On Rupert’s iPad: Times, Sky TV Show Different Charging Approaches

The Times joined the Financial Times as the only national UK newspaper with a news app for iPad’s international launch Friday morning.

Yes, it’s pay-for, but there’s an entirely different pricepoint from the new websites, which will soon charge £1 a day, £2 a week or free with print…

It’s £9.99 every 28 days. But (and here’s where it may fall down) – these payments don’t link up with website payments. That means anyone who is paying to access the website must also pay the extra tenner a month for the same content on iPad, and vice versa.

Now, this may well be a result of an inability to link Apple’s iTunes Store billing systems with News Corp.’s own. But the Financial Times, which uses its own payment technology rather than Apple’s, has a platform-agnostic, pay-once strategy across its outlets.

“It is a shame and I feel it is somewhat of a scam,” wrote one early iTunes Store reviewer. “I like the look and feel of the app but will definitely not purchase again unless this is changed.”

A Times spokesperson tells us: “The Times iPad edition is a separate product to the new website, which is why it is priced differently. It is an edition of the paper edited and developed specifically for the iPad, which can be downloaded and read offline, for example.”

Of course, if an iPad reader is not the same customer as a web reader, then this isn’t a problem – something everyone’s yet to find out as the device beds down.

The Times’ iPad announcement today is accompanied by a story on how the iPad “may rewrite the future of newspapers”.

Its iPad app comes with “editions” for updates; a screengrab shows its “11pm edition”. Just as with the new websites, the iPad editions retain a strong Times newspaper brand identity, without resorting to a lazy, page-turner replica. Users rate it 3.5/5. The paper has now taken its existing iPhone news apps off the store.

Other UK newspapers have not embraced iPad’s international day one…

— The Guardian, though its has a photojournalism app, says it has no iPad news app, despite Apple’s main advertising campaigns heavily featuring the Guardian.co.uk website.

— There’s no evident Daily Express app, despite that paper’s early promise to release one.

— The Metro freesheet is due to release an app.

Telegraph.co.uk was saying nothing either way yesterday, perhaps suggesting an upcoming release.

— At least the Cheshire-based Congleton Chronicle is in full force, rolled out on the iPad version of Exact Editions’ existing iPhone app.

Elsewhere in News Corp (NYSE: NWS). BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) has updated its Sky Mobile TV iPhone app for iPad, with a hefty price premium…

Whilst the iPhone app costs just £6-a-month to non-Sky TV customers, for live Sky Sports channels, Sky Sports News and Sky News, the iPad app asks non-TV customers £35 a month and for TV customers to pay an extra £6.

This strategy is clearly designed to drive subscriptions to the satellite pay-TV service as a whole, rather than to consider the iPad in isolation. The app also uses in-house billing technology rather than iPhone OS’ auto-renewals.

But Sky Mobile TV at least ventures a multi-platform charging mechanism that The Times has not managed to deploy. The equivalent, for The Times, would have been to charge £10 a month, or even more, to non-subscribed readers, but to drop or reduce the charge for website subscribers. Still, News International is being pretty upfront that models may change as it learns over the course of time.