The U.K.’s News of the World unveiled a new iPad app last week, selling for $1.85 per Sunday issue — 29 cents more than the issue would cost in print. And that, depending on your perspective, is either crazy or crazy like a fox.
The News of the World website is also a paid-content offering, at about $1.50 per day or $3.00 per month. All three platforms are priced separately, so a loyal consumer could end up paying nearly $5 per week to read the paper in print, on the Web and on an iPad.
Patricio Robles writes that the pricing strategy reflects a “lack of thought” on the part of news publishers:
“Needless to say, this model is disjointed and confusing. Newspapers should be making it easy for readers to consume their content across multiple mediums without having to manage multiple subscriptions that treat each medium as a separate entity with separate seemingly arbitrary pricing.”
From a consumer’s perspective, Robles is absolutely right. Readers clearly expect to pay less — or nothing — for digital versions of print newspapers. So, how much thought did the News of the World put into its cross-platform pricing?
Keep in mind the paper is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. If you pick any five Murdoch newspapers you are likely to find five different pricing strategies, all trending toward some combination of paid subscriptions across print, Web and tablet editions.
In the U.S., The Wall Street Journal online has a pay wall, which is part of a “read anywhere” strategy. That pricing model currently allows print and digital subscribers to access its paid iPad app for free.
A similar variety of pricing strategies exist across Murdoch’s other properties. News Corp.’s iPad efforts include a free photo app at the Cape Cod Times, a $29.99 six-month iPad subscription at The Australian, and a $16.99 monthly subscription for the iPad version of The Times of London.
And, don’t forget the forthcoming iPad-only Daily newspaper that is expected to roll out in January at $0.99 cents per week.
So, it is safe to say that News Corp. has put a lot of thought into its digital pricing, and it appears to have learned one of two things.
Either it is too early to settle on one pricing model, and Murdoch intends to experiment until he finds the most profitable solution. Or, each news product needs to find what works for its own market, based on broadly applied best practices. If the business lessons from each paper are being shared up and down the corporate ladder, that might be a winning strategy for Murdoch.
So, while the approach may appear haphazard to consumers, it may be necessary experimentation by News Corp. as it looks for the best long-term solutions.