Suddenly, everything is new again. Underlining uncertainty and lack of consensus regarding mobile-device monetisation strategy, two newspapers are trying ideas contrary to those for which they’re known…
“The FT iPad app will be sponsored at launch by Hublot, the watchmaker, subsidising a two-month free access period,” reports the paper itself – a far cry from its usual, and growing, subscription-only option. Even on iPad’s little brother, iPhone, viewing in-app articles requires the same FT.com web subscription.
Meanwhile, if you thought a one-off mobile fee was the farthest The Guardian would stray from its reluctance toward charging on the web, see what an unnamed “senior executive” tells the FT about seeking more charges: “We’ll enhance the app, and then the whole aim will be to get that on monthly subscription because it has been amazingly successful and … a fantastic experiment.”
The Guardian’s iPhone app has been well received, clocking 101,457 downloads between its launch on 14 December 2009, and 21 February 2010. But many observers have raised an eyebrow that the initial, one-off £2.39 cost gives users unlimited free news from then on, potentially undercutting other chargeable products like the paper.
Clearly, publishers are bullish about the ability to charge on mobile devices. Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson says his mag’s iPad app is an opportunity to “reset the economics“. What that means – mobile apps, as a new technology, have no pre-existing culture of only-free content consumption, as the web does, offering an opportunity to charge from the start this time. Indeed, the more an app begins to resemble the paper original (after all, tablets are kinda newspaper-sized), the more it seems rude not to charge.
With the FT, we’re likely only witnessing a toe being dipped in the water, as the paper rides the wave of advertisers happy to get in on iPad’s ground floor.
Update: The FT tells us: “There will be an initial free use period sponsored by Hublot and then after that we will revert to the same model as the iPhone app – free to download but integration with the FT.com access model so you have 10 free articles and then you have to pay a subscription.
“It allows us to determine pricing and retain the direct relationship with the customer. It has worked well for the iPhone app and we hope this demand and momentum will be carried on over into the iPad.”