Google Pitches A ‘Flexible’ Paid Content System, ‘One Pass’

Anything Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) can do, can Google (NSDQ: GOOG) do better? Twenty-four hours after the former announced its subscription plans, the latter – as we reported it would – finally unveiled its long-awaited big content subscription play – a significant extension on top of Google Checkout called One Pass (announcement, sign-up)…

The announcement is no doubt timed to target brows furrowed by Apple’s own. The subtext is juxtaposition – Google’s key descriptors suggest it wants to depict One Pass as more flexible and more attractive than iTunes Store…

— “Lets publishers set their own prices and terms for their digital content” (subtext: no arbitrary 30 percent commission).

–“Publishers can maintain direct relationships with their customers” (subtext: no frustrations on getting customer data).

— “The service also lets publishers give existing print subscribers free (or discounted) access to digital content” (subtext: no stipulation that mobile editions must price-match others)

— “Readers who purchase from a One Pass publisher can access their content on tablets, smartphones and websites using a single sign-on with an email and password” (subtext: unites web and device subs).

— “Users only need one login to access news anywhere” (hypothetically, a Google Account could get you to as well as on any device).

Focus Online,, Media General (NYSE: MEG), NouvelObs, Bonnier’s Popular Science, Prisa and Rust Communications are aboard as partners.

One Pass goes considerably beyond Google’s previous routine protestations that it’s helping the news business – First Click Free and the somewhat lamer Fast Flip and Living Stories – and is instead being ambitiously touted as a broad suite of paid content technologies for the industry.

Google had been working on with Italian publishers over the last year, then called Newspass.

One Pass also closes the loop between print subscriptions and digital editions by offering customers of the former access to the latter using a “coupon”.

But, though our source told us Google’s system would beat Apple by taking 10 percent of new in-app subscription revenue, there’s no discernible mention of Google taking anything.

Google’s final line reads like a dig at Apple’s new bar on subscription sign-ups linked from subscription apps: “(One Pass) also offers payments in mobile apps, in instances where the mobile OS terms permit transactions to take place outside of the app market.”

Here’s the rest…

It is powered by Google Checkout, so publishers’ e-commerce and payment processing needs are covered, and there is no need to build a third-party payment system into publishers sites.

“Publishers have control over how users can pay to access content and set their own prices. They can sell subscriptions of any length with auto-renewal, day passes (or other durations), individual articles or multiple-issue packages. Google One Pass also enables metered models, where a publisher can provide some content or a certain number of visits for free, but can charge frequent visitors or those interested in premium content based on the business model that the publisher prefers.

“It also allows publishers to grant access to existing subscribers through a coupon-based system – so it is easy to give full online access to current customers. Publishers can give their customers codes verifying their subscription status, or can seamlessly offer content to existing subscribers via solutions enabled by Google One Pass.

Google One Pass operates across multiple sites, so you can easily manage content across all of your online properties.”