news one day late is these days doomed to failure anyway is another question entirely...

Update: The Newspaper Association of America has asked Google to submit a formal presentation, so at least it is prepared to listen.


via Nieman Lab

Go to comments


September 10, 2009, 5:39 pm

Good luck! lol. Call me crazy, but I'm not interested in paying for "New information surfaced on Diana Death" or "Jordan and Peter Christmas Single!" or "Immigrants ate my Baby and failed to complete my driveway" in digital form, just as I'm not interested in it in paper form.

Let them die google! Kill them faster! The sooner it's all dead the sooner a better media can emerge.


September 10, 2009, 5:54 pm

For the love of God don't call it "iPaper"...


September 10, 2009, 6:09 pm

The decline of the printed press and newspapers in particular is a complex issue, not one that I think could be done justice in such a short article.

But a few points, firstly as a contra to the "Google making money of other people content for years" argument, I would say that in my experience many people using news aggregator websites actually click-through to the source content. These underlying websites then benefit from all the ad revenue generated on their own websites. I would even say that many users that might not normally have visited a particular website, would be drawn their by an interesting headline they might have seen while on Google. So there are pros and cons to news aggregation, not sure what the quantums are either way, but its not a straight forward issue.

On the point of pay-per-view content, that absolutely has to be a valid way forward. The major nationals, particularly broadsheets, are struggling and if they can monetise some of the online content then I think it could work. Taking it a step further I think a device like an e-book reader for newspapers that syncs every morning with your subscribed content and that could maybe display basic interactive content would be a great idea. Maybe even way off in the future we could have an e-newspaper devices with inbuilt GPRS so that you could pay for, download and view articles on the fly.

Finally on the issue of no-one wanting to read &#8220day-old news&#8221. I really don&#8217t get that argument. While there are a plethora of sites around the world that provide plenty of real time news, they will typically report the facts in a brief, concise way, a prime example of this being the BBC. Most news sites like MSNBC, BBC or Yahoo will not provide context, comment and analysis. Partly I think because people don&#8217t have the attention span to read a 1,500 &#8211 3,000 word article online, partly because it&#8217s just not comfortable to read for prolonged periods of time on most PC screens and partly because many of the most prominent commentators are employed by the newspaper industry!

As long as the pricing is right I say bring on the pay-per-view, mobile internet enabled, subscription syncing e-newspaper device!

Apple tablet, with iTunes anyone&#8230?


September 10, 2009, 6:15 pm

@jopey It's actually the Broadsheets that are struggling the most. Tabloids, locals and community based newspapers are not quite in as bad shape. A pay-per-view model is likely to benefit the broadsheets far more, since they are more likely to have specialist content and analysis that can't be generated by just any monkey (unlike a gossip column).


September 10, 2009, 6:43 pm

Doesn't it fly in the face of the maxim - what can be free will be free.


September 10, 2009, 7:10 pm

Superfly quote: "As long as the pricing is right I say bring on the pay-per-view, mobile internet enabled, subscription syncing e-newspaper device! "

Maybe those people behind the PocketSurfer who insist on releasing a new one each year (do they actually do well?!) could turn their attentions to this instead.


September 10, 2009, 7:42 pm

Since Gutenberg/Caxton et al created the press and their contemporaries sold information in book form, there has been little change.

Information has been sold for centuries. We are now in a time of transition a massive step change in the dissemination of information. -From the printed to word to whatever is coming out of the internet/mobile phone cloud. Print, no doubt will continue to be venerated, but the day to day 'information' will, in my estimation be free. And Murdock, Google (in the form presented here), the traditional press are probably all on a hiding to nothing.

'News' is now 'free' to most people and are probably (like me) very resistant to reverting back to paying for it (directly). - Unless technical or specialist in nature.

But, of course, I could be worng...

Gavin Hamer

September 10, 2009, 9:09 pm

Hmmmmm, shall I read the news on a site where I pay or a site where I don't pay. Let me think about that for a moment...

The only way this could work is if there's collusion to the point that all mainstream media start charging for their online news at roughly the same time. I just can't see that happening, particularly since the BBC website will always be free.


September 10, 2009, 11:10 pm

@ Gavin & Chocoa

I don't think it's as straight forward as that. While there has been significant shift towards a free online news model, driven by high quality free sites like the BBC and increasing internet access over the past 10 years, this model isn't necessarily sustainable. It's not simply a case of the newspaper companies trying to keep hold of huge margins, many of the flagship brands around the world; the likes of the New York Times, the Independent, the Washington Post, the Guardian to name but a few, have struggled to stay out of the red. Many have not turned a profit for years, teetering on the edge of solvency. In fact were it not for their huge parent companies absorbing some exorbitant losses, many would have gone under by now.

There&#8217s definitely an argument to say that&#8217s as a clear an indication as any that the &#8220paid, printed news&#8221 model doesn&#8217t work, which is fine, survival of the fittest and all. But there has to be something in their place and it&#8217s not a simple &#8220let them go under and we&#8217ll take our free news&#8221 scenario. How much of the content that you see online is generated by these companies? What about the huge news agencies like Reuters and the Press Association that rely on selling content onto these companies and suppl a lot fo the news you see on the internet, including on the BBC? Will they be able to survive without such a significant source of revenue? Free news aggregator websites clearly wouldn&#8217t work if no newspaper sites existed! Where would our free news content come from? You can&#8217t rely on just the BBC, especially if you want something a little more in depth.

If the newspapers can turn a profit off the back of ad revenue alone then all the better, but they need to get their fast. But they better get there fast, you can only be loss making for so long before shareholders cut you loose, especially in the current economic environment. I think it would be nothing but a loss to us all if these institutions disappeared.


September 10, 2009, 11:53 pm

Yes, if they start charging I will probably just stick with the BBC for my day-to-day news. Unless of course the powers-that-be decide to wave goodbye to sanity and side with little Damien - sorry, I mean James Murdoch.

I do occasionally pick up a newspaper, although I suspect that's mostly for convenience and the fact that I find it more enjoyable reading a physical paper than staring into my phone while on the train.

Superfly, I am with you in not understanding the "day-old news" argument. I'm more interested in the accuracy and quality of the reporting than in whether I receive it 30 minutes after the event or the next day. I do however question the value of newspaper commentators though. There are a few who are good, and a very few who are excellent, but to my mind the majority of newspaper commentators contribute nothing new or original to aid our understanding of events, offer no real analysis, and just lazily reinforce the entrenched opinions of their readers/allies. Often they are nothing more than directionless rants... In other words, they are simply the paper equivalent of an online comments page. Given that broadsheets now seem to be more full of 'comment' than news, until the quality of that comment improves beyond that which I could find on any internet forum, I will have little sympathy with the struggling papers.


September 11, 2009, 12:21 am

Few will pay for raw news but for few publciations that still provide value added context and analysis, will find that people WILL pay for that. Not everyone, but a good many people. So people like the NY Times or the WSJ or the FT will survive, albeit in condensed and more focused size.

You might be surprised to find that consumers of celebrity trash "news" will also willingly pay for it. Murdoch knows that and is rubbing his hands with glee, for he has a great deal of trash to peddle.


September 11, 2009, 12:30 am

the newspapers has been dying on its arse for years and no effort by google is going to halt that. And good riddance too for centuries of malicious smears, defamations, propaganda and downright lies.


September 11, 2009, 4:32 am

ffrankmccaffery: "And good riddance too for centuries of malicious smears, defamations, propaganda and downright lies."

You must be new to the Internet. ;)


September 11, 2009, 1:40 pm

I'm Google's #1 fan, but the idea of them monopolising yet another market does worry me a little.

MrGodfrey, I completely disagree with your perception of the op-ed articles in printed newspapers. (They are what I miss from reading free news, such as the BBC and the Metro!) What these commentary articles do, is provide context and narrative to a news story, rather than just present the facts (or the made up approximation to the facts which we take for facts!) I don't know enough about the world to be able to put together my own context and narrative, so I value the help that these articles provide. I don't always agree with the commentators, but reading a focused opinion, even one I disagree with, helps me form my own opinions. I am sure I am not alone in this.

I do not buy a printed paper very often, and I am a big advocate of web services. However, traditional printed papers do have an advantage of packaging everything up and presenting it to the reader for ease of use. In this field, the web is a bit too bewildering. I wouldn't know where to start to find a commentator or blog on current affairs which is worth reading.

I do admit though, that the average PC screen or mobile phone is not conducive to reading a 3000 word article. I see this situation as being a temporary limitation though, which technology will solve if there is a demand for it (and there is, because anything which encourages people to spend more time on the web is worth developing and flogging to the public. cf Google for proof!)

As we are discussing The Future, let us not bother with petty concerns such as The Present.


September 11, 2009, 3:26 pm

300o word articles too will be history for the most part.


September 11, 2009, 3:31 pm

3000 word articles too will be history. Most people dont have the attention span to read for that amount of time, or the desire to get that in depth into most issues. This is also part of the change in society and why newspapers are struggling.

The few who want to read in depth articles, will be willing to pay for it and will either print it off and read offline or on a specialized reader. Personally I print mine.

There isnt any danger of Google monopolising micropayments. Believe me, Visa and mastercard will follow soon enough. They are at the moment just trying to protect their offline oligopololy with fat margins. But they wont let Google just run away with this.

These developments also show what putzes Paypal are. Instead of focusing on this they have spent years ripping off consumers for short term benefit.

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