March 17, 2015 Last Updated 10:47 am

Google Play app store adding humans to the equation in effort to clean up the mess

But adding staff to review apps, as Apple’s Newsstand shows, is no substitute for good store design, a powerful search mechanism, and a commitment to treat publishers as a partner

The big difference between Apple’s App Store review team, and Google’s has always been, well, that one has blood flowing through its veins, the other ones and zeros. But that is changing as Google announced that it had added “a team of experts” to make its Google Play app store experience better for consumers (and developers).

“Several months ago, we began reviewing apps before they are published on Google Play to better protect the community and improve the app catalog. This new process involves a team of experts who are responsible for identifying violations of our developer policies earlier in the app lifecycle,” Eunice Kim, Product Manager for Google Play said on the Android Developer Blog. “We value the rapid innovation and iteration that is unique to Google Play, and will continue to help developers get their products to market within a matter of hours after submission, rather than days or weeks. In fact, there has been no noticeable change for developers during the rollout.”

Although the WSJ called Google Play the “Wild-West version of Apple’s App Store” the reality is that it is not any worse than Apple’s store. While Apple maintains its front pages, behind that facade the App Store is a mess (especially the Newsstand which remains unmaintained 18 months after Apple gave up on it).

But developers have complained that with Google the problem has been a lack of feedback from the company as to why their apps have been rejected. “To assist in this effort and provide more transparency to developers, we’ve also rolled out improvements to the way we handle publishing status. Developers now have more insight into why apps are rejected or suspended, and they can easily fix and resubmit their apps for minor policy violations,” Kim said.

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At the heart of the changes is a new ratings system.

“We know that people in different countries have different ideas about what content is appropriate for kids, teens and adults, so today’s announcement will help developers better label their apps for the right audience,” Kim said. “Consistent with industry best practices, this change will give developers an easy way to communicate familiar and locally relevant content ratings to their users and help improve app discovery and engagement by letting people choose content that is right for them.”

Sadly, nothing outlined today will really improve Google Play as an outlet for publishers. For newspaper and magazine publishers, Google Play has always been an easy platform to get into, but a hard one to get sales out of. This will no doubt continue, even as sales from Apple’s App Store, as reflected in the latest publisher’s statements, keep declining.

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