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Challenge for newspapers to prise open digital wallets

Eric Schmidt, Google chief executive, last month called on newspapers to adopt a micropayments model for their websites, writes David Gelles in San Francisco.

Charging pennies for each article read online, said Mr Schmidt, might help publishers survive the collapse of advertising revenue.

His call reiterated the argument from a recent Time magazine article by Walter Isaacson.

“We need something like digital coins or an E-ZPass digital wallet,” Mr Isaacson wrote.

There should be “a one-click system with a really simple interface that will permit impulse purchases of a newspaper”.

Several US publishers that do not do so have suggested they might start charging for content.

Journalism Online, a new company founded by former media executives, will launch an e-commerce platform that news sites can use to charge for individual articles.

But even as micropayments gain traction on social networking sites and online games, history suggests the model might not work so smoothly with newspapers.

People have come to expect online news to be free, and news is quickly disseminated on the web.

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