Charging for news content hasn't been a popular concept with most internet users, but that hasn't stopped publishers from seeking new ways to do it. Fairfax's latest approach is a series of iPhone apps for its main mastheads that will charge $2.49 a month for access.
I've been testing an advance version of the Sydney Morning Herald app on my iPod Touch (there's also apps for The Age, Brisbane Times and WA Today) for the past few days. To be honest, it's been pretty underwhelming. The app is slow to refresh news stories, often freezes up entirely when scrolling between sections, didn't always load graphics for stories, and frequently failed to detect an active Wi-Fi connection. Some of that might be due to using an older Touch model and the pre-release nature of the app I was trialling, but it hardly filled me with enthusiasm.
More tellingly, I can't see that the ability to customise sections and tweet the occasional story justifies paying even $2.49 a month when I can get exactly the same content via the browser on my device for nothing, and in essentially the same format. Of course, this move might be the first step towards Fairfax adding charging to its sites as well to help counter declining newspaper sales, but even then I'd argue that doing so via Safari made more sense than via this particular app.
What features would make you willing to pay for an iPhone news app? Tell us in the comments.
Fairfax [iTunes link]