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“Single-Issue” $1.99 Downloads Coming to WSJ iPad App

In an effort to drive more customers to its monthly subscription plans and experiment with the App Store distribution platform, the Wall Street Journal is launching “single-issue” downloads in its official iPad app, Paid Content reports. The option, not available yet in the free iPad app, will allow users to download a day’s WSJ content for $1.99 on their iPad, and according to Dow Jones’ digital head Alisa Bowen the new system will better invite users to subscribe to the full-access digital subscription plan. Single-issue downloads will offer a relatively cheap way to sample content and decide whether or not a full subscription is worth it.

There will be limitations in the single-issue downloads, but the WSJ hasn’t provided additional details. These new downloads won’t affect in any way the current $18 subscription that gives readers complete access to the WSJ website.

Right now, any current WSJ subscriber with a log-in can get full access—to the site and all the apps—and that won’t change. In addition, the WSJ recently began offering a digital bundle offer. Basically, for $3.99 per week, you can get full access to WSJ.com and its suite of digital products (iPad, Android Tablet Edition, iPhone and BlackBerry apps), all of which works out to roughly $17 with tax for a full month.

Bowen told me that she believes readers are more likely to subscribe once they had a taste of the content. But it’s not the first time they’ve tried that approach. For example, WSJ content is available for free to users who log on to Starbucks’ digital network as part of the coffee chain’s free wifi access.

Last week, controversy arose around the New York Times’ subscription plans that will force readers to choose between three different packages for website access, smartphone and tablet apps. Many think the NYT’s plans are too expensive and complex in differentiating between smartphones and tablets; it is unclear at this point whether the WSJ will consider a unified option for iPhone, iPad and Android users or take a similar approach to the NYT by launching different subscriptions across devices. The single-issues downloads are expected to be implemented with a new version of the iPad app, which was last updated in February.

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