Google testing micropayment service for premium web content

Remember when the idea of micro-payments was going to be the salvation for upstart web publishers and old-school news outlets that were struggling to build an online revenue stream?  The notion was that people who balked at paying a larger subscription fee might still be willing to pony up a tiny sum to read a particularly intriguing essay or in-depth article.  But it’s been slow to catch on.

Now, Google wants to give it a shot.

The Internet giant has announced a new feature for its Google Wallet service that will let users pay a nominal sum, say 25 cents or 99 cents, to view premium articles or other content on websites. Google says the service includes the capability for website operators to let users preview a sample of the premium material, and even get a refund if they decide they’re not satisfied and want to surrender the content within 30 minutes.

Google says its Wallet service is already used by millions of people. Many of them use the app to store credit card and customer-loyalty accounts on their phone, and then use near-field communications to pay for purchases in retail stores by tapping their Android phone on an electronic reading device. You can also use the service to shop online; some merchants let you pay for Internet purchases with your Google Wallet account, so you don’t have to bother giving your credit card information to a bunch of different sites.

The new micro-payment service is launching with  just three online publishers – Oxford University Press, Peachpit and DK (known for how-to and reference books, among other titles). A draft blog post, which leaked onto the web earlier this week, listed some other potential partners such as GigaOm and Motley Fool, but it suggested arrangements were not yet final.


Brandon Bailey Brandon Bailey (350 Posts)

Brandon Bailey covers Google, Facebook and Yahoo for the San Jose Mercury News, reporting on the business and culture of the Internet.