iPad/Paid Media Love Affair? Not At These Prices

Last Updated Apr 6, 2010 10:03 AM EDT

We're only in the first 96 hours of iPad lust as I write this, but if there's going to be a burgeoning love affair between Steve Jobs' latest game-changing device and the print media world -- which wants its subscription revenue stream back really, really badly -- it hasn't happened yet. The element that's missing from the potion is, um, consumers. They are, predictably, whining about price.

Yes, I'm partly referring to Rafat Ali's early roundup at PaidContent of how media apps are doing for iPad. Per usual, the free ones are doing quite nicely, but as of last night, of the top 100 paid apps, just three were from print media: Time (No. 16, $4.99), Popular Science (#20, $4.99) and GQ (No. 60, $2.99).

And then there's the sad case of The Wall Street Journal, which should serve as a cautionary tale for any print company that thinks the iPad gives them carte blanche when it comes to pricing. Sure, the Journal app is no. 10 on the free download list, but that doesn't really tell the story. While I was clicking around at the iTunes store getting the latest iPad app sales data, I stumbled across the overwhelmingly negative commentary about the Journal's paid app, which asks users to shell out $18/month (!) to access all of its content and carries lots and lots of ads. Part of the problem, according to many consumers who reviewed it, is that the free app is a sham. It rapidly becomes apparent that to get any real content, you have to pay. A few choice comments:

Hard to believe, but they are asking for almost double the print price to subscribe to something with almost zero distribution costs. Sorry, traditional media, we are not here to pay for your losses. Let's get real.

Even if you are a subscriber of the print and online versions, you have to pay an extra $200 per year to get the iPad delivery. This is completely absurd. Who would pay $200 per year to get what they can already get online, but have it formatted in a nice iPad app? (Editor's note: Current WSJ subscribers can use the app for free -- for a limited time.)

Twice as much as the iPhone? The content is EXACTLY the same. More than the print edition??? More than the print edition AND the web combined? WSJ please stop drinking your cool-aid [sic], or ... stop spiking it, with whatever you are using.

All told, there are 673 one-star reviews of the app, out of 914 total. Add in another 100 people who gave it two stars, and you have an average of 1.5 stars for one of Rupert Murdoch's much talked about forays into charging for online content.

Although there are comments covering the interface and navigation, the thumbs-down is all about the price. Given the hefty price tag, it's hard to even take these comments in and then have a rational conversation about price points, except to say that perhaps because the app is from the Journal, which has always had a paid model, people seemed willing to pay. That does not mean the sky's the limit.

Lesser price points are getting hammered by consumers too, partly because the prices quoted above for Popular Mechanics and Time are for a single issue. For what Time told AllThingsD's Peter Kafka about its iPad price point, go here.

Previous coverage of the iPad at BNET Media: