DMGT Planning 15 iPhone Apps In 2010, But Why Do Newspapers Love iTunes?

One thing newspaper and online B2B publisher DMGT wants for Christmas is iPhone apps, and lots of them. Richard Titus, former BBC mobile contoller turned Associated Northcliffe Digital CEO, tells the FT that he’ll launch 15 new apps in H110, in the quest to become: “the leading mobile publisher of applications in Europe”. Apps are planned early next year for Mail Online, Metro.co.uk some Northcliffe regional titles, as well as for DMGT properties such as Teletext Holidays, Findaproperty.com, Local People and Motors.co.uk.

It’s tempting to ask why the would-be sector “leader” is leaving its entry into the market so late: Telegraph.co.uk, Indepedent.co.uk and Guardian.co.uk already have theirs and even some regional papers already have one. And why are news publishers — everyone from Reuters (NYSE: TRI) to the Daily Star — so keen on smartphone users downloading bits of software when there’s a perfectly good internet out there that displays everyone’s content available to everyone? It’s got a lot to do with marketing…

Apple’s marketing power has made newspapers scramble to associate their brands with the iPhone. The little black smartphone represents everything newspapers want their digital properties to be: aspirational, desired and expensive with a genuine “wow” factor. To be featured in one of Apple’s iPhone TV ads or to be featured on iTunes is a real PR coup for a company looking to impress in the digital arena — board members at companies without an apps strategy may now look at rivals’ offerings and ask managers what’s going on.

In the grand scheme of the print media business model’s on-going, once-in-a-generation collapse, the actual income from these things is small. The Guardian app managed to make some £20,000 in its first 48 hours — but Titus is not a paid content believer and all the DMGT apps will be free and ad-supported. So what can DMGT expect to get? More Mail Online readers to sell integrated cross-media ad packages to big brands, increased engagement and sales from its classifieds business and a good chunk of cheap marketing for 15 of its digital brands.

Although, having said that, Telegraph Media Group’s free app has now been downloaded 300,000 times and the company’s head of mobile Maani Safa says it’s returned ten times its launch costs through sponsorship deals with Cisco (NSDQ: CSCO) and Dell.