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WSJ Asks iPhone App Users If They Would Pay

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Rupert Murdoch has already said News Corp (NYSE: NWS) intends to charge “handsomely” for its WSJ iPhone and Blackberry apps eventually. How much and when? Still unclear but is surveying iPhone users about their willingness to pay for what is now a completely free product. The idea seems to be similar to the one I raised when the iPhone version launched in April: a free “lite” app for all plus a premium full-access app.

The quick survey asks flat out: “If full access to Mobile Reader required a paid subscription, how likely would you be to subscribe?” Answers ranger from “definitely yes” to “definitely no” with some middle ground. The survey also looks at habits such as how often do you read the print edition, but it doesn’t ask if including the iPhone app with my print subscription would make me more likely to keep the print edition. Nothing about price points, either, at least in the version I saw. (Respondents can qualify for a $250 Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) raffle, which I didn’t enter.)

Gordon McLeod, president of The Wall Street Journal Digital Network, told me there is no timing for any mobile changes and declined to share survey results: “To be honest, we solicit feedback from users all the time but have a policy of never sharing [results] publicly.”

Murdoch said during the May 6 earnings call that the app had been downloaded 360,000 times in the first three weeks; the number hasn’t been updated since then.

Tricia adds: With the latest iPhone software update, Apple started offering a couple new billing options that likely appeal to especially to publishers. Previously, companies only had the option to charge once for an application, but now they can require subscriptions. They can also offer the app for a flat-rate, such as 99 cents, and then charge more for additional content within the app. In that scenario, the app can’t be free to start out with. To be sure, increasingly, mobile is being looked at as a way to monetize content that’s given away on the web since the platform has had a heritage of charging for content in the past.