A little over a month ago, The Huffington Post launched an ambitious project with much fanfare: a weekly magazine app for the iPad called Huffington, which users could download for 99 cents an issue or $19.99 for a year’s worth. The demand for this new format seems to have been underwhelming, however, since the new-media giant says it is dropping the fee and will make the app free of charge to download. Meanwhile, another media giant — News Corp. — has laid off dozens of staff at its iPad newspaper The Daily, and there continue to be rumours that the entire operation could be in jeopardy. Are these two isolated cases, or a sign that cracks are starting to show in the content model that publishers have bought into with the iPad?
According to a report at Capital New York, the executive editor of Huffington magazine — formerNew York Times editor Tim O’Brien — told the publication’s staff at an all-hands meeting this week that the company had decided its content should be free of charge. As writer Joe Pompeo notes, this was the original concept for the magazine to begin with, in part because it was originally seen as a collection of existing content from the Huffington Post website, presented in a different format. As it took shape, however, the site decided to create custom content and that made it seem worthwhile to charge a subscription fee. As O’Brien put it at the time: