Can Google Steal Digital Magazine Biz From Apple?

broken ipad 2 Can Google Steal Digital Magazine Biz From Apple?The relationship between Apple and major magazine publishers ended the year on a sour note. Sales of magazine apps on the iPad, initially promising, had fallen off at a dismal rate. 

This morning the Wall Street Journal highlighted Google’s efforts to build a digital newstand which would carry high end magazine apps on the slew of Android powered tablets premiering in 2011. 

There has been much talk about the failure of magazines to utilize the new form and capture the imagination of users. But the real problem has been the pay structure. Apple and magazine publishers have been feuding over subscriptions, meaning most magazines were sold individually, often for the same price as a newstand copy. 

Is anyone really surprised that folks didn’t pay five times the subscription price per issue to access content they can pretty much get for free on the web? That business model was broken from the start. 

This is Google’s market to steal. According to the story in the WSJ, Google is considering taking a much smaller cut of revenues than the 30 percent Apple currently does. They also plan to make it simple for magazine publishers to offer subscriptions for tablets that mirror their print offerings and to share more data about users. 

Apple still dominates the tablet market, but as Android powered smartphone have shown, that can change very quickly. Perhaps that’s why Apple, according to the WSJ, is thinking about sweeting the deal it currently has with high end magazine publishers like Hearst and Conde Nast. 

bpopper at observer dot com – @benpopper