Android phone
Credit: Image by opopododo on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Google last week launched a new app called Newsstand, a Flipboard-like personalised reading experience for Android phones and tablets.

Newsstand allows readers to subscribe to free and paid-for websites, newspapers and magazines. It is also a discovery platform, offering news sites potential news audiences.

Newsstand replaced both Google Play Magazines and the Android version of Currents, an app providing free content from publishers, which is also available for iOS devices..

The launch of Google Newsstand came more than two years after the launch of Apple's Newsstand. Six weeks after launch Mike Goldsmith from Future, a magazine publishing company, said it had "revolutionised publishing". Future's sales via Apple's Newsstand passed £5 million in less than a year.

A year after launch, Condé Nast, publisher of Vogue and Wired, told us that Apple's Newsstand had resulted in more than 1 million app downloads, "most of which are paid".

But what do those at Future and Condé Nast make of the new app for Android phones and tablets?

We spoke to Mike Goldsmith, editor-in-chief for digital editions at Future, and Andrew Lowe, Condé Nast's digital manager, by email.

TheMediaBriefing published a piece including an interview with Google's Madhav Chinnappa earlier today which provides additional background.

Q. Is Google Play Newsstand a positive development for publishers?

Andrew Lowe, Condé Nast: "It's a small, but important step towards integrating weekly/monthly publications with broader digital reading habits.

"But there needs to be more focus on manual filtering over algorithmic delivery. Online readers have grown accustomed to using peer-sharing and social networks as discovery tools for news, so it'll be interesting to see if the reach of Google can shift the balance back towards regular, expertly curated collections of themed content (magazines)."

Mike Goldsmith, Future: "The increased focus on Newsstand is certainly welcome as it not only illustrates how seriously Google is treating publishers, but will offer new ways for us to work closer together. Future has already worked closely with Google on a number of promotional opportunities and these recent Newsstand announcements will naturally lead to more and hopefully better opportunities."

Q. Could Google's Newsstand lead to an increase in sales for publishers?

Recent joint promotions around trials with Google have lead to significant download spikesMike Goldsmith, Future
Andrew Lowe, Condé Nast:
"As with the other digital vendors, it's all a question of visibility and ease of discovery.

"Google Newsstand's offering does seem skewed towards monetising web-feeds over pushing periodicals, so publishers will still need to work hard to use it as a means of upselling digital editions through their web content. I imagine they will want to own that process internally instead of relying on Google to do it for them."

Mike Goldsmith, Future: "Recent joint promotions around trials with Google have lead to significant download spikes and we hope taking smart advantage of such new marketing-friendly initiatives as Read Now [which shows recommended articles] will do the same. As always, the consideration will be as much about audience behaviour and appetite as it will be our product range."

Q. How important was Android before the launch of Newsstand, given that iOS and Android users are quite different in the way they consume apps?

Andrew Lowe, Condé Nast: "iOS has dictated the rules of mobile news/content consumption due to the mighty success of the iPhone/iPad – and Apple has further benefited from being quick off the mark with their own Newsstand.

"But Android is catching up, with devices which can finally match Apple's both for price and experience.

"I would expect to see similar moves from the likes of Samsung and Amazon – backing up their new hardware with more sophisticated, Apple-like, digital retail environments. Then we'll be able to test the meme about Android users not being willing to pay for anything!"

Mike Goldsmith, Future: "There are a lot of differences to consider between iOS and Android, be it audience or product consumption or device choice.

"Google Play Magazines (now Newsstand) has become an important platform for Future's digital edition strategy, however, it remains a comparatively flat experience as opposed to the richer, interactive digital editions Future publishes through iOS.

"We will continue to bring our richer content to Android users via our branded apps, an area we plan to expand upon in 2014."

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