Guardian’s Subscription iPhone App Due This Week


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,” 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.

» Disclosure: Our publisher ContentNext is a wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian News & Media.



I wonder whether this latest move has been thought through as part of an overall approach to new digital platforms. It’s slightly concerning that Gibson says they just want to learn some things but hopefully they realise that they are learning with loyal readers time and money. Are they really going to launch outside itunes payment platform? That seems unwise. What’s going to happen with ipad pricing, is that going to require another subscription? Why price the iphone app subscription pricing so low? Will it be significantly hiked after a year or two? How many V1 buyers will be turned off the Guardian app for good when it stops being supported?? Lots of questions and I wonder whether they have really been thought through or maybe Gibson is just learning stuff!!

Jon Mundy

@ William D. I’m not sure why you should be entitled to money back. The app was released over a year ago, and you’ve had the opportunity for unlimited access to guardian content via the app since then. The new app is a different, updated product, and the benefits it offers make it well worth paying fo (IMHO). Of course if you don’t like it you could always go to, which is free.

Robert Andrews

@ The London Insider – They are hoping to be on all the main mobile OSs, but have to consider how to do all at an achievable cost.

The London Insider

Is there an Android version in the works?

The current Guardian App on the Android works pretty well, and its free, pulling pretty much all the headlines in the categories to your device, as well as stores for offline viewing on the Tube and such.

But the user-interface needs quite alot of work to make it more polished, and more functionality would be good as well!

William D

When will i get my money back for paying for an original app that will now be defunct?

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