Can news organisations which have traditionally provided their mobile news for free make a viable business out of charging for applications
CNN has decided its new iPhone application is worth a price: $1.99 (£1.24). While that amount may not exactly break the bank, it represents a test of sorts for media-related mobile applications, the majority of which are free.
In addition to revenue from people downloading the application—which will feature news stories, photos, video, and customized weather and traffic—CNN also plans to include in-application advertising.
Similar applications from other news organisations, such as USA Today, the New York Times, NPR News and the Wall Street Journal, are currently free. However, the Wall Street Journal previously announced that it intends to charge $2.00 per week for a mobile-device-only subscription starting in October.
KC Estenson, general manager for CNN.com, suggested to the Associated Press that the company could afford to charge for its iPhone App based on the caliber of its content, saying, “It really depends on the quality and nature of what you’re putting into the market.”
Earlier in 2009, the Associated Press tried charging $2.99 for a BlackBerry application, an effort that backfired as, according to the news outfit, the download rate dipped by more than 90 percent from when the application was free. After removing the charge, the Associated Press saw its level of downloads spike.
On 28 Sept, Apple announced that about 2 billion iPhone Apps had been downloaded from the App Store, which now features over 85,000 applications. In an accompanying news release, CEO Steve Jobs said more than a half-million applications had been downloaded “this quarter alone,” but the company declined to say how many of the downloaded applications were free.
The App Store passed the 1-billion-downloads mark in April, an event that Apple marked with much publicity and a contest. The store’s success has led other players in the mobile market, including Microsoft and Research In Motion, to attempt their own application stores to feed their respective mobile operating systems.
However, rival companies face something of a battle to reach Apple’s numbers. For example, Palm’s App Catalog, for the WebOS mobile operating system running on the Palm Pre smartphone, achieved its millionth download on 24 June.