Google plans ‘digital newsstand’ in battle with Apple

Michael Calderone
The Cutline
Google takes on Apple
Google takes on Apple

Magazine sales on the iPad have dropped in recent months, perhaps because readers who gave iPad-enhanced issues a try didn't want to continue paying newsstand prices for individual issues. The price point for iPad publications is still a good deal higher than what readers typically pay for print subscriptions -- and meanwhile, plenty of content from major periodicals is free online.

So the next major challenge for digital sales is refining a subscription pricing plan that publishers can get behind. Since Apple hasn't been able to hammer out agreements with most publishers, Google is apparently trying to fill the void. The Wall Street Journal reports that Google is now competing with Apple "to become the dominant distributor of newspapers and magazines for tablet computers and other mobile devices."

Google recently discussed plans for a "digital newsstand for users of devices that run its Android software" with top magazine publishers, including Conde Nast, Hearst and Time Inc., the Journal said. It reports that Google has told media executives the company would take a smaller cut of sales than the 30 percent share that Apple collects on its iTunes service.

Publishers' other gripe right now is that they don't get personal data on readers who buy copies through the iTunes store. It's unclear whether Google would be more willing to furnish that information than Apple is.

This isn't Google's only front in the digital publishing war. The company is also going up against Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble in the growing market for digital books.

(Photo of Google CEO Eric Schmidt in July, holding an Android smartphone: AP/ Nati Harnik)