Monday, December 14, 2009

Paid content vs. Paid App.

Rupert Murdoch wants readers to pay for content; some say paying for something more tangible like an iPhone app is a better way to go -- actually, I've said that.

The Guardian, at least for now, is falling into the "app" side of the battle. They have introduced their own iPhone app that will cost the user $3.99 (iTunes link). The Guardian app gives you access to Guardian content, and is free of paid advertising (at least for now). For many, the lack of ads will justify the purchase price of the app; others may consider the app price a type of subscription.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Why an "app" versus paid content? The reason involves the concept of "ownership" of the purchased item. When you pay a subscription fee, the reader has access to the news (like the WSJ, for instance), but the content always changes, of course. So does the consumer feel like they have purchased something concrete?

When you buy a newspaper or magazine you receive a physical product -- you instantly feel that you have purchased something tangible.

The Guardian iTunes app.

Of course, many will insist on continuing to get content for free, no matter on what device. The Guardian is soliciting comments on their new app and I love this one:
I have a Palm Pre.
I shall expect MY app. on my desk first thing tomorrow morning.
And it had better bloody well be free as well.

But I love the idea of paid apps: the reader pays through iTunes on their computer or phone and seconds later an icon appears -- they have something to show that they own something. What they own, of course, is not content but software -- the software that gives them access to, and organizes the content that is available because of the purchase. I think this model holds promise for trade publishers, as well. In fact, trade publishers are woefully under represented on iTunes, either in the podcast area or in the app store.

But this battle (between paid content versus paid apps) is just beginning.

Over time you will notice that this blog talks a lot about the iPhone. The reason is simple: I own one. But the Android phones will undoubtedly prove to be very competitive with Apple's iPhone -- and will allow the same kinds of apps now seen on the iPhone. But iPhone struck first, so many of the media developments, like the new Guardian app, will probably appear first on the iTunes app store.