Guardian’s new mobile app goes the freemium route

Now that 40 percent of its global audience is reading it on handheld devices, the Guardian is reintroducing its mobile app this morning. With a responsive design that allows for more personalization, especially for its growing U.S. readership, the Guardian hopes to more efficiently reach its growing mobile user base.

Here are three of its notable new features:

Freemium
Last year, the Guardian introduced a freemium model that let users of its iPhone and Android app in the U.K. get an ad-free experience and extra content for 69 pence (or about $1.15) a month. There are currently some 90,000 digital subscribers in the U.K., which includes its freemium customers. The effort is part of the publisher’s effort to try to get more revenue from its most dedicated readers; along those lines, the Guardian plans to roll out a membership program in the U.K. this summer.

The U.S. edition of the app was created quickly, and it didn’t have a freemium option when it launched two years ago. Those users were migrated last December to the global app, which then gave them the freemium option. With the new update, U.S. users now have their own distinct freemium version, which for $3.99 a month gives them extras like daily crosswords, hand-picked archived content and extracts from Guardian books. The option will be available to current users via a push update.

“Now, U.S. users have a truly distinct freemium option, with custom curated content and features (extracts, crosswords) designed for U.S. readers,” said Gennady Kolker, media relations director for the Guardian U.S.

A handful of publishers have experimented with upselling consumers to an ad-free experience, but the approach hasn’t been widely adopted. Perhaps that’s because publishers are reluctant to cannibalize their ad revenue. Also, since the ad-free experience alone probably isn’t worth that much to readers, publishers have typically included extra content or products to justify charging a fee. But identifying content people will pay for when so much is available for free isn’t easy.

Personalization
Readers can customize the homepage around the verticals of their choice, a feature that has become increasingly commonplace with digital publishers. The Guardian has popular live blogging and opinion columnists, and the new app will let readers follow bloggers and columnists — as well as soccer games as they happen — through push notifications. There’s also a new feature that allows for offline reading.

Reader involvement
The relaunched app also is built with a nod to the Guardian’s commitment to open journalism, which is meant to encourage reader participation in the news. So Guardian Witness, a year-old program that lets readers contribute their comments and photos to the site, has been integrated into the app for the first time.

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