The Wall Street Journal has jumped on the mobile content bandwagon and released an application for the iPhone. The financial newspaper set the price point at free -- ironic, given that the Journal's online content comes at a price of US$103 per year, or $140 for the print edition.
The application looks and feels a lot like The New York Times iPhone app , replete with screen-hogging advertisements; headlines; editor's picks; and browsing capabilities for the newspaper's various categories. The WSJ app also offers video and radio sections, adding multimedia the Times does not have.
Blackberry received its free Wall Street Journal app last August, so the arrival of a similar app for the iPhone should come as no surprise. But why would a paid subscription-based online newspaper hand away its content for free?
When the current battle between the Associated Press and news aggregators such as Google is taken into consideration, the decision to release free content gets a little stranger. Obviously, it's in the Journal's best interests to collect as much dough for its content as possible, especially since newspapers are dying and the world is turning its attentions to online news. And Robert Thomson, the editor of the Journal, recently called free news aggregators "parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the internet" -- which is particularly hilarious given that the Wall Street Journal is now one of those parasites.
Still, a newspaper that deals almost exclusively with finance should know when to charge and when to give away, and the Wall Street Journal likely does not see its iPhone and Blackberry apps as damaging to wsj.com.