Google takes the fight to Apple with OnePass subs model

That didn't take long: just one day after Apple launched a controversial new subs model, Google has already come out with its own cheaper version.

by James Taylor
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
Looks like Google and Apple will be locking horns again, this time over content subscriptions. We wrote yesterday about Apple's decision to make publishers sell subs through the App Store, for which dubious privilege they'll have to give Apple 30% of any money they make. Now, just a day later, Google has unveiled its own model called One Pass, a service that allows users to sign up to a number of content sites with a single payment - with Google, crucially, only taking a 10% cut. Whatever Google’s motives – and they’re clearly not that wholesome – that's going to look a lot more attractive to publishers, particularly given the rise and rise of Google's mobile operating system Android…

Publishers had a number of gripes with the new Apple model, as discussed yesterday: as well as the fact that they're having to give up such a big piece of the pie, there have also been complaints about Apple creating what Vodafone's Vittorio Colao calls a 'walled garden' around content, while they're also unhappy that Apple would end up controlling most of the relationships with subscribers.

So Google is naturally pitching One Pass as the antithesis of this. First and foremost, publishers give up a smaller cut; we’re no mathematicians, but 10% is an awful lot less than 30%. They’ll get to see the names and emails of their subscribers (and possibly more details, assuming consent). Google is also making great play of its 'open' approach - rather than having to access content via an app on an Apple device, consumers will be able to look at it on the web, on their mobile devices, or any cotton-picking place they like.

And the content providers seem to be buying it. Whereas Apple's new model was noticeably lacking in high-profile launch partners, One Pass has already signed up the likes of Associated Newspapers in the UK and Germany's Axel Springer (so far it's all about newspapers, but music and video may follow later).

One huge advantage for Google is that Android has become the world's most popular smartphone OS in hardly any time at all; handset makers are adopting it in huge numbers, and that will make it easier to push this content out to people. But that also serves as a reminder that Google boss Eric Schmidt's insistence that the web giant will basically make no money from One Pass is a little disingenuous. If it’s successful, it will not only make Android even more attractive, but also attract more eyeballs for Google's ads. So its motives are hardly altruistic.

It's hard to see the big publishers shunning Apple altogether; its devices are just too influential. But the existence of a genuinely viable alternative should at least ensure that Apple faces some real competitive pressure.

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