Huffington iPad Mag Goes To Free Model
That didn’t take very long. Barely a month after launching its weekly iPad magazine at a $19.99 annual subscription rate, AOL’s “Huffington” digital magazine has dropped the pay model. All issues now are free in the app, and the Subscribe button in the app alerts the reader they are not paying for weekly access to the mag.
A report at Capital New York claims that the HuffPo staff had been told that they were moving to a free model after only five issues have already been published. A HuffPo spokesperson told Capital New York that the paid model in the app store was “inconsistent” with the HuffPo model online and elsewhere on mobile, which had always been free.
According to the report, the app itself had been downloaded 115,000 times, but the exact number of paid subs off that modest level was not disclosed.
HuffPo has remained supportive of the magazine model, however. More than 20 staff are focused on the weekly, which features exclusive long-form articles and large-format images and interactivity not available in the online content.
The HuffPo product from AOL follows the positive experience the company has had engaging users in tablet apps. The AOL tech blog Engadget, for instance, began repackaging its longer-form reviews and articles into a free weekly Distro magazine app in recent months. The company has said that it saw engagement with this app-formatted content (the same that was also at the Engadget site) increase by 10X when being read in tablet lean-back mode.
A number of publishers have been following suit by crafting Web content into more magazine-like experiences within apps. The recently issued TechCrunch app greatly enhances its look and feel in an iPad app, for instance.
But the changed business model for the Huffington digital magazine comes only days after News Corp.’s subscription-based "The Daily" announced significant layoffs. The business models for content publishing on tablets remain unclear as the platform seems to sit somewhere between the legacy paid media of print and the traditionally free models of the Web.