While the standard for most categories of iPhone apps is that they have a purchase price (or a minimal free version with a paid full-feature option), news apps by major news companies have remained largely free to download — and the content inside is free. But that’s changing.
This week, the Washington Post released its news iPhone app on Apple’s App Store, with a price tag of $1.99, which covers 12 months of content access via the app. (Post executives have stated repeatedly that they do not intend to charge or put a meter on news content for WashingtonPost.com on the web.)
The Post joins UK’s The Guardian, which has a download price of $3.99 for its iPhone app; and CNN asks $1.99 for its app. Still free are iPhone apps from: NY Times, NPR News, USA Today, MSNBC.com, ABC News, AP, Huffington Post, Time, CBS News, and many more.
Still, there’s a trend here. Don’t be surprised, iPhone users, if you start paying for more news apps, and that there are upsell purchasing opportunities within the apps.
Considering that most major news websites are free to view — including on the iPhone’s Safari browser — it makes sense for news companies to sell the convenience that the apps provide over the free mobile-website experience. The Guardian managed to sell more than 100,000 of its news apps in the 10 weeks after introducing it in mid-December 2009.
Here at the Digital Media Test Kitchen, our In-depth News for Smartphones research team has been looking at innovations in news mobile-app design (and creating their own). The new Washington Post app has an innovative feature that allows you to save articles you want to read later in a “MyPost” area. The interface is probably not something you’ve seen before.
The Post app user saves articles to MyPost from any section contents page, which contains headlines and blurbs of articles and content in that section. The user is instructed to finger-slide any item on a section contents page, which overlays the headline and blurb with a black bar with several options: MyPost | Facebook | Email | Twitter.
It’s a nice innovation, allowing an iPhone reader to scan through the various section contents pages, quickly adding interesting stories to a personal MyPost area. Then, when the reader is ready to read, it’s quick work with the personalized page of most-interesting articles waiting in queue.
(In a demonstration of Washington Post’s journalists’ objectivity, Faster Forward columnist Rob Pegoraro actually panned his own company’s iPhone app on the day it debuted. “I’m sorry to say, you should save your money for now,” he wrote. Reader comments on Pegoraro’s column also weren’t terribly positive, with many saying they thought that it wasn’t much of a step up from simply viewing the Post’s mobile website on the iPhone’s Safari browser.)
The screenshots below demonstrate the MyPost interface concept: The left image is a typical category content page; the right is what appears after finger-swiping an article that looks worth saving for later reading.
Have you seen any valuable innovations in mobile news apps? Are they worth the money to buy the app as opposed to viewing the news source directly and freely on a mobile browser? Please share your examples and thoughts in the Comments area below.
I happen to find the free news apps to be just fine. As you indicated, iPhone users can go to the news Websites via the Safari browser, so I don't really see a need to buy the paid apps. I can see some people buying these apps because some places aren't under the 3G network. Here in Frankfort, Indiana, I find it hard to sometimes view sites on my iPhone due to being on the Edge network.