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.