Google Set To Relaunch OnePass, Halting French Papers’ Kiosk

paidContent understands Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is set to make some big first-anniversary upgrades to its OnePass paid content system in the next few weeks, designed to increase slow take-up among publishers.

The changes are as yet unknown and are based on feedback from OnePass’ dozen or so trialist partners.

But they have apparently prompted a consortium of eight big French publishers, which had planned to extend its joint kiosk initiative using OnePass, to postpone its launch this week.

Upgrading OnePass

“Our engineering team is currently innovating on OnePass based on all that we’ve learned over its first year,” Google tells paidContent. “Our aim is to improve and iterate OnePass to suit the publishing industry’s needs.”

Google unveiled OnePass in beta in February 2011, piggybacking its Checkout system to provide flexible content payments in Android apps and on the web with a 10 percent commission, cheaper than Apple’s 30 percent.

Google has worked closely with publishers publicly and privately to test and design the system for publishers’ needs. But, 11 months after launch, OnePass has not gone prime-time. Meanwhile, Apple’s iTunes Newsstand has been delighting many publishers. Google’s Checkout has been merged with Google Wallet.

French kiosk halted?

French publishers formed ePresse Premium in December 2010 to charge for their replica editions, which they have since already been selling through an iPad app on a per-copy basis.

Last November, they said they would use OnePass to add more flexible payment options – including daily, weekly or longer “passes” that give consumers access to multiple editions – and to introduce web and Android payments.

But “ePresse 2.0 was simply canceled” in light of the upcoming OnePass revisions, according to a writer at L’Express, which is one member of the ePresse consortium alongside five dailies (Le Figaro, Le Parisien, Libération, L’Equipe and Les Echos) and two fellow news weeklies (Le Point and Le Nouvel Observateur).

Blame it on Google,” L’Express’ story reads. “The search engine has decided to upgrade its service at the last moment.”

ePresse CEO Frederic Filloux left the consortium in December, L’Express said. paidContent has reached out to the consortium for clarification.

French urgency

*Time* is now of the essence for French publishers, whose industry is in turmoil, plagued by slow digital reform, creaking distribution processes and dependence on state aid. Le Monde was last year sold to avoid bankruptcy, France-Soir last month said it would go online-only and La Tribune was this week sold to a new owner that will amp up online while moving to a weekly print schedule.

Many French papers individually have been adding limited paid content initiatives. La Tribune had been trialling the Cleeng micropayment system.

OnePass’ payment rivals such as Cleeng, France’s native Hi-Media and even Slovakia’s Project Piano, which has already successfully implemented a virtually industry-wide online payment requirement, could now be circling to provide ePresse Premium an alternative to Google.

Cleeng CEO Gilles Domartini tells paidContent: “It is a big opportunity for us – the right timing.”