The Washington Post has introduced an iPad app with a subscription option, apparently answering a sticky issue publishers have had with Apple.
The Post’s app is free for now, but a payment plan will kick in in mid-February, when subscribers will be charged $0.99 per month and nonsubscribers, $3.99 per month.
Magazine and newspaper publishers had high hopes that the iPad would open up a new consumer revenue stream at a time when their print revenue has been sharply eroded.
But they haven’t been able to meet eye-to-eye with Apple on a subscription option, as Apple has been unwilling to share customer information that publishers consider critical to marketing their publications. That’s left most magazines in a position of selling their digital editions on a single-issue basis, with limited consumer uptake.
Publishers also are unhappy about having to hand 30 percent of the revenue from their sales to Apple.
Roger Fidler, program director for digital publishing at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute in Columbia, Mo., said that in addition to payment options, newspapers are faced with creating iPad apps that people will pay for when there’s so much free content available online. Apple has been adament that publishers not charge for content in their apps that’s freely available on their Web sites, he said.
“What's not clear is if newspapers that are planning to charge for their apps are going to also charge [for] a paywall that would restrict access there as well,” he said.
The Post has no plans to charge for its Web site, but is trying to set its iPad edition apart from its printed newspaper and Web site with social media elements that encourage user interaction. The app includes “Live Topic” pages that integrate Facebook comments and Twitter feeds from relevant sources into articles around the day’s top issues. The app also invites users to comment on stories via Facebook and Twitter.
“We’re charging for the app because we feel we’ve created a unique product that offers innovative ways to experience news and social media on the go,” Ken Babby, chief revenue officer and general manager of digital for the Post, said via e-mail.