Publishers Clearing House

Why digital newsstands stink

January 3, 2011: 5:24 AM ET

Who is to blame for declining sales of iPad magazines? Can Google do better?

Source: Le Monde Magazine

Much has changed in the eight months since Le Monde Magazine put Steve Jobs on the cover and asked whether he might be the new Gutenberg -- the man whose iPad would save the publishing industry from the menace of le tout-gratuit (the all-free).

For one thing we know that Apple (AAPL) has sold a lot of iPads -- somewhere in the order of 13 or 14 million in nine months.

We also know -- thanks to last week's Audit Bureau of Circulations numbers -- that iPad magazine sales have gone in the opposite direction. Wired's collapse from 100,000 iPad copies in June to 23,000 in November was most dramatic, but the story is not much different at Glamour, Vanity Fair, GQ or Men's Health.

Now comes the news -- via a page B1 story in Monday's Wall Street Journal -- that Google (GOOG) is talking to publishers about building a competing digital newsstand for Android devices that might offer them what Apple has thus far refused to share: The names and addresses of their online subscribers.

TechCrunch's MG Siegler sums up the situation with this headline: "The 'Digital Newsstand' Race Becomes: Who Is More Willing To Trick Users, Apple Or Google?"

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