Breaking Down the Platform Walls

This week, the tech world is buzzing about a broadening competition between Apple and Google after both companies announced payment systems for digital content within the span of two days. But both Apple and Google are missing the point. Neither of them will become the successor to the newspaper because a single platform doesn’t benefit either the publishers or their consumers.

Publishers need an easy way to monetize their content while retaining info about their readers and consumers need a convenient way to pay for their news. Why should you have to buy your copy of your favorite newspaper once to read it on your Google Android phone and again to read it on your Apple iPad? That’s ridiculous.

Whether subscription-based or on a singular basis, walling off content within the confines of one device or operating system limits publishers’ reach and stifles their readers’ demand. Publishers are simply looking for ways to monetize digital content, and they’ve told us over and over that they don’t care which platform or device their customers read it on. The most open solution will win in the end because it leaves that decision to the consumer.

A more open approach to digital goods payments–breaking down the platform walls–benefits both publishers and consumers. Consumers retain the freedom to read articles on whatever device most suits them at that particular moment, while publishers don’t have to give up one of the key insights they use to sell advertising: the details on who is reading their news content.

Whenever walled gardens have come up against the open web, the open web has won out. Just look at AOL. They were synonymous with the Internet in the early 1990s but they restricted their users. Do you know anyone who still has an AOL account? It’s the same thing now. When it comes to selling digital content, a payment system that works easily across platforms just makes sense for both the publishers and their readers. It’s not that readers won’t pay. They just won’t pay if it’s too difficult or too restrictive. While this week’s news has been exciting to watch, the real issue is how to make paying for digital content easy and safe for consumers and profitable for publishers.

At PayPal, we think we’ve come up with a good solution that does just that–and over time, if history repeats itself, I think we’ll see that the open web, rather than walled gardens, will prevail. Whatever happens though, the era of the newspaper in its current form has come to a close.

Sam Shrauger is vice president of global product and experience at PayPal and is responsible for product strategy and management, as well as user experience design.

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