Google Makes It Super Easy to Subscribe to Premium Content

Google on Wednesday launched Subscribe with Google and several other journalism-related initiatives.

Subscribe with Google lets consumers store credit card information with Google, which can be used to access participating publishers’ subscription services. Google takes care of billing, payment security and account management.

Subscribe with Google soon will be available for use with several launch partners, including The New York Times, USA Today Network, The Washington Post, The Telegraph, the Financial Times and McClatchy.

Subscribers can access content when signed in to their Google account without having to go through paywalls. They’ll remain logged in when switching from desktop to mobile. They’ll also be able to link subscriptions purchased directly from publishers to their Google account.

For publishers, Google has begun testing a “Propensity to Subscribe” signal that uses machine learning to make it easier to recognize potential subscribers and present them the right offer at the right time.

Further, Google has introduced News Consumer Insights, a dashboard built on Google Analytics, to help news organizations understand and segment their audiences and attract subscribers.

Locking In Ad Customers

“Once again, this is a way to leverage Google’s strength in search to sell not only advertising, but now new, fresh content,” said Michael Jude, research manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

“The next step in this process will be Google signing contracts with the various newspapers to provide advertising services, for which the paper receives revenue based on the click-through to their content,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

That could help. This year, Google will take in a little more than 37 percent of the United States digital ad market, to the tune of almost US$40 billion, eMarketer predicted. However, competition from players such as Instagram, Amazon and Snapchat, which heated up faster than expected, has eroded Google’s market share. It had 38.6 percent of the market last year.

The Impact on Publishers

Meanwhile, Google has been at odds with publishers for years, who contend it’s stealing their content.

Subscribe with Google “feels more like a response to both competitive concerns and concerns about effectively stealing content,” suggested Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

It “gives Google even more control, and if you don’t trust Google in the first place, that wouldn’t be a good thing,” he told the E -Commerce Times.

It’s similar to Apple’s lock-in model, Enderle pointed out.

If a publisher should “take exception to a Google practice or out a Google executive,” he wondered, “will they be cut off from revenue?”

The closer ties between Google and the publishing industry could lead to a “near ultimate form of censorship,” Enderle warned, given that “Google controls so much of what people currently see. They could use their revenue control to materially impact coverage.”

However, many others — including launch participants McClatchy and The Washington Post, for example — have expressed optimism about the Subscribe with Google program.

It will offer publishers better targeted ads and make things easier for them, noted Ray Wang, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

“Google has found a way to not only reduce the friction of creating and monetizing content, but to also address content quality,” he told the E-Commerce Times. This “not only improves ad rank but also helps identify fake news.”

Consumer Benefits

Readers will get a “one touch, easy-to-use content feed and the ability to subscribe to new services,” Wang remarked.

Still, “the whole notion of online newspapers is out of step with the younger generations,” Frost’s Jude pointed out.

“Millennials don’t really read newspapers,” he said, “and it seems a stretch that they’ll seek out such publications online.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology. Email Richard.

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