Seeking to undercut Apple's subscription service, Google Feb. 16 unveiled a payment service to let publishers set their own prices and terms for digital content they serve on tablets, smartphones and Websites.
Google One Pass allows readers to purchase newspapers and magazines from publishers using a single sign-on with an e-mail account and password. Publishers can offer subscriptions, metered access, and other custom content from their Websites or mobile applications. Google Checkout processes One Pass payments.
One Pass publishers collect 90 percent of sales on every transaction. Google's 10 percent cut is one-third of the 30 percent transaction fee Apple is charging for its App Store subscription billing service, available for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.
In Apple's App Store, publishers must offer users the chance to buy content in the application at the same price the digital content is offered elsewhere online. This move, the latest in a string of stringent Apple content policies, is sparking concerns among content developers.
Google has designed One Pass so that publishers can maintain direct relationships with their customers, which means they command all the data on subscribers who sign up through One Pass.
Moreover, publishers authenticate existing subscribers so that readers don't have to re-subscribe to consume their content on, for example, a just-purchased Motorola Xoom tablet computer.
"Our goal is to provide an open and flexible platform that furthers our commitment to support publishers, journalism and access to quality content," claimed Lee Shirani, director of business product management for Google Commerce.
This sort of publisher-friendly freedom should ensure that Google will find plenty of traction for One Pass on Android smartphones and tablets at a time when Apple's iPad, iPhone and iPod touch attract a lot of user eyeballs and time.
Pairing publisher content with Android-based devices should in turn ensure that Google continues to serve a lot of ads via mobile search and other Web services.
Google counts German publishers Axel Springer AG, Focus Online and Stern.de, as well as Media General, NouvelObs, Bonnier's Popular Science, Prisa and Rust Communications among the first Google One Pass partners.
One Pass is currently available for publishers in the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, with plans to expand to other countries in the coming months.