CNN is launching a new free iPad app and making some major changes to its iPhone and iPod Touch apps. As part of the Dec. 14 global iPad app launch, the news organization is making the U.S. app for iPhone and iPod touch, which had been paid, available for free, and has added live video of breaking news events to the iPhone and iPod Touch apps for both the U.S. and international markets.
Lexus is the official launch partner for the iPad app but CNN has secured multiple sponsors for the product.
While the iPad app is free, Louis Gump, VP of mobile at CNN, stressed that removing the pay wall from their content doesn't signal a move away from subscription or pay models. Last year, CNN launched a paid app for the iPhone and iPod Touch, but it launched a free iPhone app internationally in July and is now removing the pay walls domestically.
"We felt free was the best way to go to market because it enables a lot of people to use our apps," Gump said. "But we have not abandoned the paid model. There will be products that we will be rolling out in the future that will be paid so I would expect you'll see both free and paid apps from us for both the U.S. and international markets"
The launch of the free product globally--a first for CNN--also highlights the growing importance of mobile advertising. "When we launched last year [the paid iPhone app] we weren't entirely convinced that advertiser demand was there," Gump explained. "We knew that by having it paid we would have a smaller user base but we knew we would get a fine return on our investment, which we did. Now that the market has matured, advertising makes a ton of sense. You can make a business case that for a high reach, high use app you can generate a better return on investment through advertising alone than you can through a paid model. But that is not true for every app and we will look at it on a case by case basis."
For the new iPad app, CNN decided to customize it to take full advantage of the table's screen rather than simply tweaking its iPhone offering. "It was a lot harder work but it allows us to do a lot of cool things," he noted.
In one of the app's many unique features, users who launch the app will initially will see a "broadsheet" that displays up to 350 of the latest news stories in a grid format.
The content is also laid out in a style that allows users to easily comment or view comments on articles.