CNN and The Spectator have announced this week that they will both charge for the use of their new iPhone applications. With news organisations far and wide scratching their heads over how to generate revenue in the new digital age, both publications have taken different approaches in setting up their paid app subscriptions.
The Spectator, which paved the way for it's application by restricting some of the free content available on the magazine's website- is charging 59p for access to it's weekly issue as well as a searchable archive of 200 older editions, the BBC is reporting. Users can choose to pay 59p each week, or subscribe for thirty days for £2.36.
Whilst including some features potentially attractive to advertisers, such as the ability to tap on a phone number in an ad and having the call be put through automatically, the iPhone app is reported to be a 'dud'. 'First of all, you need to be online every time you want to look at the magazine. You may think you've downloaded this week's edition but if you switch to another app, then return to the Spectator, you have to wait for the page you were reading to download all over again. It's pitifully slow on a 3G network and not that much better on wi-fi,' writes Rory Cellan-Jones on the BBC blog dot.life. 'Worse, it's just a facsimile of the paper version, and there's no easy way to search it or to jump to a particular article. After half an hour of trying to make it work, I gave up without having read a single article.'
CNN seems to be a little more on top of things technologically. The one-off $2 fee for it's iPhone/iTouch app has all the same features of current news applications, constantly updated headlines, sharing, and alerts, with a few innovations. Unlike the Spectator app, CNN articles can be downloaded and saved to be read again later on when a user is offline or underconnected. It also enables users to watch live streaming from it's broadcast arm, CNN Live. 'The videos look crystal clear on Wi-Fi. On 3G and Edge, Larry King looked a little better,' writes Eliot Van Buskirk for Wired.
The element of the CNN application news publishers might find most interesting, however, is the 'iReporter' function, which allows subscribers to use their iPhones to shoot, edit and upload clips, back to CNN. There is even a list of 'assignments' where users can find out what journalists are looking for specific footage on. CNN are making the most of citizen journalists, by literally giving those with the tools in their hands a direct link to their newsrooms.
So will the customers buy into the paid application business?
Though the Spectator application itself isn't proving too savvy, the restricting of it's website content did show a jump in the number of people willing to pay for digital subscriptions to the magazine. As for the CNN app, Wired predicts that: 'While facing free competition from the likes of the New York Times and many others, [CNN] will win over its share of news junkies thanks to a well-designed selection of real-time breaking news and archived stories in short text, long text, video, and photo formats.'