Google has indicated it is preparing a micropayment plan newspaper publishers could use in the coming year.
It would charge anything from a penny to several dollars for access to content across several merchants and over time. It would share revenue in what it calls a "premium content ecosystem" of syndication, third-party arrangements and feeds and fees. Google's Checkout service appears to be part of the platform.
Google suggests micropayment plans are not going to solve economic challenges, but that they could be part of the solution. While it is not the panacea, it is a significant gesture of possible assistance. The move is a surprise, considering the testy relationship newspapers have recently had with the search engine giant.
Google submitted the document, available below (the Nieman Journalism Lab obtained it), in response to the Newspaper Association of America's call for online business model proposals from industry.
Jeff Jarvis has put his new book into a precis. The PowerPoint is here.
The Monday Note suggests looking at a paid online model again in light of media business models under siege. It also suggests that many free services could afford some sort of charge for premium users, but that publishers need to devise strategies to make such models attractive.
At the moment I'm offside on that idea. True, in some cases, offering free services alongside paid ones has stimulated support for the latter by the former. But so much media content is readily available as a commodity, it is hard to gauge where a paid model might enter within the traditional journalism model. Outside that model, with all sorts of functions for a community, it is possible. But I don't see anyone, save WSJ.com, keeping its content behind a firewall --- and even WSJ.com can be found by a reasonably experienced search engine user.
Marketing guru Seth Godin, author most recently of Tribes, discusses publishing and free content at the 26th Story site. His take: The business model for publishing needs to shift radically. The Internet and the market don't care if you make a profit, and the consumer will move away if, say, a Kindle book costs the same as an ink-on-paper book. The message: The market will expand if you think creatively about the value chain.
"The huge opportunity is for publishers to get unstuck."
Scott Karp, the prolific and often profound writer for the Publishing 2.0 blog, spends a lot of space making a nevertheless sound point: Design has to work or nothing else will. In his words, if your users fail, your Web site fails. He is critical of sites that require registration without making the case that it is in the user's interests. Whether the user succeeds is everything, he notes.
Critical to the evolution of journalism is the development of a new digital business model to support it. We can whinge all we like about fragmented audiences and the challenges facing conventional media, but we have to spend more time creating a sustainable form of support on the digital frontier or the effort to redevelop and strengthen journalism will fall on deaf ears.
Recently a number of experts on online publishing have confronted the basic wisdom that advertisers should be measuring effectiveness of campaigns on the basis of click-through traffic.
This is a significant development because it stands to deconstruct a model that is barely off the ground. No sooner have advertisers started spending online and measuring their reach through traffic metrics than did experts come along and say it's the wrong way to measure.
In the latest Online Publishing Insider blog, David Koretz echoes a sentiment emerging in the field that it's necessary to change the advertising experience online and develop new metrics. Mainly, though, he's suggesting clicks can hurt an advertiser or mislead one about the reach of the campaign.
In managing media, finding this new experience amounts to one more layer of challenge.
Jupiter Research's Barry Parr has outlined some best practices for news organizations in the Web 2.0 environment. His report is proprietary, but the David Card blog from Jupiter pointed to three elements of it this week:
1. Content creation and distribution should be separate businesses.
2. Widgets should be a key distribution strategy.
3. Partners are important as publishers consider themselves platforms.
If you think about what news organizations were thinking about two or three years ago, this makes your head spin.