In a sign of the escalating turf war between it and Apple, Google made several key announcements this week at its I/O event—including the introduction of a new tablet, and the addition of magazines on Google Play.
While the Nexus 7 tablet, priced at $199, stands to be less competitive with the iPad than with Amazon’s Kindle Fire, the attractiveness of magazines on Google Play may put pressure on Apple to cooperate more with its publishing partners.
While terms are the same between Google Play and Newsstand, Bonnier Corp. digital consumer marketing director Kimberly Hellstrom says, “with marketing there’s a big difference.”
“Google came to us and learned what was important for us, and we worked together to create promotions and marketing plans,” says Hellstrom. An example is the limited-time offer of select new and back issues priced at 99 cents.
Perhaps most appealing is the fact that Google is willing to share data.
“Google is giving publishers access to sales volumes and trends, as well as anonymized viewing statistics and subscriber addresses,” says Matt Bean, VP, digital product development at Rodale. "I think we’ll see some interesting developments as far as what readers come to expect from a tablet edition, and having solid analytics behind usage statistics will help us cater to that need."
Another advantage Google offers over Apple—at least right now—is the cloud-based “digital carousel,” which allows users to store and access their purchased magazines on any Android device, picking up where they left off reading.
Google’s “ease of functionality” is also appealing, says Hellstrom; it provides a “friction-free user experience,” says Bean.
But of course, what remains to be seen is whether Android devices will start to penetrate further, or if Apple will continue to dominate in terms of tablet market share. Also, Apple is reportedly planning an iTunes overhaul, which will likely mitigate some of Google Play’s current advantages.
Still, the major consumer magazine publishers were quick to join the new platform.
Bonnier launched its “most popular” titles, with select brands—including Popular Science, Saveur and Parenting—available at the special 99 cent rate, at which readers can buy new or back issues, or subscribe and get a 30-day free trial. American Media Inc. made 11 of its titles available, with a 14-day free trial subscription offer.
Hearst and Rodale launched all of their titles on the platform, marking the latter’s first appearance on Android devices at all. Hearst is offering Esquire, Elle, Good Housekeeping, House Beautiful and Seventeen for the 99 cent trial, while Elle Decor, Harper’s Bazaar, House Beautiful and Popular Mechanics offer optimized, interactive editions, featuring video, tap-to-view and scrolling text functionality. The remaining titles will be closer to replica editions, with a clickable table of contents.
Time Inc. has established its presence, too. Real Simple appears with a “No Time To Cook?” app priced at $4.99, while Time and Sports Illustrated offer issues for $1.99.
Bean of Rodale says Google Play’s move to put magazines “in great company with games, books and movies” shows that Google is “betting on magazines.” Alysia Borsa, VP of product development for Meredith’s digital group, says Google Play presents another opportunity to expand reach and engage directly with audiences.