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I never understood why the Wall Street Journal, which charges for its online edition, launched an iPhone app (two, if you count All Things D) that gave away its content for free.

Now we know that free doesn't mean free forever.

The Journal's owner, Rupert Murdoch, said the news publisher plans to charge non-subscribers $2 a week for the mobile version (on BlackBerries and iPhones), and $1 per week for online-only subscribers.

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Subscribers to both the print and online editions would get it for free, according to this <ahem> free report from Reuters.

I used to have a WSJ online-only subscription, until they more-than-doubled my rate over the course of two years.

I was stupefied they gave away their content on the iPhone for free. But now that experiment in free appears to be over.

And I, of course, wonder how many people who are not already subscribers will be willing to pay to read it on their smartphones.

The truth is, though it was free, I didn't really use the WSJ iPhone app that much. The content that was funneled through it was good, but not overwhelmingly special.

All Things D satisfied my tech itch, and I hope that stays a free app. But even if not, there are still numerous sources on the Web and on my iPhone that will fill the gap.

What do you think? Would you pay for the WSJ app now that you've had a chance to experience it for free for so many months?

(photo credit: Image of WSJ via CNET)

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