Google trumps Apple on subscription plan
Just one day after Apple unveiled a gotcha-laden iTunes subscription service for publishers of newspapers, magazines and other media, Google yesterday stepped forward with a competing system that presciently obviates the most troublesome shortcomings of Apple’s plan.
Coincidence? Perhaps. But impressive nonetheless.
Like the Apple plan, the new Google system, which is called One Pass (not to be confused with the Continental Airlines frequent-flier program of the same name), allows publishers to sell subscriptions for any price and any duration.
But the similarities end there.
If the key to successful marketing is knowing your customer (and it is), then Google beat Apple at its own game by introducing a subscription system that gives publishers the three things they crave most:
Complete control of their product offerings, a direct connection with their subscribers and a far bigger share of the revenues than Apple has proposed.
Here’s how the plans compare:
:: While the Apple system works with iPhone and iPad apps downloaded from iTunes, Google says its service will work on any web or mobile platform, so long as the mobile platform permits “transactions to take place outside of the app market.” The quote is a not-so-subtle dig at the walled garden Apple has put around its mobile apps but it also exposes the biggest potential drawback in the Google plan, which is that Apple may block the use of the Google system on its products.
:: While a subscription acquired through Apple will be valid only within the carefully circumscribed Apple ecosystem, a subscription acquired on One Pass will be recognized at a any digital destination a user happens to go. If you sign up for One Pass at Website A, you can use the same account to purchase access to Mobile App B. In other words, you need only one account, one user name and one password.
:: While Apple puts itself in the position of having the primary relationship with the subscriber, One Pass puts itself in the background and lets the publisher communicate directly with the sub. Apple will let consumers voluntarily disclose their names and email addresses to a publisher, but the opt-in approach a major drawback for newspapers and magazines that need to know the identity of the people they count in their circulation audits.
:: While Apple seeks 30% of the transaction in most circumstances, Google is taking only a 10% cut.
Although many publishers are peeved at Apple, it may not be too late for this abundantly creative company to craft a more palatable solution. After all, these are the folks who turned the ugly-duckling Newton into the soaring swan we know as the iPhone.
Regardless of how the Silicon Valley sumo match plays out, the biggest problem the publishers and the tech giants face is whether a substantial market for paid content will emerge at all.
As discussed here, there are powerful reasons to wonder how much content can be corralled inside a pay wall after ranging freely on the web for more than 1½ decades.