Google takes on Apple with subs payment service

Following Apple's lead, advertising giant Google has announced a subscription payment service for digital distribution of magazines and newspapers - and looks to be attempting to compete with Apple on price.

Like the system announced by Apple this week - and greeted with scorn by publishers - Google One Pass allows publishers to take payment for digital content, supplied either in smartphone apps or simply on the web, without requiring the user to have an individual account for every magazine to which he or she subscribes.

Unlike Apple's system, however, Google's One Pass offers significantly more flexibility: publishers can charge any amount they choose, and can set up subscription systems for entire digital newspapers or take a few pence for a single article on a website.

The main selling point of One Pass over Apple's service, however, is price. Apple has revealed that it will take a 30 per cent cut of all subscription payments that go through its charging system, whereas Google will only take a 10 per cent share of the proceeds.

The move comes as content creators and publishers look for new ways to monetise their digital content, glomming on to the tablet craze to sell copies of newspapers that don't have printing or physical distribution costs. Google's service has already been met with interest by publishers, including Associated Newspapers - owners of the Daily Mail - El Pais, Die Welt, and Bild who have all confirmed plans to introduce One Pass to their sites.

The key to Google's success or failure in this market is publisher take-up: the carrot of a single sign-on for multiple websites and apps will prove tempting to consumers only if the content they want is available through One Pass. With Apple continuing to push its own subscription service on the iPad and iPhone platforms, the market could quickly fragment - leaving publishers no option but to go with both services if they want to offer their wares to the whole of the market.

One Pass will initially launch in the UK, US, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, and Spain, with other countries expected to follow if the initial roll-out proves successful.