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Google News discontinues ‘print replica’ PDFs of magazines

Google News discontinues ‘print replica’ PDFs of magazines


Google tried to attract readers with magazine pages via an ill-fated subscription product

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Stop me if you’ve heard this, but: Google is discontinuing a product. This time, it’s the print replica magazines in Google News, which are the PDF versions of print pages you could view on phones or via desktop. However, pinching the view on your phone screen to read a PDF of a print magazine page apparently didn’t catch on, and I’m as astonished as you are.

Android Police reported that Google sent an email to current magazine subscribers to inform them of the change, effective immediately. While it won’t be offering print layout pages via Google News any longer, Google suggested that readers could still visit a magazine’s website, which perhaps they are already doing since it’s 2020.

“Publishers can continue selling content on Google News in the form of paywalled RSS-based publications — it is only the support for the sale of discrete digital files that is changing,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

The idea was to give publishers control of how pages looked online

Google first launched its Play Magazines app back in 2012, which was then folded into Newsstand, before being dumped into Google News. The idea of the magazine replicas was to give publishers control over how their articles were presented and viewed online, retaining the print look and feel. Remember: tablets, specifically Apple’s iPad, were going to save “old media” and make people read magazines and newspapers again.

But while Apple’s tablet became a popular destination for digital magazines, fewer than 200 pubs ever took part in Google’s magazine program, according to the company. The product was available on the Google News app for Android and also on desktop via Google News. (iOS users couldn’t directly subscribe, but they could read content purchased elsewhere on their iPads and iPhones.)

Its demise — for those who were aware of it — was likely not a great surprise; the magazine section has not been visible in the Play Store for about a year. Subscribers can continue to access previously purchased issues via the Google News app, but they won’t be able to purchase new subscriptions. Even Apple discontinued its digital magazine storefront, the Newsstand app, back in 2015 and eventually resurrected its digital magazine platform as part of Apple News Plus. Most magazines on iOS are now accessed through individual apps anyway, rather than through a central repository.

If you were gung ho about saving print media, reading it in a slightly inconvenient format, and you purchased a print replica magazine subscription via Google News (and please email me if you did because I would love to hear why and how), Google will issue you a full refund.