Digital Subscriptions, Paid Content, Paywalls

What is Subscribe with Google?

30 Jul, 2020 - 4 minutes read
What is Subscribe with Google?

Undoubtedly digital publishing has become increasingly important. The publishing industry is in the process of adopting its business models accordingly. As digital subscription models are on the rise, along with paywall solutions, publishers need a Single sign-on and a subscription management system, that guides willing-to-pay-users through the subscription process and manages their entitlements. This is where Google wants to help publishers – or take their cut of the pie- and thus, introduced Subscribe with Google. 

In this blog post, we explain what “Subscribe with Google” is and why it is important for publishers. You will learn more about how it works and what benefits and drawbacks there are for both the publisher and the reader. Furthermore, you will learn about how to integrate it – and last but not least – you’ll get insights into what other options there may be.

So what is Subscribe with Google?

Subscribe with Google or SwG is a part of the Google News Initiative, which Google claims to help journalism thrive in a digital age.

In short, it is a registration and subscription service tight together. Participating publishers provide their customers with the option of registering and subscribing to one of their services using a Google account. Instead of implementing a software solution that handles registrations and is connected to a third-party payment service provider (PSP), publishers could simply use SwG.

A subscription made with Google can be managed and paid directly in Google’s Subscriptions, without the need to access the Publisher’s website.

Google describes its service in this video:

What are the benefits and drawbacks for publishers and users?

As the benefits of the publishers and the readers are interdependent we will start exploring why using SwG would be convenient for the readers.

The following benefits are provided for readers when using their Google account to subscribe to news sites.

Benefits for users would be:

  • Key Benefit: the subscription process is simplified
  • Users save time by not having to enter their personal data over again
  • Creation of another account (except Google) is not required hence no more passwords to remember
  • Users can have access to their entitlements directly on Google News
  • Payment details do not need to be entered again
  • Users have the privilege to manage subscriptions in one place (inside Google Subscriptions)
  • Users can access their subscriptions from any device if they are logged in with the same Google account
  • And finally, users are seeing favorable content from their subscribed publications on the first search result page

Drawbacks for users would be:

  • A Google account is needed
  • A valid payment method has to be provided within the Google account
  • Google gets even more insights into the customers private life and their reading habits

What are the advantages for publishers?

As stated by Google, it helps publishers in creating a simple and frictionless way to welcome new subscribers with an easy sign-up, frictionless payment, and improved discovery for subscribers, we added our take on the benefits and drawbacks in the following lines.

Starting with potential benefits:

  • Publishers do not lose potential customers who find filling the sign-up details cumbersome
  • The Subscribe with Google option might increase the trust level as Google itself suggests
  • The SwG option might lead to higher conversion rates 
  • Fairly easy implementation
  • Subscribed publications have relevant search results in the search engine
  • Subscribe with Google works for publishers of various shapes and sizes

Drawbacks for the publishers on the other hand are: 

  • Loss of Revenue: As Google takes a cut (somewhere between 5-15%)
  • Publishers have no access to their customers’ data, hence
  • There is less knowledge about the customer database and
  • Fewer possibilities of up-selling and cross-selling

CeleraOne integrates Subscribe with Google

Subscribe with Google is an optional part of the CeleraOne software. Publishers can decide to integrate the feature in the original integration phase or at any later stage without having the obligation to do so. An example of a successful implementation of SwG can be seen at Tagesspiegel. Tagesspiegel uses Subscribe with Google in addition to direct debit, PayPal and credit card since 2019.

Tagesspiegel uses Subscribe with Google since 2019
Tagesspiegel uses Subscribe with Google since 2019

Publishers who use another software solution or even their own software should read the explanation published by Google and approach Google directly in order to get instructions. 

What else is out there?

When it comes to registration services there is a growing number of services including Sign-In-with-Apple or Facebook-Login. The OpenId foundation enables a huge number of authentication providers, in Germany the best-known example may be Net ID.

However, when it comes to subscription services the number of options is much smaller – only leaving Apple Pay and Amazon Pay, which in turn have common drawbacks and are obviously only available for users with an according account. 

More than another option

The number of digital subscriptions have increased in the past years. The occurrence of the Covid-19 pandemic only accelerates this trend. If publishers want to convert readers into paying subscribers, they will need to provide seamless options for users. Subscribe with Google is one service that deserves consideration as it has a huge customer base with Android being the most used mobile operating system. In any case, publishers have to decide between possible higher conversion rates and the price they will pay for it. 

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