Since Rupert Murdoch’s attack on Google back in April when he stated, 'I'll stop Google taking our news for nothing’; I have been watching the development and trialling of pay walls with interest.
Well, it looks like Google Inc. is trying to ward off any potential confrontation with the world’s most powerful media magnate. Google is holding out an olive branch to leading publishers in the form of ‘Newspass’, a one-click payment system where you will be able to pay and view multiple pay-walled content. It will allow internet users to pay full subscriptions or just have one session access to certain articles that are not available elsewhere.
One can only assume this will contain some of Mr. Murdoch’s content even though Google claim it is to help publishers that are, ‘struggling in the digital age’. Now as an avid Sky Sports Subscriber I would not say that News International were struggling.
If they were all honest they would say that the argument is really over advertising revenue that the main publishers feel Google has taken away from them by aggregating their content and linking to it.
So what will Newspass look like? At this stage we can only speculate, but my bet is there will be a significant amount of Adsense mixed with the content and lots of targeted display advertising at very high CPM’s of which the major publishers will take a revenue share.
The question is, will the big players stick to their morals and remove themselves from the major feeds like Google news? I will be surprised if this happens, as they seem to be hedging their bets already. Both the Times Online and Sun Online have stopped publishing their visitor stats through ABC in the UK. ABC has said they are still auditing the traffic but the figures will not be published at News International’s request. Draw your own conclusions!
What does this mean for normal online publishers and content producers such as us? Well in my opinion it can mean only one thing. The internet community will vote with their clicks and decide that paying for content online is unacceptable via pay walls, unless it is something niche and beneficial to them as an individual. In other words just how the web works now.
The music industry has been trying to plug these monetisation holes for quite some time now without much success and that is for a product that consumers keep and use on a daily basis. This means it will only be a matter of time before this concept is forgotten and we revert to the status quo.
However, in the meantime it is up to us smaller publishers to continue generating top quality niche content for our readership and subscriber lists and giving them exactly what they want for free. There is a potential opportunity to really capitalise by generating news and getting it out there as quickly as possible. Make hay while the sun shines by getting yourself into the major news feeds and pick up some of the floating traffic that is bound to become available.
One final thought - you have to take your hat off to Google once more, as they know that this is just a storm in a teacup and that it will all quickly blow over. But hey - Why not make a few hundred million dollars in the process with a throw away platform?