The newspaper industry is in a spot of trouble, everyone with eyes knows that. Each day heralds the announcement of more troubles for the ancient institutions we once relied on for all of our news about the world around us. Today, however, brings some good news, both for newspapers and their readers. According to the Nieman Journalism Lab, the Newspaper Association of America asked Google to come up with options for how to charge for content online.
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True to form, Google's answer was to recommend establishing a micropayment platform. They stated that an open web is the best option for publishers and readers, but also noted that "open" doesn't necessarily mean "free". What they want to do is start allowing small payments of between a penny and several dollars to aggregate across a number of merchants over time. These micropayments would have no transaction cost, and would be very quick and simple.
The key to getting users to spend money in such a way would be to automate it to a high degree. If you can set it up so that customers don't have to type in a credit card number every time they want to purchase content, you're going to get more sales. That seems to be the sort of system Google is looking for. Inexpensive, fast, easy, and safe.
This plan might not gel with the publishers, however. Google would want to share revenue with any publishers it works with, similar to the way revenue is shared with the App Store. Hopefully the newspapers will realize that this represents their best shot at regaining some semblance of profitability. If they don't start making some positive changes soon, they're going to lose their whole industry to a horde of pantsless bloggers, sitting at home and providing the news for free.