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Google Could Soon Start Paying Publishers for Their Content, After Years of Saying It Wouldn't

The conversations could lead to licensing arrangements similar to those from Apple and Facebook.


Every content creator has a bit of a love/hate relationship with Google. Its search engine accounts for roughly half of all internet traffic--meaning it drives visitors to publishers' websites and makes them money. At the same time, the search giant makes more money by selling ads against the content it indexes. And it's really good at it. 

News publishers have long had a difficult time reconciling those two things. Of course, they love the fact that Google drives readers to their sites, but have long chafed at the fact that Google is a far larger advertising platform that built its entire platform as the gatekeeper (at least in practice) to most of the content on the web.

Now those publishers could finally start receiving payment directly for that content. That's according to a report from The Wall Street Journal, which says Google has started having conversations with publishers. 

While the conversations appear to be in the early stages, it would be a significant change for Google, which has resisted any call to pay publishers. In fact, it even went so far as to change the way it previews news articles in France to avoid having to pay publishers under that country's copyright law.

In a statement to the Journal, Google said it wants to "help people find quality journalism--it's important to informed democracy and helps support a sustainable news industry. We care deeply about this and are talking with partners and looking at more ways to expand our ongoing work with publishers, building on programmes like our Google News Initiative."

Publishers have seen a dramatic decline in advertising revenue over the past decade, especially in print. Much of that can be attributed to the rise of digital advertising. Since brands have finite budgets for ads, and that spending has shifted online to huge tech companies like Google and Facebook, leaving less for publishers.

In fact, the Journal report points out that Facebook and Google collectively represent 61 percent of all digital ad revenue. As a result, they have faced increased scrutiny for the corresponding decline among independent publishers.

Now Google seems to be following both Facebook and Apple's lead to compensate publishers. Facebook said last year it would introduce a News Tab that would feature curated sources of content, and that it would compensate featured publications. Apple, on the other hand, introduced its News-Plus subscription for Apple News, which offers a selection of premium content from publishers like The New Yorker, The Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal for $9.99 a month. 

That, and a possible Google deal, might finally be some good news in a world where fake news runs rampant, and quality journalism is on the decline.