Google thumbs nose at Apple with cheaper subscription service

Google’s launched its own digital newspaper subscription service just a day after Apple – and it will cost publishers only a third as much.

According to Eric Schmidt, speaking in Berlin yesterday, One Pass will require publishers to hand over just 10 percent of revenues, compared with the 30 percent Apple is demanding.

“You’ve got a very publisher-friendly approach; we basically don’t make any money on this,” said Schmidt.

In addition, Google, unlike Apple, will hand over customer information to publishers. “”We don’t prevent you from knowing, if you’re a publisher, who your customers are, like some other people,” said Schmidt.

Readers will be able to access content on tablets, smartphones and websites using a single sign-in with an email and password. Publishers can authenticate existing subscribers so that readers don’t have to re-subscribe to access their content on new devices.

Publishers can customize how and when they charge for content, offering subscriptions, metered access, ‘freemium’ content or even single articles for sale. Payments technology is handled via Google Checkout.

The company’s signed up various publishers already, including

German publishers Axel Springer, and Gruner + Jahr, along with Rust Communications in the US. Google One Pass is currently available for publishers in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the US.

There’s no doubt that the announcement will prove welcome news to publishers aghast at Apple’s proposed levy.

“Taking a 30 percent toll amounts to a massive increase in the cost basis of a content business that will kill it,” says Forrester analyst James McQuivey. “There is not a subscription business alive that can bear that additional cost without passing the cost along to subscribers, even if the content is unique, which most content is not.”

Madhav Chinnappa, Google’s head of news partnerships for Europe, Middle East and Africa, told the Wall Street Journal that the timing of the announcement – just a day after Apple’s – was simply a coincidence. A pretty big one, we’d say.