Good journalism is worth paying for, full stop. As part of a larger plan to help valuable reporting thrive in an age where content is a commodity, Google unveiled a new tool for publishers called Subscribe that makes it trivial to -- what else? -- subscribe to premium news services.
Now, Google isn't exactly new to news subscriptions; the ability to buy monthly access to top-tier newspapers and magazines has been a part of the Google Play experience for years. Subscribe is special because it works directly in-browser. If you've hit your final free New York Times article for the month, you'll be able to quickly set up a subscription with your Google account and pay with any card you've used with that account in the past. At its most effective, Google's Subscribe takes a process that lasts a few minutes and involves scrounging around for your credit card and strips it down to a couple of taps. For better or worse (we'd argue better), Google turned premium news into an impulse buy.
Google says it's working to get more publishers onboard with Subscribe, but the search giant's initial list of partners is a who's who of influential media organizations. The first wave includes Les Échos, Fairfax Media, Le Figaro, the Financial Times, Gannett, Gatehouse Media, Grupo Globo, The Mainichi, McClatchy, La Nación, The New York Times, NRC Group, Le Parisien, Reforma, la Republica, The Telegraph, and The Washington Post.
Once you've subscribed to any of these publications, you'll start to see Google operate a little differently, too. Since Google looks at subscriptions as a sign of trust in an outlet, it will highlight articles from that outlet when they're relevant to your search terms. Google was quick to say that those highlighted results won't change "search ranking for the rest of the page," but that still means your trusted news providers get more web traffic than it otherwise might have. You get the news, your preferred publications get more money and better metrics -- it all sounds great in theory, but it'll be a while yet before Google's system becomes ubiquitous.