Guardian Starts Charging 280,000 iPad Readers From Friday; How Will It Go?

Starting Friday, The Guardian, a stalwart of free content, will find out just how many people will pay to read its news on tablets.

Free since its mid-October launch thanks to a Channel 4 sponsorship, the publisher’s newspaper-like, iOS 5-only iPad app will require a £9.99 monthly subscription from January 13.

How will it fare? Guardian News & Media claims 500,000 downloads since launch, but the real number of users is half that – the app had 280,000 active users in December, the publisher tells paidContent.

If The Guardian converts 17 percent of last month’s readers (that’s the proportion of its iPhone users who have subscribed), it could achieve 47,600 paying iPad customers, yielding about £475,000 in monthly sales, before 30 percent is given to Apple.

Half a million people have tried the app so far in three months. For new users, the conversion tactic will be free trial – they get seven days of free access before a hard-stop subscription requirement.

That is unlike The Guardian’s iPhone app, which gives all users three free stories every day before requiring a monthly subscription (£2.99 for six months, £4.99 for 12 months, free in the U.S.).

If there is a challenge to the plan, however, it is that The Guardian gives readers an easy choice to revert to using its free website.

The attractive iPad app was designed to showcase stories from the daily newspaper. Exploring related and other articles take users out of the paid app experience and to the same website nobody pays anything for. is also pushing some of the same content found in the app out for free to Facebook and Tumblr, while the app lacks some of the editorial components trades most heavily on, like live blogs.

But it is adding its Weekend supplement.

Disclosure: Our publisher ContentNext is a wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian News & Media.