Guardian phone app: It’ll cost you

By Steve Outing

The Guardian has introduced a new iPhone app, and its model is one I’ve endorsed in the past:

  • iPhone app provides a much better experience than the mobile website
  • Mobile version of Guardian website remains free
  • iPhone app costs to download ($3.99 US, £2.39 UK)
  • iPhone app content is free (beyond buying the app), but option is left open for charging for some content and/or services down the road from within the app

I bought the app this morning and I’m impressed, mostly. Best part for me is the ability to personalize the sections I want to see and prioritize them. There’s audio, but no video yet. Photo galleries are nice. Ditto for off-line reading.

I’m perplexed that some newspaper companies that have developed mobile apps still give them away free. Seems like a no-brainer to me to charge a fee to purchase the app, on the grounds of giving the mobile user a better viewing experience than the normal mobile site. As long as a more bare-bones free mobile site is available, consumers can’t really complain if you ask for a few bucks for your app.

As I’ve written in the past, I think it’s psychologically easier to get online users to pay for an app (which they get to keep and use over and over) rather than pay for news (which they can get in many other places online or on their phones for free).

The Guardian starts with the iPhone app (which seems the typical pattern these days), and then will create matching apps for other platforms: Android, RIM, Symbian, and Microsoft.

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!

3 Responses to "Guardian phone app: It’ll cost you"

  1. Conor
    Conor 8 years ago .Reply

    I’m impressed with the Guardian app, as I was with the GQ app. As long as the apps are as well developed, I think that publications will find some success in this format.

  2. Seth Long
    Seth Long 8 years ago .Reply

    Paid apps definitely make sense – even for small news organization – but they have to provide more than just prettied-up RSS feeds and a Share button. Kudos to The Guardian for building what looks to be a news app worth paying for.

  3. Aaron Bradely
    Aaron Bradely 7 years ago .Reply

    I’m perplexed by precisely the opposite of what you are: that some newspaper companies that some newspaper companies that have developed mobile apps, like the Guardian, still charge for them.

    Whatever mobile monetization strategy a news organization develops, for long-term sustainability it has to be predicated on seizing and growing traffic, not the one-stop cling of a dime (albeit a $4 dime) dropped in the iPhone App Store.

    Let’s say for every reader that purchases a Guardian app, four don’t because it isn’t free (I’m making these figures up, but clearly free apps do better than paid apps, especially in the informational realm). The net iPhone traffic-based income from users two through five will be zero.

    Both the New York Times and Huffington Post have excellent free apps that have helped propel those properties to the top of their iPhone use categories. It will be interesting to see what a strong and roughly equivalent competitor could do compared to the Guardian by offering a free app.

    I think it’s psychologically easier to get online users to pay for news the way they always have: through advertising. Paid news apps are an impediment to getting users to that advertising, just as a “realistic” subscription price would have been in the heyday of print journalism.

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