A few hours after Steve Case tweeted that Washington Post Co. (NYSE: WPO) CEO Don Graham told a hometown crowd Tuesday the paper wouldn’t charge for online news, the company told paidContent it was launching its first paid iPhone app today. With that, the Washington Post joins a small but growing number of publishers who refuse to build pay walls or run meters but are willing to charge for mobile apps. It’s a switch from the usual browser-based mobile strategy for news outlets that mirrors their ad-supported websites. (The most notable exception is the Wall Street Journal, which started with a free WSJ.com WAP site and apps despite its emphasis on online subscriptions and is moving to a premium app model.)
WaPo is charging $1.99 for 12 months of customized access and offline reading, suggesting that a price change could kick in after it sees the first year’s results. Looking at the paid mobile news landscape, The Guardian sold 101,457 downloads of its iPhone app in the first 10 weeks at $3.99 (£2.39). The cost limits reach but provides a new source of revenue. CNN, which has tried and dropped various premium online options, opted for a $1.99 one-time fee for its iPhone app. The free New York Times iPhone app has been downloaded 3.2 million times but will be tied to the metered model set to kick in early next year, as will the WAP site.
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