The holiday's over. After being available for free for the past 3 months thanks to a sponsorship deal from Channel 4, The Guardian is set to start charging for its iPad app.
Starting this Friday, current users will be asked to pay £9.99 a month for the app. Not everyone will have to pay right away: new users will be given a seven day trial period before they face any fees, and print subscribers will get the app at no extra cost. But even with these offers, the charge is The Guardian's highest fee for any digital product. The paper's mobile app, by comparison, costs £2.99 for six months, £4.99 for a year and is free in the US.
In an article for Paid Content, Robert Andrews speculates that The Guardian could generate significant revenue if it manages to convert the same proportion of free users into paying subscribers on the iPad and it has done on the iPhone. Andrews writes that The Guardian may be able to convert 47,600 of its current 280,000 active monthly users into paying customers, which would produce £475,000 per month, before Apple takes its 30% cut.
Whether or not the app generates this revenue, there's no doubt that it has already created substantial interest; the paper reported last Friday that it has already been downloaded over half a million times. 23,000 of those downloads were on Christmas day, maybe showing that the paper's market is growing as more people get their hands on iPads.
In a move that may encourage paying subscribers, The Guardian has tried to make its iPad offer more attractive by adding a new Weekend Magazine section on Saturdays.
But despite this addition, Andrews expresses some doubts about whether Guardian users will pay for the iPad when so much of the paper's content is available for free. The Guardian still offers a free Android app, and lots of the content that it publishes on the iPad is also posted without charge on social media sites.
Smart phones and tablets are becoming more and more widespread: Venturebeat reported yesterday that, in the US at least, web consumption is declining, as mobile app use is booming. A survey conducted by Poll Position last week suggests that 46% of Americans think that tablets will replace laptop computers at some point in the future.