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Summary:

Consumers may not buy all kinds of web content, but Google is now courting publishers who want to charge with a rebooted version of its micropayments system.

Money changing hands
photo: Corbis / Jonathan Gelber

After retiring its experimental OnePass news payments system this spring, Google is now going ahead with a fuller version of its content micropayments platform under the Google Wallet moniker.

In an overnight blog post, which was briefly published and removed, Google Wallet product manager Pali Bhat and engineer Rob Ennals said Google Wallet will support content payments typically ranging between $0.25 and $0.99, with content obfuscated after an opening preview and a 30-minute “instant refund” for unhappy users.

Already publicised elsewhere on Google, a site showcases debut uses currently live by Oxford Reference, Dorling Kindersley and Pearson’s PeachPit.

This development marks the arrival of a big beast in to a micropayments facilitation space populated by several smaller vendors like ZnakIt, but also bigger providers like PayPal, whose own digital content platform has been gathering pace.

Google’s system works like similar rivals, for example, Cleeng, redacting article text in what Google is calling a “rich preview” and “rich obfuscated content”. In the same way, images that must be paid for can also be pixelated.

Payment must be made before readers can see the whole article. The Google Wallet overlay enables swift (dare I say “frictionless”?) payment for users who already have a card registered in their Google Wallet account. It’s all rather quick.

Will any of it work, however?

In its blog post, which also lauds its advertising tools for monetising free content, Google acknowledged:

“Users love free content, and so we expect that advertising will remain the most effective monetization model for most content on the web. However, we know that there is more great content that creators could bring to the web if they had an effective way to sell individual articles that users can find with search.”

Google tells publishers the Wallet content is: “Compatible with ads. By running ads alongside the preview content, you can get an ad impression even if a user doesn’t buy the content.”

Since consumers are buying content here, Google is providing perpetual archive access so that consumers can access the same material in future.

It is notable that material from Google Wallet’s first content clients is instructional (PeachPit’s Photoshop tutorial, Dorling Kindersley’s knitting guide) and informational (Oxford Reference’s arctic sea-ice article) – all relatively timeless.

So far, there is no out-and-out news content amongst the flagships. Google is inviting more expressions of interest from US publishers.

Google has been making good advances with Google Wallet for digital goods this year, introducing in-app payments and recurring subscriptions, plus payments for games.

  1. Greg Golebiewski Wednesday, October 3, 2012

    Thank you Robert for you mentioning Znak it! http://www.znakit.com

    We already offer all the services Google just launched and our publishers (however few at this time) are very happy with the results, especially the “earn free access” option that allows advertisers sponsor user’s access to paid articles or music/video files. This option results in a conversion as high as 19.6% of the monthly uniques.
    Best

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    1. Can this be applied to music and films?

      I’m asking because I’m part of a network of musicians and filmmakers who make original content. We’re looking to stream/sell/display our work via a variety of platforms and to have all revenues paid digitally to a Holvi.com account on a per project basis. What I’m saying is we as a group of musicians, actors, filmmakers and producers want to collaborate and figure out a transparent way to earn and track revenue. I had thought Google was the way and I do believe it will be, but it’s coming along too slow.

      I’m Rhonda Merrick
      @RhondasSongs
      http://RhondasSongs.com

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  2. AAaaaahhhh! Why is everything in the US only? The world is not flat and it doesn’t end at the borders of the United States of America. Okay rant over. Still rankled though.

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    1. Rhonda,
      Looks like it’s for “web pages”, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Google has some system up its sleeve for you.
      Agree with the US thing. Google has a track record of soft-launching many of its services in the world’s biggest market.

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  3. Greg Golebiewski Wednesday, October 3, 2012

    Rhonda, Znak it! uses virtual tokens pegged to the USD, but they can be purchased locally in any currency. And, we already cooperate with music sites.

    Znak it! can monetize any type and format of digital content, including MP3 files, video clips, crossword puzzle, you name it, with full transparency and real time monitoring from your own dashboard… Check it out http://www.znakit.com

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  4. I spent quite some time on http://www.znakit.com/ Sadly, spelling and grammar errors make me question the professionalism of the service. Additionally, I could not find the commission rates stated clearly anywhere. Fees should be the #1 FAQ. Your calculator should also actually use the commission rates instead of requiring the user to guess. Otherwise I love it… LOL

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  5. Greg Golebiewski Monday, October 8, 2012

    Justin could you contact me at ggolebiewski [at] znak-it [dot] com? I would appreciate it.

    The commission rates depend on volume and the price of a single transaction that is set up by the content provider. There are several options; that is why our calculator leaves the field open. You can see the fee tables in our ToS together with examples of how the fees are calculated.

    In general, our commission ranges from 6 to 10 percent.of generated revenues. Some features, such as our “Earn Free Access” option, might carry an extra commission charged by the sponsoring ad agency.

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