Google has the Google Checkout and Adwords micropayment infrastructure. They could put a button next to each Google News article. Click the button, and 25 cents, the cost of a crummy newspaper, is deducted from one's Google Checkout account. Every few months, Google issues checks to the news organizations. Maybe Google also offers some nice bennies to people who donate, like extra Gmail storage or more Picasa images -- benefits that would cost Google very little.
It's a win-win-win for readers, journalism and Google.
Why 25 cents? Why not just any amount? Because larger amounts mean that wealthy persons and wingnuts can "buy" news. A twenty-five cent donation means that the vast majority of the western world with online access can potentially donate.
Would it raise enough money to make a difference? There's only one way to find out.
Update 10/5: Emily asked for more details on how this helps Google. Here's a few ways:
- They're being sued by a number of publishers. This might help with that.
- It promotes Google Checkout, which is probably a very big deal for them.
- If journalism is healthier, Google News is healthier, and so is the search business.
- It's not evil.