Just when you thought the iPad might be able to breathe some life back into the failing print industry, the industry itself seems dead set on making sure that doesn’t happen. Well, certain parties within the industry at least, like maybe News Corp. for instance, if […]


Just when you thought the iPad might be able to breathe some life back into the failing print industry, the industry itself seems dead set on making sure that doesn’t happen. Well, certain parties within the industry at least, like maybe News Corp. for instance, if a recent report appearing in the Wall Street Journal about planned iPad subscription pricing is any indication.

The report, which, you’ll remember, appeared in the WSJ itself, cited “a person familiar with the matter” as the source of the information that the Journal would be charging $17.99 per month for iPad subscribers when the device launches next month. No, that’s not a typo where I accidentally switched “per month” for “per year.”

I realize that the Wall Street Journal is among those choice few who’ve been given a pre-production piece of iPad hardware upon which to develop its app, but I doubt very much that anything it can put together, no matter how spectacular, will make me want to pay $18 a month for the privilege of using it. People switched to online news sources because they were cheaper, not significantly more expensive than traditional paper outlets.

While the WSJ seems to have gone well off its rocker regarding iPad pricing, other companies are offering more sane and reasonable deals. Esquire, for instance, which is the magazine the furthest along in the Hearst family with regards to iPad development, plans to offer its iPad issues for only $2.99 an issue. That’s $2 off the standard newsstand price, which is cheaper, as one might expect.

Men’s Health, on the other hand, is going the route of equally priced digital and print editions, and will be charging $4.99 per issue, and other offerings like Time and People are said to be priced close to the newsstand editions. Advertisers are reportedly flocking to the magazine publishers in droves in order to be part of the first wave of iPad editions, owing partly to the marquee value of the highly anticipated launch, and partly to the innovation in interactive ads possible thanks to the new medium.

So the question is, what’s the pricing sweet spot for iPad users when it comes to magazine content? Personally, I wouldn’t pay any of the prices I’ve mentioned, but that’s only because I’m not interested in the content. If National Geographic or Popular Science offered iPad apps priced the same as their print editions, I’d go for it, even though I don’t buy those in print now. I wouldn’t pay $17.99 a month for anything, even a magazine for which I was the sole target audience called “Darrell Monthly.”

Related GigaOM Pro Research: Forecast: Tablet App Sales To Hit $8B by 2015

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  1. Harry T. Baggins Thursday, March 25, 2010

    That pricing is pretty ridiculous considering that their online subscription option is 1.99 per week. That is one hell of a markup.

  2. Murdoch is smoking some really cheap stuff. Thats way to much.

  3. David Chartier Thursday, March 25, 2010

    Context is key here. WSJ isn’t written for your or me; it’s not just a news blog or a friend’s photo stream. It’s written for people who treat it as an investment, like stocks. They read WSJ because they’re getting information that, if all goes well, will make them money.

    @Harry: I thought the $1.99 was some kind of intro price or one that doesn’t grant access to as much as the “full” subscription price of $15-20/month.

    Regardless, WSJ isn’t like TAB, or TechCrunch, etc. It contains a tremendous amount of valuable content for a specific, non-consumer audience.

  4. Andrew Tuliszewski Thursday, March 25, 2010

    While on the surface, the figure looks outrageous, it’s probably not that bad. I used to subscribe to WSJ and it was pricey and it had great articles. But about a year after Murdoch took over, the craziness went into effect and I enjoyed reading articles about how insider trading was a good thing. For those interested in that kind of thing, why not?

  5. Bruce Frankenberg Thursday, March 25, 2010

    I don’t think it is that bad. WSJ on the Kindle is 14.99/mo. I am assuming the iPad version will be much better.

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  8. Do some research before you make gregarious opinions. While the WSJ isn’t going easy on its pricing (really, why should it?), $17.99 a month is not a lot, relatively speaking.

    Like you even get the WSJ..lol…

  9. Why do most people feel entitled to free or nearly free content? I’d never pay for print media (other than books), but there are lots of people out there who still read dead-tree newspapers and magazines. If I were one of those people, I’d happily pay the same price to get the electronic version just for the reduced environmental impact, waste, paper clutter, etc. But I’m clearly not the WSJ’s target market, as I’d never pay a cent for any kind of news — blogs are just fine for my needs.

    1. I have to agree here, there seem to be so many people that put no value in other peoples hard work. I’ve read comments saying that Apple’s attempts to get some TV shows on sale for a dollar an episode is still too much. That TV has no rewatch value, and as such is a free and throwaway medium. I disagree so strongly here. I don’t read or have any interest in the WSJ, but at $18 per month (that’s about .60c per day) it isn’t a huge amount. Putting it in perspective, I agree that it should not cost any more for a digital version than a print version. But if you value the content, you need to be willing to pay for it. I buy cd’s, books, dvd’s, television series, not because I have no other means of obtaining the content, but because I want to support the people creating them. Thus, allowing them to create more.


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