Google kills Currents, launches a Flipboard-style Newsstand with support for newspaper paywalls

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    Apple is no longer the only mobile platform with a digital Newsstand: Google said on Wednesday that it is launching a one-stop Android shop for magazine, newspaper and blog content called Google Newsstand, an app created by merging Currents — the Flipboard-style magazine app it first launched in 2011 — with its existing Google Play magazine store. The company says the app will offer more than 1,900 free and paid content sources.

    In addition to the magazine partners it already had through Currents, Google is adding subscription-only newspaper providers like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal to the Newsstand app. Google Play director of product management Scott Dougall said users will be able to import accounts they already have with those outlets, and will also be able to click and subscribe to other news-content providers such as the Financial Times from within the app. Existing users of Currents and Google magazines just have to upgrade their apps, he said.

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    The Newsstand gives users a single place to catch up on all the news and information from the sources they want with its “Read Now” stream, Dougall said — and it will also recommend new types of content or new topics based on what it knows about a reader. This kind of smart curation, driven by the vast quantities of data Google has about users, could be one of the app’s biggest strengths, especially when compared with a similar service such as Flipboard.

    A shot across Flipboard’s bow

    In what appeared to be a shot at Flipboard, Dougall said that while the reading experience of Google Newsstand is similar to the app — in that content from multiple sources is pulled in — the Google experience involves a closer relationship with the media partners whose content appears there. “We have full article access, we’re not just repurposing content that’s out there,” he said. “We are working very closely with our media partners.”

    Flipboard has faced some criticism in the past for not providing enough value to the media companies whose content it uses, but the company says it has been working to develop better relationships with providers like the New York Times — where Flipboard also integrates with the paper’s paywall. CEO Mike McCue has also said that it plans to roll out support for more subscription-based media offerings, and wants to help providers take advantage of premium advertising as well.

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    The name Newsstand suggests similarities to Apple’s mobile magazine and newspaper store, but Google’s version is very different, Dougall said. Whereas the Apple version of the Newsstand contains discrete magazine and newspaper apps, he said — something that has drawn a lot of criticism from those who feel apps get lost in the Apple Newsstand, and are difficult for users to find or update — Google’s version is more of a Flipboard-style experience, he said, where content flows into the app from different sources.

    Media companies like the Wall Street Journal and New York Times weren’t part of Google Currents because the web giant’s app didn’t support subscription models or paywalls, Dougall said, but they are part of Newsstand because Google can now integrate with those plans. The company has a revenue-sharing arrangement with its partners that involves either a share of advertising or subscription revenue, but Dougall wouldn’t give any details about the size of the share it gets.

    This post was edited after it was published in order to reflect the fact that Flipboard integrates with the paywall at the New York Times rather than the Wall Street Journal

    Post and thumbnail courtesy of Shutterstock / Christopher Boswell

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