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With Apple readying subscription options for digital newspapers and magazines, it was only a matter of time before Google took its own stab at a digital newsstand — and that’s exactly what seems to be happening now, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

Google is apparently trying to court publishers for a digital newsstand that would work across Android devices, the paper says. Publishers are already selling iPhone and iPad versions of their publications, but a proper digital newsstand would make it easier for consumers to find publications and for publishers to charge for their content.

Given the buzz we’re hearing about digital newsstands at the moment, I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up making a big impact in 2011.

At the moment, Apple’s iTunes store doesn’t support any sort of subscription model — consumers instead have to manually purchase new electronic newspapers and magazines when they’re released. A few publishers have put together subscription-like bundles, like Newsweek and the Economist, but those don’t offer the same benefits as real subscriptions. With subscription capabilities, publishers can offer discounts similar to paper subscriptions, and the digital content will be automatically delivered to users.

Google has been in talks with publishers like Time Warner, Condé Nast and Hearst, according to those familiar with the discussions. The company has apparently tried to entice publishers by offering to take a smaller slice of sales (Apple currently takes 30 percent from all sales made on the iTunes store), as well as offering up personal data about app buyers.

The latter point is troublesome given increased concerns about mobile app privacy. Apple is also considering something similar by asking users to share their personal data when they purchase iPad magazines. It sounds like Apple is considering an opt-in method for sharing user data, meaning users have to choose to share their information. We can only hope Google follows suit.

Like the current battle for ebook supremacy, both Apple and Google face competition from e-reader companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble when it comes to offering digital newsstands. It’s likely going to be a messy year for digital newspapers and periodicals, but hopefully it will lead to many options for consumers to purchase digital content and for publishers to sell their wares.

Photo via Nicolas Nova

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