$17.99 for a WSJ iPad subscription? Really?

The Wall Street Journal recently announced that its iPad version would be available for a $17.99 a month subscription. That would make the cost of the WSJ iPad edition, at $215.88 a year, significantly more expensive than its print price ($119.08), its online price ($103.48), or its combined print/online price ($139.88).

Or, in another perspective, it’d be $192 more per year than its iPhone app.

NOTE: The subscription prices are based WSJ’s web site advertised rate of 3/30/10. which is billed at “a savings of over 80%”

NOTE TO WSJ EDITORS: Shouldn’t that be “a savings of more than 80%?”

You have to wonder what’s going through the minds of the powers-that-be in determining such a price point before the first device hits consumers’ hands. I personally have not seen WSJ iPad edition, but I have to wonder just what makes this edition that much more valuable than its print, online or mobile versions?

My only assumption is that, like WSJ’s other platforms, it is expected that the cost will be written off by most of its subscribers as a business expense. However, it remains to be seen if businesses, especially in this economic climate, will be willing to pay more for an experience they can get elsewhere at a cheaper price … or even free.

I also wonder if businesses are ready to accept the iPad as a business tool, especially given Apple’s marketing strategy of its products as lifestyle devices. (Case in point: A BusinessWeek survey last year found the majority of BlackBerry users were given their device by their employer, while the majority of iPhone users bought their own).

WSJ’s opening salvo into the “making money on a new platform” stakes could hurt other news organizations’ attempts to create revenue models on the iPad, especially as you drill down to the local level. Given that Apple is setting a price point that will make the iPad more accessable to the masses, just how many $17.99 subscriptions will the masses will be willing to plop onto their devices?

Unless the WSJ’s iPad customer experience is dramatically different, engaging and convenient (similar to the Sports Illustrated demo I’ve discussed earlier), the starting subscription price seems rather steep. Let’s hope they don’t shoot themselves in the foot with this revenue grab.

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