More Guardian paid content – photos go freemium

Slowly but surely, The Guardian is starting to charge for more of its digital content.

An upgrade to its popular Eyewitness photography iPad app last night adds an Eyewitness Premium option.

Premium (also, confusingly, called “Eyewitness Extra” in the app) includes an extra three photos per day and an adjacent Series of sporting photos for £1.49 per month. One daily photo remains free.

The Guardian launched Eyewitness when iPad debuted in April 2010 – a year and a half before the paper launched a news app on the device.

When it launched, Eyewitness was made free to users by a Canon advertising sell. Many publishers at the time had launched for free on iPad with similar marketing deals, not knowing what kind of audience they may find.

Now the iPad audience has been shown to be large, and potentially lucrative. Guardian News & Media says Eyewitness downloads to date are nearing one million. Monthly unique users in July were 156,773, it tells paidContent.

If a tenth of July’s Eyewitness users upgraded to Premium, then, the tier could make almost £23,500 per month for The Guardian, before Apple’s 30 percent commission. The Canon sponsorship is no longer part of Eyewitness; it’s not clear whether the decision to charge came from lack of advertiser renewal interest, or from a decision to swap ad-funding for payment.

This spring, The Guardian launched an Android crosswords app. From July, when a beta ended, it has required monthly payments of £1.49 or £1.99 beyond a two-week free trial.

The paper has 17,000 paying subscribers for its iPad newspaper edition.

It remains open-minded about charging for digital content, but is currently gung-ho about generating and delivering “open journalism” on the open web.

By launching chargeable apps, the publisher is picking off niche and utilitarian aspects of the whole about which readers feel passionate, perhaps passionate enough to pay. Neither one will be enough to generate game-changing revenue alone, but no-one will blame The Guardian for taking opportunities that present themselves in individual areas.