MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA: Google is reportedly in contact with three news organizations about using big data and artificial intelligence to improve subscription services and shore up their revenue streams.

The three were named as The New York Times, News Corp, and the Financial Times, which broke the story. The discussions surround the development of AI-enhanced tools which will allow publishers to identify, market to, and sell subscriptions to likely subscribers.

In addition, the sources said, Google’s wealth of user data could lead to bespoke subscription offers depending on individual profiles. Altogether, the “subscription apparatus”, as the FT’s source termed it, will be unveiled in the coming weeks and will be available to other publishers upon release.

Kinsey Wilson, an adviser to New York Times CEO Mark Thompson, told the paper that the company is “encouraged by Google’s willingness to explore new solutions for subscription publishers”. Wilson added that the Times will continue to assist with product testing and development.

Among the topics discussed, improving the speed of purchase has been key; Google could potentially store individuals’ payment data to enable one-click subscription.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google would be ending its “first-click-free” policy, which let users bypass paywalls to news sites. The Journal added that the policy – of which the paper had opted out – had caused Google referrals to fall by 38%, a result, it said, of its stories being demoted in search results.

In part, Google needs to respond to overtures made by rival Facebook earlier this year, when it confirmed that it will add subscriptions to Instant Articles.

Headaches over distribution are not the sole preserve of news publishers. Last week, Facebook’s Watch product director, Daniel Danker, said in his keynote to the IBC Conference in Amsterdam that the new product was not out to steal viewers, but rather to allow “traditional broadcasters to reach and build a new audience”.   

Data sourced from Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, The Verge, Fierce Cable; additional content by WARC staff