News Corp.-owned Wall Street Journal is pretty confident about the choices its made in regards to selling content on the Web. It was one of the first pubs to put its articles behind a pay wall, a system that’s now being seen as the only option by papers such as Newsday.
But when it comes to iPhone applications, The Wall Street Journal seemed surprisingly lackadaisical about making their users pay to read the news on their phones, by first launching a free version of its site as an app back in April.
Of course, all good things must end, and that includes Wall Street Journal‘s “free” iPhone content. In September, WSJ.com announced that it would be charging users either $2 or $1 a week (depending on whether readers were actually subscribed to the print version of The Wall Street Journal) for a subscription on their mobile device. Still though, the application would be “free” to download…you’d just have to pay to get any service on it.
This “offering you a free lunch and then taking it away” is not a new business plan, even for the Web. And today’s announcement of a free Wall Street Journal “MarketWatch.com” application, which lets you check your stocks, get real-time updates on the ticker index and has a customized feature for companies seems like just another gimmick to get smartphone users dependent on WSJ‘s online services before making them pay. On the other hand, several publications offer certain columns or content for free in the form of applications, without giving away the entire publication to download. Sort of a tiny taste to get your mouth wet, so you’ll buy the subscription cost at a monthly charge.
Either way, we wouldn’t get too comfortable with MarketWatch’s new free app. You might just end up paying more than you bargained for.