Publishing to Google Play Store, Amazon Kindle, Apple Newsstand for digital magazines and subscriptions

How to Get Your Content Published on the 3 Major Mobile Platforms?

tl:dr -- Android, iOS and Kindle are the reigning platforms for mobile reading. My company has content that is suitable for a wider audience than our existing website is reaching. We currently have an old-school magazine and Wordpress website. How can I get our content into the hands of smart phones and tablets without having to invest in a customized app (which may or may not get used)? Can I make any money while I'm at it? 

Yes, and yes. It can be done. Each of the platforms has a native "news" app to which you can submit your content. You will need to have a well-formed RSS feed or several feeds. You need to have existing accounts at Google and Apple, and need to make a new account for the Kindle. You may need to spend some time improving your RSS feed for best results on each device. 

In previous years, each of these platforms tried to encourage monetization of news via subscription models, and the plan was to have fancy methods of displaying magazine style content that users could interact with. Currently, they have all but abandoned these monetization models, and provide more automated models of displaying the RSS feeds. Unless, you are a major publisher or can afford to create your own app, you can pretty much forget trying to be included in on the "magazine / periodical" style of monetization that they used to provide. Mostly, they are modeling their presentations after the free, innovative, and somewhat popular app called Flipboard.

Google Newsstand -- Android's public platform will insert ads automatically into your content, but you will need to have a pre-established AdSense account with linked accounts in both DFP (Doubleclick for Publishers) and AdMob (the mobile ad platform). Newsstand can be accessed via Android apps (downloadable from the Play Store), and also as a standalone website. Google will review your newly created "Edition" within a week or so, and may ask for changes. They say they will eventually add your content to their searchable options in Newsstand. Till then, you can share a link to self-promote and have your users click on a tiny [+] button, but this is unlikely to gain traction. Newsstand is a collection of "news sources" and "topics" and it's scant on options and sources, but works well for what they have decided to include. Suggestions: Use keywords in the name of your news feed; be patient for the approval process and for the Google bot to scrape your feed once a day; and use the full text of your posts in your RSS feed.

Apple News -- Apple provides an app called News that is preinstalled in evey iOS. It is a collection of news sources and topics similar to Newsstand. Apple's sign up process is pretty simple. You create an News "Channel" and then add in a "Section" name. You may select from one of two publishing paths. The easiest is to use your already existing RSS feed. Or you can "Upgrade to Apple News Format" to which you'll have to submit a well-formatted JSON data feed. Once you have your Channel set up, Apple will take a couple of days to review your new submission and will, upon approval, add your channel to its list of Channels that can be searched and easily added. Suggestions: For RSS, the feed you supply does not need to be full text like Newsstand. You can include a summary instead, and then Apple will have an arrow at the bottom of your summary that says, "Read Full Story ^", at which point the reader can push up to have your original website displayed. Apple does not want keywords dropped into the name of your "Channel," unfortunately, which makes it less likely to be found if someone searches only for that keyword.

Kindle Publisher -- Amazon provides a way for Kindle users (only) to subscribe to your news feed. You will get a small commission if they do. Amazon calls news feeds "Blogs." It's difficult to know exactly what a Kindle feed looks like on a device unless you have an actual Kindle. The Kindle Reader apps on iOS and Android are basically only for book buyers, and these news "Blogs" are not accessible -- only on the Kindle. Amazon does provide a preview in a Kindle simulator, and it appears to be a black-n-white simplification of your content. The titles show as a list, like a Table of Contents, and then all of your content is paginated into one long document, almost like you would find in a e-book. The setup is fairly simple, but there is an approval process that takes more than a week while your feed remains "Pending Approval." You need to submit your personal or business address, bank and tax information to be included in the Kindle store. 

The Problems of Print Media existing in a the Digital World

I have been doing work for an old school, printed-on-paper magazine for a long while now. Before this, I worked with a few different newspapers for eons. I helped both of my past businesses move into the digital world in the mid 1990s and early 2000s. All was good ... for a while. 

Despite making every effort to create a useful website with regular content, we cannot seem to attract a large amount of visitors or advertisers. There's not much revenue coming from online, so the print edition remains the source of most of our operating funds. Unfortunately, the advertising dollars for print media have dried up, too. So, we're at an impasse now, and must seek out new ways to distribute our product across devices, platforms, and to a wider array of audience types -- especially to younger, mobile, and working users with disposable income.

Again, this is just a grouping of thoughts and notes about research -- not really designed to make a great deal of sense to the world at large.

Setting a Goal

Existing Resources: Several Writers & Editors. Printed magazines and network of distribution locations. Website using Wordpress for editorial CMS. Custom created scripts for use with calendars and photos and venues. 20+ years of decent community reputation. Archived material of editorial text, and unique photography. 

Target Audience: Socially and politically aware individuals, 25-60, who are interested in our particular take on important news. Also people interested in arts & entertainment. And people interested in coverage of  local metropolitan region.
Objective: Find easy ways to move our existing content out onto multiple platforms. Grow revenue streams. Expand interest to different populations. Create new routes of social and communication interaction.

Ways to Distribute Digitally

World Wide Web

Your own website is the go-to standard for having a digital presence in the world. Web sites don't tend to cost too much, and allow you to publish any type of content you wish. You can post articles, company information, multimedia, forms and more interactive inventions for entertainment, sales and communication. 

Web pages are viewable on both desktops and mobile devices, but they tend to load slowly on mobile devices, and also use a lot of bandwidth. Percentage of website traffic has declined somewhat, and is giving way to unique mobile Apps which are faster, better branded, and include more personalized options for interactions, customizations, and communications.

Monetization by most websites is based on a couple of advertising models
  • Display Ads -- blocks of text, graphic or video advertising which needs a user to click on it to move a user from the news site to a corporate site. This breaks the flow of user interaction, but it's the only way to get paid sometimes. Very few people actually click on ads anymore, and the pay-per-thousand model is a drip-drip of pennies now. AdSense and Doubleclick continue to be the largest distributors of ad network content. 
  • Native Ads -- This is basically a repackaging of Advertorials that appeared in print content. They can be either content from external advertising sources, or can be content created by the publication's staff for the purpose of advertising.
  • Sponsored Content -- This is like news-you-can use types of posts, and the content can be branded with sponsorship logos, or a fixed ad for the sponsor, or include interviews or mentions about the sponsors. Similar to Native Ads but a little different as the content is still part of the overall mission of the publication.

Major challenges for webpages to generate revenue from advertising is that users have become "ad blind" -- they know how to ignore most banner display ads. Another challenge is the widespread use of ad-blocking technology by way of plug-ins or other filters.

One model of revenue generation is the paid subscription model. Whereas many publication websites used to give all of their content away for free; we are seeing a rise of membership-only and paid subscription access. The problem with this that most people don't want to pay for content, and also they don't tend to visit sites that charge for content. 

Social Media

Not that great for delivering full content. Useful for updating large numbers of subscribers about content that exists in other locations. Very useful for viral marketing. These are either have completely public or semi-public options available for posting notifications to a very wide audience of millions. Most offer a limited "push" audience though and want you to pay to "promote" posts. They use a combination of web pages and unique applications for mobile and desktop interactions. Some do offer a shared revenue model of advertising (ie. on videos.)

  1. Facebook 
  2. YouTube
  3. Instagram
  4. Tumblr
  5. Twitter
  6. Pinterest
  7. Linked In
  8. Google+
  9. Reddit
  10. Flickr

There are a number of private networks with little value or no ability to penetrate for social interaction beyond person-to-person in our USA target audience. (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Meetup, Vine, VK, QQ,  WeChat, QZone, Baidu Tieba, Snapchat, Skype, Sina Weibo, Viber, Line, yy, BBM, Telegram, Vkontake, Kakaotalk).

Mobile Apps

While these provide a great way to brand content, and present a unique, unified experience to readers and users; development of a mobile app can be quite complicated and expensive. Also, you have to cajole users to download your app, then open it, use it, and keep coming back on a regular basis. Apps do best when thy are small and quick, easy to understand, and offer the user something that is "useful." Users can quickly and easily sort through content using finger swipes and taps as opposed to typing in words and using an external mouse to do clicks and scrolls. 

One of the stumbling blocks to creating apps is that it takes a lot of specific know-how for each operating system and platform. The main platforms are:

iOS -- Apple-only devices (ie. iPhones, iPads). Requires: knowledge of X-Code and Swift framework. Yearly developer fee is $99. The more popular operating system for American users who can afford the more expensive Apple phones. A very centrally-controlled individual experience and updating system. Apps need to be submitted and approved by Apple's restrictive team. Has a 

Android -- Devices that use Google's OS. (ie. many phones and tablets from many different manufacturers). One-time developer fee is $25. World-wide the most popular operating system because devices tend to be less expensive. A very customizable, individual computing experience and haggard updating system. Apps can be submitted directly to Google Play, or even distributed separately as files.

Windows Mobile -- Devices that use Microsoft's mobile OS (ie. Surface tablets, few phones). Um, don't bother with this at the moment. Its presence may be growing in classrooms, but doesn't have much support elsewhere in consumer devices.

PDF Publishers

Another avenue for distributing magazine is to distribute a PDF of each edition of your publication -- there no money making here for content producers, though. But people can read your PDF via web or mobile device, I suppose. 

Scribd -- Great if you want to put your magazine's PDF out there for free consumption. But there's no way to charge for access or for a subscription.
Issuu -- a service that is very similar to Scribd. Also free and for free consumption.

Content Distribution Networks

Yes! Here we go. The whole point of this post.... 

So, there's all these apps, content sources and companies that other people are using, but they have no attachment to our news content. How do get our content into their hands?

Since we are a magazine, I had originally planned on publishing our content as a digital magazine. The three main distributors of digital magazines seem to be Apple, Google and Amazon. 

The ability to be a magazine publisher with subscribers has changed so many times over the past few years, that I don't think this is a viable option. Each of the Big Three seem to have stopped accepting new publisher requests, to have restricted subscription services to major publishers only, and/or have moved on to new models of content syndication.

The more stable option may be to make a unique app for mobile platforms, but here's what I've found for the remaining remnants of these services:


From what I can tell at this point -- Apple's "publications" are standalone apps that are given special access to a special collection of newspaper and magazine apps. These apps need to be designed using apple's proprietary software, of course, and they need to include the Apple Newsstand Kit. [sigh] Not ready to go there just yet....

In the past year or two, Apple has also added a specific News app and icon to iOS. The content, by default, includes a few major news publishers. But you can also use "Explore" to find different sources -- these are all major publications again, or you can choose to add "Featured Topics" -- a way that Apple culls together articles from different news sources.

You may also use the News app's "Search" feature to find more "Topics" and "Channels." These extra "Channels" include lesser known news sources. Searching for our publication now ... not there, but the competitor is. Hmm.... No likey.

Apple does appear to have a new developer tool available, possibly called the Apple News Format and it requires you to sign up to be a News Publisher. Well, this is news to me. Let's give it a go....

Apple News Publisher

  • It's asking me to log in using my Apple Cloud credentials.
  • Next it wants my legal business name or my personal name, along with address, and phone.
  • The form is asking for a title for my publication (with no extra description), a web address, and a category and language (only English is supported right now).
  • It would like me to upload a logo. (256px to 2560px)
  • Now it would like me to choose how to publish -- "Sign Up for Apple News Format" or the meager "I'd rather us RSS for now." I think I'll choose the latter route for ease. Assuming this can be changed later. 

  • I'm just going to add our main feed from WordPress.
  • Someone read this for me and tell me what it says....
By clicking "Agree", You (defined as either yourself or the company for whom you are an authorized representative) agree that Apple or its affiliates (individually or collectively, as context requires, "Apple") are authorized to use your RSS (really simple syndication) feed in its product, "News", including using, publicly displaying, storing, reproducing, or publishing Your RSS content or placing advertisements in News that are associated with, or targeted toward, your RSS content. You understand that notwithstanding anything to the contrary herein, neither party shall have any payment obligation to the other in connection with Apple's use of RSS Feeds under this agreement.

Apple will use the RSS feeds as provided by You, and will not edit or modify the text, content, or links supplied by You except to modify titles, partial text, or cover images in their display in News, as determined by Apple in its sole discretion. Apple will display the partial text and any associated images provided by You in connection with the RSS, and will make accessible a link that will take the consumer to the full article on Your website.

You represent that you have all necessary rights to distribute the content through Your RSS feed and You shall be solely responsible for any claim, loss, liability, damage, cost or expense, however arising and under any theory, infringement or otherwise, arising from or related to the RSS content. You, and not Apple, shall be responsible for and timely pay any fees or consideration of any kind owed to any authors, illustrators, or other rights holders or contributors (if any) arising from use of any of your RSS content hereunder. You agree to indemnify, hold harmless, and upon Apple's request, defend Apple, its contractors, agents and affiliates (and their respective directors, officers, and employees) from and against any and all losses, liabilities, damages, costs, and expenses (including reasonable attorneys' fees and costs) arising out of a claim or threat of claim by a third party because of a breach of any representation, warranty, or obligation by You under this Agreement, including any claim that your RSS content infringes or violates the rights of another party.

This authorization shall continue until such time that You remove Your authorization by disabling Your RSS feed inside of Apple's content management system, News Publisher. Any term that either expressly or due to its nature is intended to survive termination of this Agreement shall do so.



This Agreement reflects the entire and final understanding of the parties regarding its subject matter, and may not be amended except by a writing signed by both parties. To the extent any term in this Agreement is found to be invalid or unenforceable, the remainder of the agreement shall continue in full force and effect and any invalid or unenforceable terms shall be replaced with valid and enforceable terms that best reflect the parties' intent.

The Parties agree that this Agreement is made and interpreted under California law, without regard to conflicts of law, and that any dispute is subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the state and federal courts in Santa Clara County, California. Nevertheless, if You are a governmental or public education institution, then this Agreement will be interpreted according to the laws of the state of such institution's domicile.

June 8, 2015

I hit OK, and this is the response:

I got two emails, one seems like a duplicate of the RSS terms above, and the other is another saying they will get back to me.

Okay, then -- I'm using the company feed and my own personal iTunes account. I hope this test won't screw everything up for later on. Guess we will see what happens. I'm kind of expecting Apple to reject my request, to be honest. Moving forward....

Google Play

This is the primary resource for Android OS apps. There is a specific section for apps that are News & Magazines. But the offerings are limited, and they come in just a few sub categories (Recommended, Digital Magazines, New & Updated Apps, Podcasts, Newspapers, News Apps). Surely the app store has more than these few dozen news apps available. Our search for our competitor reveals nothing.

My plan is to release an app specifically for our business, and to start with an Android app, but too much else to do at the moment. Within a month is my plan. My first attempt with App Inventor was going so well, until I hit a bug that I cannot squash. I've learned quite a lot with that experiment so far.

Google Play Newsstand

Now we're talking. This is a service of Google that used to be called something else -- doesn't matter now. The seem to have had a subscription model for revenue, but have since abandoned it for all but the largest media companies.

Again, there are apps to view Google Newsstand (both iOS and Android), but the webpage for Google Newsstand is here: https://newsstand.google.com/

To include your own content, you will become a Publisher. You have to use your existing Google ID to sign in at https://www.google.com/producer.

It's fairly simple to set up a publication once you've logged into Google Publisher.
You create what they call and "Edition." Now, to me, this seems like a terrible name for what they're offering. It's not necessarily a standalone edition like you would have with a print magazine. Rather, it's a web app made for accessing your content served publication's website.

So, you can either add RSS "Feeds" -- similar to what Apple has above. Or you can add an article and images using their rudimentary CMS. You can do a combination of the two, as well. Google will scrape your content and rewrite and reformat it to suit it's own needs. The scraper does a good job of changing HTML to their 1 or 2-column formats. The output is clean and easy to read and translates well to web, iOS and Android platforms.

The good things about Newsstand are:

  1. You can serve ads from both a Google AdMob account and a Google DFP account. You don't have any control over where the ads go, but you can include your ID codes, and get credited.
  2. You also have access to Google Analytics. 
There are a few drawbacks. Some content may disappear since it's an automated scraper. If there are multiple images on the page, the one you prefer to promote the story may not be the one you prefer. The feeds don't always translate well. The media / image upload process is clunky. A lot of the Newsstand Publisher web app seems unpolished, even neglected as if it were a side project. The last big overhaul was about 3 months ago at then end of 2016.

I'm not convinced this is a project that will stick around for years to come. But it's easy enough to setup, that you can get up and running in an afternoon, and have most of the kinks hammered out on the back end in a couple of days.

Feeds are supposed to update once an hour, but they don't. One Google Expert wrote that it may take a whole day to update, and that this should be reported as a bug. There's no way to do RSS markup to include teaser images. You just have to go with whatever Google finds. And subheads do not get added automatically, unless maybe you use a different XML formatting scheme.

The worst thing (so far) is that the content that I published a few days ago does not appear to be searchable at all. The search function resonds with very few content results -- mostly focusing on "Topics" and established content producers, and news articles from those established content producers. The Google Expert said that someone reviews "Editions" all of the time, but your contribution may or may not be included in the search results.

To distribute Google Newsstand as an option, you have to suggest to your readers that they go to a special link to your presence on Google Newsstand's website. And there, they can click on the tiny little Plus button in a circle, on the top right corner of the page. Kind of discouraging to make so much effort if they are not going to be making it easy to gain readership. 


There was some kind of news publishing thing in beta testing -- Kindle Periodicals, but it seems to have been sqaushed by Amazon like so many others. Perhaps because Jeff Bezos now is the owner of The Washington Post.

So far, the options appear to be either:

OK, so I went with the 2nd option -- Kindle Publishing. This is essentially a way for you to upload your blog's feed to Kindle, and maybe make a few pennies off of it.

The help page describes the product this way:

Blogs those are published through Kindle Publishing for Blogs and available for sale on the Kindle Store. A Kindle user can buy various blogs he/she is interested in by visiting the Kindle Store.
Kindle Blogs are auto-delivered wirelessly to the Kindle and updated throughout the day. They are fully downloaded onto your Kindle so you can read them even when you're not wirelessly connected. And unlike RSS readers which often only provide headlines, blogs on Kindle contain full text content and most images.
That sounds perfect. Exactly what I'm looking for. 

First thing, you need to make a new Amazon account. You are not allowed to use the same account information you might be using for your personal needs, nor for your Affiliates login.

Next, it asks for your personal contact information.

Then it asks for information about your blog. Again, I'm using the company blog to test this out, so I hope I don't goof it up. ;)

It really is very little you have to do to get started:
  • RSS/Atom Feed Address
  • Blot Title
  • Tagline
  • Blog Description
  • Blog Author/Publisher
  • Screen shot -- Must be max 800x600. Hmm, not sure what to do with this one.
  • Masthead/Banner (430x50 max). I'll have to redo that one.
  • URL of your blog
  • Blog Language
  • Categories: Arts & Ent, Business, Humor, Industry, Internet, Lifestyle & Culture, News & Politics, Travel, Science, Sports
  • Search keywords
  • Blog Post Frequency.
Finally, it asks for your tax information and bank routing information. And of course the TOS Agreement.

Once you finish that, it says: "Pending Approval."
And also, "Your blog was published successfully." Your blog will be available on the Kindle Store in 48-72 hours.... Hmm, 3 days. I guess I can wait.

I just sorted through the Kindle app on my iPhone. It's a nonstarter there. Someone says that the Blogs are only available to find via search on an actual Kindle device -- not through iOS or Android Kindle apps. So very confusing ... but it's next to no work. So, it is what it is.

How Do I make Money with Kindle Publishing Blogs?

The help page says that, once your blog is accepted, it will be listed in the Kindle Store. There are no free blogs -- yay!

The "Royalty" payout is allegedly 30% of sales revenues actually received from the sale. It still talks about magazine revenue vs. blog revenue, even though the link to Kindle Periodicals is gone on the same page. Apparently, if your magazine has a certain size in download and takes up a certain amount of bandwidth, then you'd have to pay like 15 cents per MB or somesuch. But magazines get 70% of revenue. The last changes seem to have been made several years ago to the TOS. 


I kept waiting for Google Newsstand to update, and it never did. So, I went into my RSS API and check, and it turns out I goofed and left a debugging echo in there. So, the feed wasn't valid. Will have to wait till tomorrow some time to see if it updates automatically. The claim is that it will happen in about a day. Hmm, I goofed. I did a manual update, which seemed fine, but I'm not gonna do that everyday. Some one suggested to use the RSS in the "Social updates" instead of the "Feed" section, to get more frequent updates. Will have to see.

The Newsstand search function is not showing any of our articles yet. Apple just says that they'll get back to me soon. Wasted a lot of time on AMP ads today -- I'm hoping for some payoff here, by this weekend from one or both of these.


Hooray! Some response. Apple approved our standard Wordpress feed. We are now searchable in the News app. Finally. I added some subsection tabs, but not sure if that's helpful or just makes our content look dated. It took a couple of hours from when I made changes, until they showed up in the News App. The content is refreshed pretty quickly. .

Google responded late in the day. They said my Edition icon was not good enough -- low pixels? They said on the instruction that 1000x1000 was recommended. So, I know I last uploaded an image that was 1000x1000 pixels. Maybe I misread something like density? I dunno. I changed it to our company logo and uploaded it again. They emailed me about the change they wanted. It went to the boss, too, and he was asking what this was about. Ugh, no ready, not ready yet to discuss this. I want to make sure it works first. The feed is not refreshing, though. I wonder if I put a published and last-published date on the feed, if that would help. Probably not. But it's been more than a day. I'm not going to do this manually every day. Pain in the butt.

Still "Pending" on Kindle Publishing....


It's been more than a week, and Kindle Publishing is still just sitting there, "Pending Approval." I'm hopeful, but this is not as encouraging. Either they're overwhelmed with Blog requests, or they don't take this too seriously as a part of their publishing platform.

I put up a couple of FB posts to promote the Apple News feed. One had just a plain blue background with instructions, and the 2nd one was the same except I overlayed the background with a faint image of someone holding an iPhone (from Pixabay). The 2nd one did better. I learned something from Shaw Academy, it seems.

Other than that, the Apple News feed is doing fine. A couple of posts didn't have images. I don't know why. I added a section that had slightly racy content, and Apple didn't seem to blink. Apple doe add a tab to the News channel for us. It says "Drafts" and it's just an empty page. No comprendo.

Google's Newsstand ... I feel like I've been teased. They did say it'd be weeks: "Our team will re-review your edition within the next few weeks. If it passes our checks, we'll add it to the catalog and let you know." Hmmm. I really want to get that one pushed out there and to show up in search results on the Newsstand app. Just have to be patient. I'm annoyed, in part, because they said my image was too small -- when their recommendation was to make it exactly the size I'd made it. There's an unnecessary delay happening because of that? Kind of dumb.

I think Apple has done the best job here, so far. We'll see how far we can push it.

UPDATE: 3 Weeks Later

Well, nothing has really changed. Apple is the only one who has put our news feed on public display.

Still waiting for Google to come back around.

And Kindle has produced no response at all, though, they do send me Kindle Publishing emails that I don't need.

I sent an email to the Kindle "Contact Us" email. I asked nicely how long it might be before I get approved or if it needs to be fixed. I got a response back the same day:

"I'm sorry for the trouble you had. On investigating further, I’ve identified that the delay is caused due to a technical problem. Our technical team is currently working on a fix. I just wanted to let you know that I’ll revert to you in 5-6 business days with an update."


UPDATE: 1 Month Later --

OMG, Progress! Kindle Blog Publishing has gone live. Yay! I'm so happy that they were serious about reviewing our magazine. It's there -- it has its own Amazon product web page. $0.99 for the monthly subscription. This is awesome.

Still waiting on Google now to come back around.

UPDATE: 1 Year Later -- 

I got recognized by all 3 of the news orgs, but I cannot say being part of their News libraries did anything at all for our traffic. Too bad.

Kindle Newsstand didn't do nothin at all.

Google Play Newsstand never did come back to include our blog in its sources, which the biggest disappointment. We are still listed, but it doesn't update very often.

Apple News did include us in its sources, but it is days behind in updating us. And it is difficult to add. You search for our publication's name, and give it a click on the heart. But, at best, it will include your stories way, way down in the newsfeed. But they got that horrible Fox News at the top all of the time. Makes no sense how they weight it. 


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