One of the biggest dilemmas for print and mainstream media today is how to transition from a free-for-all model to one where users actually pay for the content they consume. Should each site enact its own paywall, forcing users to purchase a subscription to just that site? How about a pay-per-article solution, which would still require a separate login for each publication?
A report in Italian publication La Repubblica last week tells us that Google might launch its own solution to this problem later this year, and we have to admit, there might be few companies better positioned to take on this role than the one thought to be the reason for the industry's decline in the first place.
According to the article, the one-click payment solution will be called Newspass and would be available for Web, mobile and tablet platforms. Google would not confirm any specific details, but instead offered the following statement:
We've consistently said we're talking with news publishers about ways we can work together, including whether we can help them with technology to power any subscription services they may be thinking of building. Our aim, as with all Google products, is to reach as broad a global audience as possible. We have nothing specific to announce at this time.
A Google-provided micropayment solution is anything but far-fetched, of course, as the company proposed one such platform to the Newspaper Association of America last September. The system would come as an extension of Google Checkout and could help to reposition Google in the news business.
As we've written before, sources like Google's search and Google News have given up their top position to social networks like Facebook as the top drivers of traffic to media sites. As more and more media outlets go pay, a unified payment service across the Web could become increasingly important and Google, a service we already trust with so much of our information and Web activity, could be in a perfect position to provide this service.