Mail Online publisher A&N Media has shifted from its pure subscription-based mobile strategy with an ad-funded option for its iPhone app.
It has issued an update to the Mail Online app that lets users choose between the ad-funded or premium versions after a 60-day free trial.
new media age understands YOC Group is handling ad sales for the app, although neither the publisher nor the mobile ad sales house could comment by time of press.
Although no download or traffic figures for the Mail Online iPhone app have been made publicly available, the change in strategy by A&N Media suggests that its performance so far has been favourable.
Other publishers have suggested readers are prepared to pay for the functionality of a specific mobile app, even if the editorial content is freely available elsewhere. If that’s the case, then A&N Media could distinguish its premium app from the ad-funded version, for example by adding different functions, such as offline reading.
The move marks a departure from A&N’s initial launch strategy for the app, which asked users to sign up to a subscription ranging between £4.99 for six months or £8.99 a year to access content after the trial period (nma.co.uk 29 October 2010).
A source close to the change in strategy said the decision was taken because “there was so much take-up in the first 60 days [of the launch]”.
“The company knows revenue from advertising works through other apps so it decided to move to an ad-funded model,” said the source. “The decision was made around the second month in.”
Users of the Mail Online iPhone app who choose the ad-funded version can still opt out of being served ads by choosing either of the two subscription offers at any time.
According to a statement from the publisher on its iTunes page, the ad-funded version of the app will be available indefinitely.
A&N Media has yet to publicly disclose exact download figures for its Mail Online app, although its Metro-branded apps have been downloaded over 300,000 times.
Renate Nyborg, head of business development for A&N Mobile & TV, previously told new media age the publisher was primed to launch an Android version of the Mail Online app this quarter (nma 20 January 2011).
Greg Hadfield, former Telegraph head of digital, now Cogapp director of strategic projects, said the adoption of a hybrid model was likely to perform well for traditional mid-market brands like the Daily Mail.
“Media owners have to be careful with their first steps into anything new,” he said. “While the ad-funded model is likely get more reach, a paywall will help publishers maintain a deeper relationship with readers. Anyone that launches with one strategy then learns from it and acts on it has to be applauded.”