Google News is known to most people as a big pile of web links, but it actually hosts magazines, too. Before the days of the Internet, a “magazine” was a big bundle of paper full of articles you could get shipped to your door, sort of like if you printed out a website. For a time, you could pay cold, hard cash for a digital copy of a paper magazine through Google and then view that content through whatever the latest Google magazine/news app was.
Magazine content sales were shut down in 2020, though, and soon, Google’s magazine content will no longer be hosted online. The company announced on a support page that purchased content will be shut down starting December 18. You can see if you have purchased (or freebie) magazines at this link.
Let’s see if we can put on our “Google archeology” hats and figure out where this all came from. Google started selling magazines in 2012 with “Google Play Magazines.” You could buy individual magazine issues for around $8 or subscribe yearly for $11. These were all hosted by Google, with access available through the app and web. One year later, in 2013, Play Magazines was merged with another Google news app, Google Currents, to create Google Play Newsstand. Newsstand featured paid magazines and free website content. Google spent 2013–2016 rolling out purchasing support across more and more countries.
By 2018, Play Newsstand was replaced by the first “Google News” app, a long-overdue entry in the Google app portfolio given how much of a powerhouse Google News has been online. The new app focused more on online content but kept a spot for your magazine subscriptions. The Android Google News app still has the same package name from 2012: “com.google.android.apps.magazines.”
With sales of new magazines dead in 2020, it was only a matter of time until Google shut down the hosting of old, purchased magazine content. The good news is that you can download a PDF of your purchased magazine before December 18. Anyone who has purchased magazine content should be getting an email with an option to download or, for some magazines, request a refund.
Google says that some magazines will be refund-eligible because they “contain interactive elements that cannot be downloaded and saved for future access.” December 18 isn’t just the date for the hosting shutdown, but also the deadline for downloads or refund requests.
Offering a PDF download is better than nothing, but static PDFs are a lot more cumbersome and miserable than the slick user experience Google’s original magazine offering had across all your devices. Remember, all online content purchases are really just rentals.