A German newspaper gives Google's One Pass a shot

February 22, 2011: 12:40 PM ET

Google's model of making a few bucks per article may make the most sense in the long run.

Focus Online, the third largest German publisher, is Beta-testing Google's (GOOG) publishing system, according to the Guardian.  The One Pass system is a web-based tool for publishers who want to charge micro-payments for content rather than use a subscription service.  Each piece of content is paid for through Google's Checkout system and for the trouble, Google takes a 10% cut.  Publishers decide how much to charge and can update the content at any time, rather than having to go though an app store approval process.

For Focus, One Pass is currently just an experiment, which they have very low expectations of monetary gains.  They are charging 10 (Euro) cents per article of which Google will receive a penny per view.

We believe it could be a success but don't know yet. We don't expect it to make much money in the beginning. But if articles are relevant in the longer term then it could be a good way to earn money – I'd say 500 euros (£421) each year [5000 articles a year, or 14 articles a day] is okay for four or five years. This isn't about transforming our business, the majority of our income will be advertising for a long time to come, but it is about testing what else could work.

But will the system work?

I think the important thing here will be mass adoption.  If only a few quality sites decide to charge using this model, consumers will largely go where the content is free.  However, if most good content is sitting behind a reasonably-priced, easy to use, universal pay wall, consumers could be enticed to pay a few cents per article.

It certainly seems like a compelling offer: If I read 10 quality articles per day on average from the sources of my choosing, I am out $1/day.  That immediately seems fair.  I am not paying for what I don't use and can slow down and speed up my reading without being unfairly penalized.

Publishers are taking a slow approach.  The concern is that Google could change its rates at any time or discontinue the service, which would put their library of content out of reach from consumers.  On the other hand, Google would be astutely aware of the paid content and it would be sure to show up in their search engines, something that can't be guaranteed by other pay walls.

That is something that could be considered an unfair advantage in the long run.

To see what Google's One Pass service looks like (and to brush up on your German,) check out the following links to Focus:

• Eight misconceptions about real estate brokers' commission

• Ten facts about parental leave

• Traffic crimes and their consequences – what to do if you lose your drivers' license

• Traffic offenders – your rights

• Traffic offenders – problems and rights in foreign countries

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Seth Weintraub
Seth Weintraub

Google went from searching the Web to worming its way into nearly every facet of business and government. Seth Weintraub unveils where the company is going, who it's competing with, who it's about to compete with and how market forces push the company to veer or adhere to its Don't Be Evil motto. For 15 years, Weintraub was a global IT director for a number of companies before becoming a blogger.

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