A new trend, however, seems to have taken hold - charging for a mobile app. The Washington Post has joined The Guardian in charging for its iPhone app, according to an article this morning in Paid Content.
The Washington Post iPhone app will cost $1.99 for 12 months of mobile access to the paper's content, which will include offline reading. The Guardian recently announced that it had sold 101,457 downloads of its iPhone app, which, at $3.99 a pop, means over $400,000 for the British paper.
The interesting distinction to note here is that the Washington Post's app is more like a newspaper subscription of old. You aren't paying a one-time fee for the app, you're paying for a year's use, meaning if you like the content and want continued access, it's going to see another $1.99 from you in a year.
When you compare these sorts of numbers to the 35 subscribers to Newsday, the future might look brighter for newspapers. We're thinking that mobile users are used to paying small fees for quality applications and, while they could use their mobile browser to visit the free website, they'll likely pay the two bucks to see content tailored to the mobile platform instead.
CNN, as Paid Content points out, takes a similar approach, charging for its iPhone application, but its charge is a one-time fee. Offering an app as a timed subscription is a bit of a twist, but mobile may be just the environment to try out this sort of payment model.
The Washington Post iPhone app will be available for purchase today, but was not up by the time of this article.