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Do Internet micropayments
emit enough of a siren song?
By: Scott Bradner
A number of people in the news business seem to hate
Google. a few years ago newspapers
in Belgium sued Google to get Google to stop telling the world about them and
just last week the editor of the Wall Street Journal called Google a parasite. Me thinks the Journal editor doth protest too much. In addition, Google may be getting
ready to offer newspapers a tool that may speed the newspapers demise.
an interview published in The Australian, (found using Google News) Robert Thomson, the editor of the Wall Street
Journal went on a real anti-Google rant.
He said "[t]here is no doubt that certain websites
are best described as parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the
internet" and "It's certainly true that readers have been socialised
-- wrongly I believe -- that much content should be free," and "And
there is no doubt that's in the interest of aggregators like Google who have
profited from that mistaken perception. And they have little incentive to
recognise the value they are trading on that's created by others." Strong words. But The Journal's actions speak louder than their
words. The Journal could easily
install a robots.txt file to stop Google from including the Wall Street Journal
in Google news
but it looks like they have not done so since Journal articles are
included. The Journal might argue
that they should not have to do anything and it should be up to Google to ask
permission first, as the newspapers in Belgium argued
few years ago. But its is my guess
that the Journal put doors and locks on its One World Financial Center office
in New York and they may even pay guards to keep the riff-raff out - so they do
understand the concept of not being passive when it comes to keeping people
Mr. Thomson does make at least one good point in the
interview. He points out that "Google
argues they drive traffic to sites, but the whole Google sensibility is
inimical to traditional brand loyalty." I have to agree with that point even though an Internet user
is taken to a web page on the Wall Street Journal web site when they click on a
Google provided URL. A web page
where the Journal can put up its own ads, or even block access since the Journal
has erected pay walls around a lot of its content. In spite of this I expect that many users will not really
notice where they are.
Google may be getting ready to introduce a tool that many
news organizations seem to think they want -- micro payments. This would let newspapers charge users to
read individual articles.
(http://www.niemanlab.org/pdfs/Google.pdf) The Google micro payment scheme, linked to Google
Checkout, may avoid some of the pitfalls that caused earlier micro payment
schemes to fall by the wayside. (see The
Siren Song of Internet Micropayments - http://www.merchantseek.com/article9.htm) But introducing micro payments may just
hasten the demise of the newspapers that embrace it unless all other sources of
"free" (or advertising supported) news suddenly disappear. Why go through the bother of paying,
even a little, when you can find out the same info in other ways?
The Siren Song of
Internet Micropayments, as Crocker put it, may make some news organizations to
embrace, if not love, Google, but, in the end, it may be a fatal attraction.
expect, without specific knowledge, that Harvard's Greek literature department
waxes eloquently about siren songs, but I know of no university opinion on
newspapers wanting to hide their light from the searching world.