Digital Newsstands Failing as Google-Apple Battle Heats Up

This article is from the archive of our partner .

In Monday's paper, The Wall Street Journal shines a light on the battle between Apple and Google to become the dominant clearing house for digital magazines and newspapers. While Apple sells digital subscriptions via iTunes, Google plans to open a digital newsstand of its own on its Android software. Both are designed for reading on tablet devices. But will either platform succeed? In recent months, sales for digital magazines such as Wired, GQ and Vanity Fair have plummeted. As the Journal reports, Apple and Google may resort to more controversial tactics to keep publishers happy (e.g. giving away the "personal data" of subscribers to aid marketing efforts). Meanwhile, one major problem with iPad magazine sales has been publishers' inability to offer longer subscription deals as opposed to one-off $4.99 purchases. That problem will likely be solved later this month when Apple unveils its new subscription policy. But will Apple and Google be able to overcome the other myriad challenges facing for-pay digital media sales? Today's bloggers are skeptical:

  • Neither of These Platforms Will Take Over, writes Tamlin Magee at Tech Eye:

Is the iPad, or Google's alternative Android offerings, or any other tablet, really the be all and end all of news publishing? Probably not. The internet still hasn't killed the newspaper. Or the film industry. Or the music industry. It has been something which must be adapted to and worked alongside traditional means and we imagine tablets will be no different.

  • Traditional Publishers Are Going the Sleazy Route, writes MG Siegler at TechCrunch. "What the publishers seem to be demanding is that Apple opts users into sharing information without telling them." From the WSJ article, it appears Google may give into publishers' demands. Siegler thinks this is a terrible idea:
Who the hell wants to be marketed to relentlessly just because they signed up for a magazine subscription? No one. Except that’s the way the magazine subscription model currently works. Not because it’s a good model, but because in the days before technology started destroying print, people were naive enough not to realize what was going on.
  • Digital Newsstands Are Facing a Major Problem, writes Philip Elmer-DeWitt at Fortune. He admits to not knowing "who is more to blame." It's either the publishers who charge too much ($4.99 per magazine) or Steve Jobs who won't release subscribers' personal data to publishers who could profit off it. Either way, "no one likes to see newspapers and magazines go under," he writes.
  • Hold On: This Rivalry Is Just Beginning, writes Frank Reed at Marketing Pilgrim: "The tablet space is going to break wide open in the upcoming year and what will be offered as a result is anybody’s guess. Let's just hope it makes sense, is a reasonable cost and can be understood by the common man."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.