Call it wishful thinking or rank speculation, but there’s a buzz that Google is gearing up to create some sort of (micro?) payment system for content. If true, this could help solidify the commercial basis for citizen media, a movement that seems to be populated mainly by PWDJs — that is people with day jobs.

Thanks again to the indefatigable Rafat Ali for pointing me to the posting in which John Battelle carefully fanned the tiny ember of fact that has dribbled out about Google’s electronic payment plans. Or as John called it in his own (slightly adapted) words: “the Google e-pay system in the wings (that has been) the subject of much speculation and a tiny bit of confirmation in the last 10 days.”

I’ve written at least once or twice before about micropayments — that is, collecting small amounts for content and/or services. And in those posts I’ve quoted prominent naysayers and proponents. My own feeling is that content must develop some value in cyberspace or else we are creating an environment that places absolutely no value on disciplined thought and creativity — except as fly paper for eyeballs.

So it heartened me to see ClickZ columnist and web entrepreneur Kevin Lee write: “Good content is increasingly hard to find … (and suggesting that browsers) would pay for access to their favorite song lyrics or $.01 to read today’s Al Franken or Rush Limbaugh blog post … Paying for music, video, and other content from a stored value payment system that processes low-value payments without huge transaction costs will happen. It’s no longer a question of if, but when and by whom.”

Which brings me back to Google and its growing clout. A recent MediaPost article, summarizing advertising market research by Outsell, Inc., noted that GOOG and rival Yahoo! “generated $6.5 billion in total revenue last year, compared to a total of $60 billion by the 10 largest companies (Reed Elsevier, Thomson, Gannett, Pearson, Tribune, Reuters, McGraw-Hill, VNU, Wolters Kluwer, and the Daily Mail and General Trust).” The same article went on to note that “when it comes to new revenue, Google and Yahoo! also have generated $4 billion–the same amount as the 10 largest companies combined.”

So if Google does create a payment system for content, it could be a boon for independent creators. At this stage however, this is only conjecture and so I remain a PWDJ (in the singular that’s person with a day job). Speaking of which, let me get to it!

Tom Abate
Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media