Google has developed a licensing initiative that will see the internet giant pay participating publishers for high quality news content, while helping them build stronger relationships with readers.

The idea is about curating experiences, broadening reach and providing trusted news across Google’s products, so enabling publishers to find additional ways of monetising their content.

Brad Bender, VP of Google news products, set out details in a company blog post, describing the initiative as “a significant step forward” that will help publishers monetise their content “through an enhanced storytelling experience that lets people go deeper into more complex stories, stay informed and be exposed to a world of different issues and interests”.

The programme, he added, will “diversify our support for news businesses today, building on the value we already provide through Search and our ongoing efforts with Google News Initiative to help journalism thrive in the digital age”.

Interestingly, where available, Google is also offering to pay so that readers can access paywalled articles on a publisher’s site. “This will let paywalled publishers grow their audiences and open an opportunity for people to read content they might not ordinarily see,” Bender said.

The initiative will roll out later this year and three publishers – from Australia, Brazil and Germany – have signed up so far, although Bender told the Financial Times that he hoped publishers from an additional half a dozen countries will get involved. Talks with publishers in the Netherlands are reported to be at an advanced stage but have not concluded yet.

“With local news under stress, finding new channels and new audiences for our premium content, in safe and curated environments, is a high priority,” said Paul Hamra, managing director of Australia’s Solstice Media, one of the news groups to have come on board. “This opportunity will give us access to new markets and provide additional commercial benefits,” he added.

Commenting on the initiative, BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones said: “If readers discover that Google will pay for them to get around the paywall, they may be less eager to pay for a long-term newspaper subscription.

“For years, there has been talk of setting up micropayment systems so that people can buy individual newspaper articles, but those ideas have mostly come to nothing.

“Perhaps Google now sees itself as supplying a payment infrastructure to give the news industry a more secure future – but that again raises questions about just how powerful a role the tech firm will have in deciding what news we all get to read.”

Sourced from Google, Financial Times, BBC; additional content by WARC staff