Google News Is Getting Out of Digital Magazine Subscriptions

Subscribers will receive refunds and can still access previously viewed issues of print-replica magazines.

Google News is getting out of the digital magazine subscription business, reports The Verge. Readers who subscribe to print-replica magazines via Google News will no longer be able to do so, or to renew existing subscriptions, effective immediately. Google notified subscribers via email of the change and informed them that they would receive a refund of their last payment. When they receive their refund will depend on how they paid for their subscriptions. Subscribers can check the status of their refund in their Google Payments account, says Android Police.

Publishers can continue selling content on Google News in the form of paywalled RSS-based publications – it is only the support for the sale of discrete digital files that is changing, a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

Though subscribers cant access new magazines or new issues, subscribers can still access print-replica magazines they had previously read through the Google News app in the Favorites or Following tabs, says Android Police. In its email to subscribers, Google tells readers they can access the latest magazine articles and issues directly through the magazines websites, or they can search for specific publications in the Google News app.

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According to The Verge, allowing print-replica versions of magazines in Google News was a compromise between publishers and Google. They were one way that publishers could control their magazines content and how they looked in a digital version. The print-replicas were essentially PDFs that could be read on a desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile device. The idea wasnt particularly popular, however. In fact, Google News stopped offering the magazine section in the Play Store about a year ago, says The Verge.

Apple is having similar luck with its digital magazines. In 2018, Apple bought Texture, a digital magazine app. In 2019, it discontinued the product, folding the magazines into Apple News Plus which has not been as popular as Apple had hoped. Available for $9.99 a month, after a one-month free trial, subscribers have access to hundreds of newspapers and magazines with an emphasis on magazines, some of which are similar to their print counterparts and others which offer a richer, multimedia experience with text, images, videos, links and more. Publishers have been underwhelmed with their share of revenue, saying the app is off to a slow start, says Business Insider.

Insider Take:

Though I am an avid magazine reader, this move is not surprising. Print-replica magazines are just not the same as holding a glossy magazine in your hands or viewing a true digital magazine online with multimedia features that create a more interactive experience. Publishers are moving away from print editions, either shuttering the print versions altogether or reducing the frequency of publication. They are also experimenting with different business models. (See last Fridays Five on Friday for more on these business model experiments for magazines.) The magazines of yesterday are gone, and a new model is emerging. Google News is just now catching up.