Google Woos Publishers To Digital Newsstand: Report

January 3, 2011 0

Mountain View, California — Think of it as an old-fashioned circulation war in the digital age, substituting tablets for tabloids. Global search engine leader Google Inc has approached several newspaper and magazine publishers to garner support from for creating its own digital newsstand, in a move that could open a new frontier in the Internet company’s rivalry with Apple Inc., which already sells digital versions of many major magazines and newspapers through its iTunes store, according to a news report.

The Wall Street Journal is citing reports that Google has embarked on an initiative, led by Stephanie Tilenius, VP of e-commerce, to woo in publishers in order to create an e-newsstand for Android devices.

The search engine titan has already approached several publishers, including Time Warner Inc.’s Time Inc. unit, Condé Nast and Hearst Corp., according to people familiar with the matter. Sources say Google has even offered publishers a larger portion of app sales than the standard 70%, and access to certain personal data about app purchasers in order to help target marketing.

The digital newsstand would pave a way for media entities to sell versions of their publications designed for tablet PCs and smartphones based on Google’s Android operating system, according to a story published in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday, citing anonymous sources. Google hopes to launch it in part to provide a more consistent experience for consumers who want to read periodicals on Android devices, and to help publishers collect payment for their apps, these people say.

However, the issue is pretty tangled as in the past Google has had some differences with publishers because of Google News, which some have said is stealing readers. But, now Google is attempting to reach out to publishers in order to secure deals publications with subscription services very possible. The report also stated that Apple is also planning several changes with its iTunes online store, including making it easier for publishers to sell subscriptions — in addition to single issue sales — as well as the possibility of sharing more customer information with publishers.

Furthermore, Amazon has added magazines and newspapers to their Kindle offerings, and Barnes & Noble is bringing them to Nook, so Google is trying to play catchup in a sense. Luckily, with Android tablets likely not to gain steam for at least a couple months, Google has time to sweeten the deal for publishers. The Wall Street Journal quoted sources as saying that Google, issued a statement on the matter saying: “We have consistently said we are talking with publishers about ways we can work together, including whether we can help them with technology for subscription services. We have nothing specific to announce at this time.”

Google CEO Eric Schmidt has long had an eye on newspaper content. Even though his company’s Google News has been publicly derided as a leech of the newspaper business, Schmidt told a group of newspaper editors last April that he believes newspapers can make money online.

“We have a business model problem; we do not have a news problem,” Schmidt said at the time. “We are all in this together.”

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Apple declined to comment, except to say its app store is “growing rapidly with great publications.