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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Google Offers to Help Newspapers Charge for Content

By The Wall Street Journal

Google, which is often in the cross-hairs of newspaper publishers, thinks it can help newspaper companies get paid for their work.

The search giant is planning to upgrade its existing Google Checkout payment service to handle a broad suite of billing and subscription services targeted at premium content creators like newspapers, according to a memo the company recently submitted to the Newspaper Association of America.

The memo, which went online this week, responds to the NAA’s open request for new “paid content” solutions earlier this summer. It was first spotted by the Nieman Journalism Lab.

In its memo, Google says it is working on new Checkout features that will allow publishers to charge prices of a penny to several dollars for digital content, like news stories. Behind the scenes, Google will handle all the messy features related to payments, like aggregating the charges to reduce credit card fees, security and fraud. As for timing, it says only that the service is “planned for future.”

Google’s memo also outlines the range of publisher-friendly services the company already offers, such as rudimentary billing features and advertising services. The latter of course are what publishers keep griping about, arguing that online advertising doesn’t generating enough revenue to sustain their businesses.

That reality has the industry turning to payments as a new silver bullet and a number of companies have been eager to lend a hand. But whether publishers will buy into a service powered by Google – which would likely take a cut of the transactions – remains to be seen.

Checkout hasn’t been a big success for Google so far. But the company is revamping it as it explores new ways to roll out paid offerings across some of its own products, like YouTube.