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Interview: Handmark CEO Paul Reddick On Making Murdoch’s WSJ Mobile App

The man behind The Wall Street Journal’s pay-for mobile app says charging for content isn’t the sole answer for mobile publishers–ads, he says, should also be part of the monetization strategy. Read on for excerpts from our interview with Paul Reddick, CEO of app developer Handmark, which makes apps for AP, AFP and Reuters.

More mobile platforms?: WSJ’s app is only for BlackBerry devices at the moment — so will we see a WSJ app for other platforms? “There should be, but that’s a decision for News Corp.,” says Reddick. “For what we do and the way we build platforms, it would be very minimal work from the publisher’s perspective.” Curiously, the WSJ already has a free iPhone app that paidContent understands was developed in-house at Dow Jones, even though Handmark develops iPhone apps for its other clients.

Don’t forget ads: News Corp (NYSE: NWS). wants to charge for all its news sites but Reddick stresses it’s not a one-dimensional model: “Don’t read into the fact that Rupert Murdoch wants to charge for stuff that he’s not still making money from advertising. Reddick says the app will be supported by ads, and he expects the WSJ to have some free mobile element to tempt readers to pony up for the paid content.

Paywalls, wherever you are: Reddick wouldn’t divulge how much the app is expected to make or even how many downloads it’s clocked since it launched in August — he’s says “it’s a matter for News Corp.” But he told me they are “impressive numbers” so far. Details on the pricing — $104 a year for non print or mobile subscribers from next month — emerged on Thursday.

Tide of free is turning: Reddick says there has been a “consumer expectation that content is free” on mobile thanks to the growth of the iPhone and Android platforms, particularly when it comes to news and games. But he predicts that “we will see a real drying up of people running like Don Quixote into the wind of free.” There will be free stuff, says Reddick, but “it will have a plan,” whether that’s to sell up to a premium subscription or to boost ad sales. Despite that, he says that most publishers have so far “not been as enthusiastic on the paid side” and that the majority of Handmark apps are free.

The Handmark-made AFP mobile app costs $2.99 to download AP’s app charges, despite previously being free. Following its acquisition of Freerange Communications in April, Handmark also launched apps for Forbes, CBS Interactive (NYSE: CBS) and Time Inc. Again, no figures on how much those ad-supported apps make, but Reddick assures me that some “more than pay for themselves”.

Correction: AP has contacted us to say that its mobile app is free to download across all platforms and not paid-for as we reported.

Disclaimer: ContentNext is a client of Handmark, which created mobile apps for our four editorial sites. You can download them here.