Google is testing out new tools which will help news publishers to increase their subscriptions, report Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal. The reports say that the Internet company has approached the New York Times and Financial Times. But Bloomberg added that Google’s vice president for news Richard Gingras said the company is talking to dozens of other media companies who want to move to online subscription models.

.The move follows a similar development from Facebook where it will allow users to pay for subscriptions from the app itself.

Meanwhile, the tools that Google is developing are:

  • A feature called “first click free,” that allows readers to access articles from subscription publications through search.
  • Tools around online payments and targeting potential subscribers. Note that Google had said in May that it will be developing a new service for marketers where it will provide information to advertisers on card purchases in physical stores and link them to an online profile of the user.
  • Google is also looking to allow publishers to put a paywall on Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).

Situation in India

Google’s move takes significance as media houses in India are facing declining advertising revenues. For the quarter ended June 30, 2017 , HT Media, which publishes dailies such as Hindustan Times and Mint, print advertising was hit by the implementation of the GST.  However, most of them are wary about charging customers for fear of losing readership.

Sandeep Jain, chief strategy officer, HT Media had this to say about declining ad revenues and monetizing readers during an analyst call:

Shalini Gupta : “One last question. What is the problem that you are facing with respect to monetizing your readership online, because your readership in the newspapers, in the hard copies is well established, but what is getting in the way of you monetizing your readership online?

Sandeep Jain (Chief Strategy Officer, HT Media): Let me ask you this way, do you Shalini pay for news online?

Shalini Gupta: No, why would I pay for it?

Sandeep Jain: That is where the answer lies. That is the difficulty, and it is a phenomenon which is not only prevalent in India, but worldwide. The opportunity to monetize readership on digital is so much more difficult.

Shalini Gupta: So why not all of you get together and start charging for news online?

Sandeep Jain: At some point in time that would be the intention, but you know that some of these things are not that easy.

That said, there is a push from some publishers who have opted to take some of their content behind a paywall and that includes Business Standard, VCCircle , The Ken and Newslaundry. Meanwhile,  The Indian Express said it will soon have paid ad-free plans for readers on the website.