The Guardian could have a decent shot at sustainable mobile income, if current trends are anything to go by.
An updated app, which flips from its previous one-off £2.39 ($3.7) charge to a recurring subscription model, is expected to be approved this week, costing £2.99 ($4.63) for six months, or £3.99 ($6.19) for 12 months.
The existing V1 app is top of iTunes Store’s paid News chart, with
250,000 214,000 downloads since launch in December 2009 – and about 200,000 164,000 customers remain active users, according to the paper. That’s far higher sustained engagement than is enjoyed by many mobile apps, and provides The Guardian with a healthy base of users to ask more money of.
“We’ve been consistently amazed by returning usage and levels of engagement in-app,” Guardian.co.uk editor Janine Gibson tells paidContent:UK. “It hasn’t tailed off at all.”
The publisher decided to move away from one-off payment of £2.39 ($3.7) after seeing results of a survey of its app users. “We were struck by the consensus of requests for new features,” Gibson says, “but also the number of people who said they would pay more, even the level they would be prepared to pay in exchange for these features”.
“Our aim is to see if we can convert the vast majority of our users in to the new app. If we dont, we’ll have to look at the pricing. But I’ll be surprised if we don’t.”
Indeed, existing app users will have to pay to use the upgraded new app; the V1 will remain working for a time but not indefinitely. The new app will come free but will be merely a cut-down “mini app”, carrying just three stories and a carousel promoting pay-for features.
The Guardian is not using iTunes payments for the subscriptions but is going it alone.
The charges will not be levied in the U.S., where The Guardian has been disappointed by downloads numbers for its V1 app – there, it will instead go free , supported by ads placed through Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) iAds. Since the V1 app currently costs $3.99 (£2.57) in America, this is a reversal and splits The Guardian‘s strategy across the Atlantic, the aim being to build its U.S. audience on mobile in the same way it has on the web.
The subscription app includes landscape mode, videos, quicker updates to live blogs, football goal alerts, enhanced search and topic navigation and presentation of an extra-large front page news story when warranted.
“At this stage, all we want to do is learn some things,” Gibson said about mobile development. “These are not transformative new revenues for the company, but they are massively instructive experiments.”
The Guardian is also working on an iPad edition but says it’s a “work in progress” and is quiet on features and pricing.
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