Wall Street Journal Releases Free iPhone App

The Wall Street Journal's new iPhone App, which offers news, podcasts and video, is also being offered for free. This could be a bit of an unpleasant shocker for online Journal readers, who have been paying more than $100 for their annual subscription, but a free iPhone application would put the Journal on even footing with The New York Times and other news sites that have released free Apps for news junkies.

The Wall Street Journal released a free Apple iPhone App that features breaking news, video, radio podcasts and customized navigation. The price point will perhaps come as a surprise to Journal readers already paying more than $100 per year for an online subscription to the paper.

A similar free application already exists for the BlackBerry, which is no surprise given that device's business-user orientation.

The decision to release its news content for free is particularly ironic given Journal Editor Robert Thomson's April 6 comments to The Australian.

In an interview with that newspaper, Thomson said, "It's certainly true that readers have been [socialized] - wrongly I believe - that much content should be free."

He further said that sites devoted to aggregating free news content "are best described as parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the internet."

However, The Associated Press, ABC News, The New York Times and other news outlets offer similar iPhone Apps at no cost, suggesting that decision makers at the Wall Street Journal felt seizing mobile market share would be more of an uphill battle if they charged for their own application.

Those Journal decision makers may also see iPhone App users as falling into a different category of reader than its subscribers, minimizing the potential for cannibalization. While the iPhone has been making inroads into the enterprise, it is still viewed by many as a consumer, as opposed to a corporate, device.

As print media have suffered through their own upheavals and users increasingly receive their news online, questions have arisen over how much leeway third parties have to collect and disseminate news corporations' content.

The AP announced on April 7 that it plans to start aggressively hunting down unauthorized users of its online content. Google says that it has already struck a deal with AP over distributing content on Google News, but other sites may not be so fortunate.

Google was previously a target in 2006 of a $17.5 million copyright-infringement lawsuit by Agence France-Presse. That suit was eventually settled out of court.