Google Says Plan to Partner With News Publishers on Subscriptions Still in Early Stages

By Tom McKay on at

Google is planning to roll out a new system in which it helps news publishers zero in on potential subscribers in exchange for a revenue split—but the search giant says the feature is not anywhere near release.

The search giant has reportedly been in talks with major news organisations for some time about the possibility of applying data similar to that which it currently uses to target online ads to help the media customise subscription offers. In an interview with the Financial Times, Google’s news chief Richard Gingras said the revenue split in any such model would be much more rewarding to publishers than the company’s advertising model, which gives 70 per cent of revenue to websites.

In an email to Gizmodo, Google spokeswoman Maggie Shiels explained the company hopes to be “very very generous” with revenue sharing from subscriptions, but that “We haven’t worked out these figures. We have to talk to publishers. We have to build everything.”

According to Gingras, Google does not plan on pursuing a business model like Facebook, which is trying to corral publishers into offering up subscriptions via its native Facebook Instant article format. Since Facebook already drives the vast majority of social media traffic to sites, the Instant model has spurred fears the network was trying to drive the media further into its walled garden.

“None of this changes the marketplace economics, people will pay for what they value,” Gingras told FT of Google’s plan.

While it’s possible such technology could help long-struggling publications find new revenue, Google’s prior moves in the arena came with their own caveats—like its “first click free” programme to boost the search rankings of sites which offered a minimum number of paywall-free articles a day. Google cancelled that programme after criticism it was essentially strong-arming publishers into providing free content. But, while many of media’s current problems arguably have to do with monopolisation of their access to readers by tech giants, digital publications will probably find it hard to turn down a tool which could boost fledgling subscription numbers. [CNET/Financial Times]


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