Google to help publishers create paywalls

Google is reported to be working on a one-click micropayment system allowing newspapers to charge for content accessed through Google Search.

According to La Repubblica, the system, called NewsPass, will allow users to pay for low cost items such as newspapers, video and images. Google is currently contacting Italian newspapers to recruit them for the scheme.

Henrique de Castro, vice president of Google’s global media, told the paper that the company wanted to be a partner of news organizations, not a competitor.

Under the plan, users will have a single log-in across all news sites. Results of a Google news search will be labeled either paid or unpaid; clicking on a paid result will automatically trigger a payment through Google Checkout.

Subscriber information such as traffic data and user profiles will be shared with the content producers. Publishers will also be able to decide whether they want to accept one-off payments or subscriptions.

La Repubblica says the service will start in Italy later this year, and may be extended to other countries if successful.

The decision to start recruiting in Italy is likely related to an anti-trust investigation into Google’s relationship with the news industry. The Italian Federation of Newspaper Publishers (FIEG) has complained that  the company is abusing its dominant position in Italy.

It says Google forces news organizations to allow their content to appear in search results, where it generates revenue only for Google itself. It’s also concerned that Google refuses to discose the proportion of AdSense revenues it keeps for itself.

Google’s refusing to confirm or deny the plan.