Apple subscriptions vs Google One Pass subscriptions – comparison and analysis for publishers


The lovely pace of change in the media world isn’t slowing down any…

One day after Apple launched its long-expected subscription service, Google announced its One Pass content payment system. Here is a quick comparison.

– What they are
They are both payment and delivery platforms for content sales and subscriptions.

– Delivery platforms
Apple’s platform is for content delivered to apps that are sold in the Apple iTunes store, so only to iPad, iPhone and iTouch products.
Google OnePass works on any web or mobile platform (not just Android) as long as it is permitted in the terms (i.e. it cannot be used on Apple devices)

– Payment structures
Apple subscriptions are for all content for a defined period of time (weekly through annually).
Google allows a wide variety of content payment models including individual articles, one day passes, subscriptions with auto-renewal, free access up to a certain number of visits, free and premium content, coupons for print subscribers etc.

– Off-platform subscriptions
Apple does not allow any content to be delivered that has been paid for in other ways.
Google allows publishers to provide their existing print subscribers with free (or reduced price) access to digital content.

– Revenue share
Apple takes 30% of all subscription revenue.
Google takes a variable share of revenue, with a basic rate of around 10%. AdAge suggests this could go as low as 0%, for example in the case of Time, where Google may settle for ad revenue.

– Customer information provided to publisher
Apple allows customers to opt-in to provide their information including email to the publisher.
Goole allows customers to opt-out to provide their information including email to the publisher.

– Payments mechanism
Payments for Apple subscriptions go through the iTunes store, which already holds credit card information for all its users.
Payments for Google go through Google Checkout, so many customers will have to provide credit card information, making it slightly less seamless.

– International availability
Apple subscriptions are available through all of its 90 iTunes country stores.
Google One Pass is initially available in US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain.

Discussion and analysis

Out of all this, the most important issues are the revenue share and the sharing of customer information. The difference between opt-in and opt-out will be massive.

My Flow Economy framework below, which I frequently use in strategy workshops for my clients in media and related industries, shows the key elements of the economy based on the flow of information and ideas. The key issue is where you are currently positioned, and how you can leverage that positioning to move to other and more valuable parts of the landscape.


The most valuable elements are standards and relationships. Apple has established effective standards in mobile devices through its market dominance, while Google’s general strategy (not in all cases!) is to promote open standards.

From a publisher perspective relationships are paramount, particularly as media consumption habits are changing so quickly. As such there is a stark strategic difference between the Apple and Google payment platforms.

It is quite possible to use both platforms, in fact Popular Science is already available through both the Apple and Google subscription platforms. While that is a sound approach, one consideration is the pool subscribers who may choose to buy over either one, with significant value loss if they choose to subscribe through Apple.

I have previously analyzed Apple’s strategy using the Flow Economy framework, in particular how they used their platform strength to shift to controlling relationships, which has been central to their strategy over the last 6-7 years. I will update that analysis soon.

The landscape is rapidly shifting, and publishers need to make swift and effective strategic decisions.