What Men’s Health Workouts can teach you about paid mobile

By Steve Outing

I recently purchased the new iPhone app Men’s Health Workouts for $1.99 on the iPhone App Store. Yes, I really should use it to get in better shape, but rather I bought it to try out a new form of mobile app payment made possible by Apple’s recent release of the 3.0 OS for the iPhone.

Till now, iPhone apps could be purchased for a one-time fee (typically ranging from 99 cents to $9.99), and as a buyer you get free upgrades as new versions come out. But now, in addition to charging for the app itself, publishers can charge for additional (premium) content from within the app.

Here’s how it works with the Men’s Health app: Once on your iPhone, you get 18 workouts that the application guides you through and records your progress. Men’s Health also sells additional workouts, called “Expansion Packs”: for example, “Huge Arms in a Hurry” for 99 cents; “The Ultimate Golf Workout Series” for $1.99; “The Ultimate Abs Pack” for $1.99; and “Build a Beach Ready Body” for 99 cents.

As the news industry tries to figure out a model for making money from mobile content, Apple has (at least for the iPhone) offered up a valuable new tool. We just need to figure out how to use it.

There are numerous news-related iPhone apps available already for free. USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times … all have an app that offers a better experience than reading their content on the iPhone’s Safari browser. Some publishers have experimented with paid iPhone apps: People magazine charges $1.99 for the “People Celebrity News Tracker,” which give celebrity junkies breaking news on the stars’ latest (scandal, baby, breakup, marriage, etc.) on their iPhones.

For a news publisher to take advantage of the ability to charge for premium or special content within its own iPhone app, it will have to charge something for the app itself. 99 cents is a reasonable price that should not scare too many people away, as long as there’s real value in using the app even if you never buy any premium content or service subsequently.

So let’s think about what news organizations could charge for within an iPhone app, a la Men’s Health. I’ll toss out a few ideas and thoughts, but I hope you’ll add some of your own in the comments section below.

  1. Perhaps the best opportunity is for one-off premium purchases, as the Men’ Health iPhone app demonstrates. If the phone user is reading a news organization’s coverage of climate-change (free, of course), then the publisher can sell an e-book, say for $2, via the app which may be of interest to those truly passionate about the topic and wanting more. … The current day’s interactive crossword puzzle on the phone app can be free, but the app user can pay 25 cents to scan older puzzles and instantly download another to play. … Reading free football coverage on the phone app, the user might be able to pay 50 cents for an audio interview with the winning quarterback.
  2. Enable premium services for an added fee. For instance, a news phone app for the New York Times might disable the ability to leave comments on stories on the basic 99-cent app, but allow a user to pay an extra $1.99 to turn on that ability. Or perhaps an extra $9.99 turns on the NYT searchable article archives feature, which is disabled on the basic app.
  3. Delay the news by an hour. I’m not sure how I feel about the wisdom of this idea, but it’s a possible revenue-generator. Charge 99 cents for the basic app, but delay delivery of all news content to the phone app by 1 hour. The app user can, from within the app, pay an additional $1.99 to remove the hour delay. This might make more sense on a niche advertising app, say the “Washington Post Rental Finder”; for-rent listings are delayed on the basic 99-cent app, but for an extra fee the app delivers new listings right away, and even notifies the user when a listing that fits requested criteria is first published.
  4. 99 cents gets you a basic news app with advertising. Pay an extra $4.99 inside the app to upgrade it to the no-advertising version.
  5. A news app might have a paid upgrade that delivers alerts of various happenings (news event, house sold, apartment burglarized, road construction detour installed, etc.) within a user-selectable mile radius of your house. With the iPhone 3.0 OS, push notifications are now possible for iPhone apps; personalized push alerts could be a nice paid upgrade to the basic app.

It wouldn’t be difficult to spend the rest of the day dreaming up ideas for news-related iPhone apps and premium paid add-on, a la Men’s Health Workouts. But what ideas do you have? Tell me in the comments.

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!

15 Responses to "What Men’s Health Workouts can teach you about paid mobile"

  1. walker thompson
    walker thompson 8 years ago .Reply

    Interesting post…

    Insofar as payment for content goes, I like some of your ideas. I’d also add this one:

    Connection To The People

    – FREE – you get news content

    – PAY $2.99 and you get ‘profile view’ (similar to linkedin premium service) to see the profile of the writer of the story.

    – PAY $.99 per story, and you get ‘contact access’. Here the user can contact the writer about his/her story and interact directly, or the photographer.

  2. Joe Beckmann
    Joe Beckmann 8 years ago .Reply

    How interesting it might be to pay $.99 and lose all the Google ads. I wonder what Google would say to that!

  3. […] Outing highlights how Men’s Health are exploring the new features of the 3.0 iPhone/iPod Touch operating […]

  4. Paul Bradshaw
    Paul Bradshaw 8 years ago .Reply

    The most frustrating thing is that you can’t give away the app and charge for content and other updates – that seems a much more promising model. The workaround of course is to have a free version of the app and a paid-for, as happens with many apps on the iPhone.

    My suggestion for premium features: the ability to tweet a link (with shortened URL); the ability to send it in a text message; the ability to save it offline for later (there are other apps that do all these but we’re paying for convenience here).

    For audio and video I think the ability to download and mashup material has enormous potential.

  5. Paul Lomax
    Paul Lomax 8 years ago .Reply

    All good for Men’s health and other specialist interest content providers, but news content it is not.

    News has little real ‘use’, whereas you get a lot of use out a fitness guide you can use time and time again.

    Any charge, even small and easy to pay, can make a huge difference to take-up rates.

    Free with ads, paid without is probably the easiest, but it’s not going to make newspapers enough money to pay for the content generation unfortunatetely…

  6. Steve Outing
    Steve Outing 8 years ago .Reply

    Paul: I think for news publishers the things they can charge for are convenience and added-value, not necessarily content, as you suggest. Personalization features, if done well enough, I could easily see as a mobile news app upsell.

    You’re correct that this approach won’t pay enough — alone. But we’re in an era of media where multiple revenues streams are a necessity. Mobile will be just one; I happen to think it can be a lucrative one.

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  8. […] Posted by Barbara K. Iverson on Wednesday, July 8, 2009 at 11:36 pm. 0 Comments. via steveouting.com […]

  9. Barb Iverson
    Barb Iverson 8 years ago .Reply

    These are very sound ideas. You can sell sports or celebrity, but news is a tough sell, so you have to go for extras to make money. Good post.

  10. […] What Men’s Health Workouts can teach you about paid mobile >> Steve Outing […]

  11. […] tries to build a relationship with local businesses by providing free seminars. Men’s Health offers an iPhone app that users can purchase in order to buy its Workouts. While the The Seattle Courant didn’t have […]

  12. amir kurtovic
    amir kurtovic 8 years ago .Reply

    All of this sounds good except for the fact the people can get the same content for free on the newspaper’s website. If I can access the NYT through an iPhone app and pay, or get it through the iPhone browser for free, which one do you think I’m gonna pick? Without pay-walls around all of the content this would not be very effective

  13. […] original here: What Men's Health Workouts can teach you about paid mobile … Category: Mens Health | Tags: ability, basic, craigslist, facebook, health, health-workouts, […]

  14. Tanya
    Tanya 8 years ago .Reply

    I recently purchased the new iPhone app Men’s Health Workouts for $1.99 on the iPhone App Store. Yes, I really should use it to get in better shape, but rather I bought it to try out a new form of mobile app payment made possible by Apple’s recent release of the 3.0 OS for the iPhone. Till now, iPhone apps could be purchased for a one-time fee (typically ranging from 99 cents to $9.99), and as a buyer you get free upgrades as new versions come out. But now, in addition to charging

  15. […] What Men’s Health Workouts can teach you about paid mobile: SteveOuting.com By Barbara K. Iverson On 07/08/2009 · Leave a Comment via steveouting.com […]

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