Apple vs. Google: The Battle for Digital Content Subscriptions


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Yesterday we heard that Apple was introduciing a new subscription model to their online storefronts. This makes it possible for publishers to distribute content over Apple's iOS platform with a subscription fee attached to it.

Today, we hear news that Google is doing the same with a service called Google One Pass. Whether the announcement came a day later by coincedence or as a response, it seems that Google wants to one-up Apple on the subscription-based front. Let's take a look and compare what each has to offer.

Hit the jump to read on:


1) The Split

Apple – As we learned yesterday, Apple is taking their usual 30 percent cut off of anything sold through the App Store. We will use Newsweek magazine as an example. Let's pretend that Newsweek is offering a subscription fee of $4 a month to receive their magazine on the iPad. Apple would get 30 pecent of the revenues from that. Newsweek can't offer the subscription for less anywhere else if they want to remain on the App Store. Apple is only looking for compensation if the magazine is purchased for their platform. The split here ends up being 30/70, with the publisher keeping 70 percent of the revenue.

Google – Google takes a bit less. They are offering their subscription-based service and only taking 10 percent of the revenue from the distribution. This was announced after Apple revealed their plans, so it's unknown to us if it was a response or planned all along. Still, publishers will be more enticed to try this out if Google takes less of their cut. However, stuff distributed on Android will mean that Google gets their usual 30 percent, which makes it similar to Apple.


2) Distribution

Apple – Currently, based on the wording in Apple's press release, it seems that users will only be able to purchase subscriptions for iDevices. That is the iPod Touch, iPad and the iPhone, there is no mention of the Mac App Store. This may or may not change. Still, the only limitation here is that it's all on Apple's platforms. Apple likes to keep it that way, and their devices are all very popular. Still, it's probably something publishers will factor in when deciding distribution methods.

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Google – Google will be distributing this content through the web and through mobile apps. This means Android phones and tablets as well as Chrome OS and their Chrome browser through Chrome web store. This is a larger distribution, but we've seen Android have less success than Apple in the storefront before. It also raises the question of why subscribe to a web app on your computer if it's probably available through the same browser for free? Of course things are changing as more outlets put up pay walls and find ways to earn money for content.


3) Sharing Information

Apple – As far as sharing your information with the publisher, that is up to the subscriber. According to Apple's press release, "protecting customer privacy is a key feature of all App Store transactions." It seems that Apple is going to own the subscriver information unless the purchaser chooses to do other and they say the following:

Customers purchasing a subscription through the App Store will be given the option of providing the publisher with their name, email address and zip code when they subscribe. The use of such information will be governed by the publisher‚Äôs privacy policy rather than Apple‚Äôs. Publishers may seek additional information from App Store customers provided those customers are given a clear choice, and are informed that any additional information will be handled under the publisher‚Äôs privacy policy rather than Apple‚Äôs. 

Google – Google is going to share the information on subscribers with the publishers. This includes their name, zip code and email address. The only difference here, it seems, is that the customer must specifically ask not to have their information shared where as with Apple they must okay it before it's shared.


4) Buying

Apple – Apple says that publishers cannot put a "buy" button within their App. This means that subscriptions purchased within the App Store must be done so through Apple. We need to see more such Apps to see how this works in practice, but it seems that you would simply log in with your Apple ID and choose to subscribe if you decide you want a subscription.

Google – With Google, publishers are free to use their "buy" button within an application if they so choose. There also seem to be some more options such as selling subcriptions in intervals they choose (monthly, yearly, etc.) they can also control how content is paid for or sell metered content. In this case, and example would be getting a small section of a magazine, but have to pay if you want the rest of the content.

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Subscriptions Redefined

This is another move to change the way we consume media. It's interesting to think that just 10 years ago, this seemed impossible. We still had magazines and newspapers going strong and a subscription just meant to mailed out a check with that little slip of paper that comes within the pages of your magazine. Now, a subscription means autodelivery of content and in some cases digital archives to back issues. It's all just beginning.


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