local media insider

Why I’m sold on Subscribe with Google

What local media need to learn about subscription sales

Alisa Cromer

Not every publisher may be persuaded to give Google 5% to 15% of new subscription revenue, on top of the 50% they have already sucked out of the local advertising market.

But when the dust settles, higher conversions and additional engagement may more than makeup for that revenue share.

And even publishers who are hold-outs have a lot to learn from Subscribe with Google.

What most publishers don’t realize is that Google is already in the subscription business; they support 15,000 developers selling subscriptions on Google Play, and in some respects, their approach is better than Apple’s. We’ll get to that in a bit.

Google introduced its first live Subscribe with Google newspaper partnership with the Miami Herald at the 2019 Mega Conference.  The speaker noted the difficulty of creating one store for thousands of paywall systems, the key obstacle to widespread adoption.

However, if you want proof that Subscribe with Google is a winner, simply to go to the Miami Herald and sign up.

In case you are busy, we did it for you.

It’s a slick two clicks to purchase experience, with no need to put in your card if Google already has it. Here’s how the offer looks when a reader reaches the limits meter of the Miami Herald:

Interstitial ads are also delivered with a “Subscribe with Google” option:


Readers who click get simple “Six Months Free” offer:



The next page shows any card used in a prior Google purchase. Click, and you’re done.

Early tests at the Miami Herald have also already, “outperformed our traditional channels” according to Dan Schaub, Corporate Director of Audience Development, for McClatchy, which made a significant investment to onboard the new process.

How much more - 5 to 15% would be needed to break even - won’t be known for a few more months, but I’m guessing the uptick is in this ballpark. All Google has to do is match the metrics to the pricing strategy and they have a huge winner on their hands.

Another benefit for subscribers who use Google is that they do not need to sign in again when switching devices, another tiny bit of friction removal that increases engagement with the media brand.

And there is another huge benefit to the partnership:  Subscribers see paid media content ahead of most other content in search results.

After subscribing to the Miami Herald, for example, I immediately searched on Miami Dolphins, and the Miami Herald’s stories appeared just below “Top Stories” adding additional engagement opportunities.


It was not simple to redesign the internal processes to incorporate Google. A team of 30 people at McClatchy was required to work out the problems involved with launching in 30 markets.

This workload is keeping less stoic publishers away. Our guess is that most will eventually jump on board as soon as it is clear that the uptick in engagement and conversions outweighs the 5 to 15% revenue share. Those who don’t sign on, however, should take a look at a couple of innovations Google brings to the game.

Google is not only an advertising company, but it has also developed expertise helping its 15,000 developers on Google Play, all on a subscription-based model. It has a team dedicated to combating churn and removing any barriers to the sale.

Their priority:  Make things easier for the customer.

On Google Play, customers can see all of their subscriptions on one dashboard - so you can’t forget what you purchased - and they are super simple to manage.  The cancel button is easy to find, and it is just one click to restore a canceled subscription or update an expired card.

Publishers on Google play can send automated “win-back messages”  and customer surveys to customers who ultimately cancel.


These are all best practices that newspaper publishers should all be using if they are not already.

The New York Times, Le Figaro and La Nación are among 17 more publications also in the process of enrolling.

Watch this space for updates on the new metrics as they appear.


Google Subscribe, Google, Subscription, ecommerce, Mega Conference, Newspaper