MONDAY 14 SEP 2009 2:55 PM


With American newspapers falling like Autumnal leaves, the Newspaper Association of America seems to have gone, cap in hand, to Google, the mighty oak of online news aggregation.

Google’s response has been to submit a proposal that will enable traditional news media to charge small micropayments, possibly through Google’s Checkout system, its answer to PayPal.

Google is currently in anti-trust disputes with a number of newspaper owners. Its attitude in the past has been one of ignoring their arguments. One spokesman commented earlier in the year "Google News has far more requests for inclusion than for removal. That's because publishers understand that the traffic generated by Google News, and services like it, provide valuable traffic."

Newspaper owners are increasingly looking to monetise their online content. Recently media giant News International stated its intentions to develop a model of charging for online news. These pressures seem to have caused Google to change its attitude. Its reaction to the NAA’s request was to suggest a payment plan that will enable newspapers to put content up behind a Google firewall and create a multiple system of paid-for content, including subscription, previews and limited access content.

A Google spokesman commenting, “"While currently in the early planning stages, micropayments will be a payment vehicle available to both Google and non-Google properties within the next year. The idea is to allow viable payments of a penny to several dollars by aggregating purchases across merchants and over time."

Google wouldn’t comment as to whether they had also been in conversation with UK newspaper publishers. The UK’s Newspaper Licensing Agency is set to charge web aggregators for online news dissemination, but stated that this was very different from Google’s plans. The NLA’s David Pugh stated, “ The NLA web initiative is entirely focused on business to business use of UK newspaper publishers’ web content. We are implementing a licensing scheme for media monitoring companies that copy that content and create charged-for services. These media monitoring services are not available for free elsewhere and we are seeking a small fee for them on behalf of the content creators.”

Google plans were, he said “quite separate and relate to consumers. They underline the value that publishers place on their content, but are quite separate from the NLA initiatives. The NLA does not have a mandate from publishers to license Google – or other aggregators providing free services.”