After just five paid issues populated the iPad Newsstand — Arianna Huffington is making her weekly tablet-only magazine a free download in the App Store.The ambitious project simply called Huffington, was launched in mid June for the price of 99 cents an issue, $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year. But during a company wide meeting on Wednesday, executive editor Tim OBrien announced to several hundred staffers huddled into a sixth-floor auditorium at AOLs Broadway headquarters that the magazine would become a free download.OBrien told those in attendance “that there had been a total of roughly 115,000 downloads of the app,” according to a report by Capital New York.
Since The app was always delivered with a free month to new subscribers — its unclear how much up sell occurred from the flurry of initial downloads.”In the end, we felt that asking people to pay for the magazine was inconsistent with The Huffington Post itself, which has never charged for content,” Rhoades Alderson, a HuffPost spokesman, told Capital when we asked about the move. “Were thrilled with the way the magazine has been received.”Huffington was so thrilled by the magazines reception that she decided to make her “array of narrative jewels” crafted by nearly 500 editors and reporters free for the taking. In addition — the new-media giant announced that anyone who had paid for a Huffington subscription would be fully reimbursed.As I glanced through a few of the back-issues on my Newsstand app, it became instantly obvious that several of the featured stories were not exclusive to the iPad. Several of the articles could be located on The Huffington Post website — which were published a few days earlier than the iPad only version. A fatal flaw in my opinion.Earlier this week News Corps The Daily digital-only news publication, hacked one third of its roughly 170 employees with plans to simplify designs and scrap the standalone Opinion section along with reporting on sports.While the dream of paid digital-only publishing may not be completely dead just yet — the medium will have to undergo a metamorphosis in order to find the breakout success enjoyed by the innovative news aggregator app Flipboard that adheres to an advertising-based approach. A model that Huffington will now employ as well — relying solely on advertising going forward, according to Tim OBrien.With the entire Huffington Post also available as a free download, I fear it wont be long now before the premium Huffington experiment suffers a sudden and early demise. But before you get too depressed — grab the free issues before the fat lady starts singing. It just doesnt get any better than free.