Google Magazines is just over six months old in the UK, and is available to readers in the US, Canada and Australia. On the UK version, consumers can find more than 210 magazine titles covering most of the major magazine publishers.
But is Google’s content store anywhere near being a credible competitor to Apple’s Newsstand, which has had a year headstart and can tap into Apple’s customer base of more than 400 million?
Android has been making inroads into the iPhone’s smartphone lead in the UK and sales of Android tablets started to make a breakthrough Christmas 2012. According to StatCounter, Currently, 30 percent of mobile and tablet run Android’s OS in the UK, compared to Apple’s 48 percent, according to StatCounter.
But how much effort should publishers be putting into the platform when they’re already expending so much energy targeting iPhone and iPad owners?
We spoke to Madhav Chinnappa, EMEA head of strategic partnerships for Google News and Magazines, to see how the store has been doing.
It’s early days, but we launched with over 100 titles and we now have now over 200 titles. Publishers are happy, we’ve got a lot of quality titles in there.
Since then they are keen to get all their portfolios up. We are within spitting distance of getting all the publishers portfolios up. It’s growing and that’s a very good thing.
Getting titles on to the store is not the same as selling them. One of the big problems Google faces is the assumption, backed up by some evidence, that Android users are less likely to pay for apps and other content. they are on average likely to have less disposable income simply because Apple devices tend to be more expensive.
Chinnappa says that is changing:
I’ve heard that meme, that Android users are all about free. I’ve heard that, but the evidence that we have is that people are purchasing.
If you look at the evolution of Android, with these higher end devices (such as the Samsung Galaxy 4) you’re penetrating into the higher end demographic, and the propensity to purchase increases with higher end devices. And you have these super users, this group of people who purchase a lot within that demographic.
What Chinnappa won’t talk about is any actual stats, on sales or on the increasing propensity of Andorid users to pay for content.
He does say there are specific areas, such as the tech community, where publishers are able to target Android users who are more keen to pay for content.
What the publishers say
One senior consumer magazine publisher told us, on condition of anonymity, that Google Magazines is: “Still a pretty small slice of the pie compared to Newsstand – growing but still pretty small”.
Another identifies two problems: Google hasn’t got anywhere near as many people’s bank details and it hasn’t so far trained its customers to buy content as well as Apple has.
This executive says publishers are seeing “trends and opportunities and we’re having a good hard look”, but they still aren’t keen to burn cash experimenting – yet.
That response isn’t surprising six months in, even with Android taking an increasing part of the mobile OS pie and getting into the hands of consumers with deeper pockets.
But until we have more evidence that Android users will buy content on their devices – the same is true to an extent, of Amazon – few publishers are going to view Google Magazines with the same enthusiasim as Apple.