Gannett CEO Dubow: iPad App Will Remain Free, Ad Supported Through Q3

With advertiser interest in Gannett’s USA Today iPad app still running high, CEO Craig Dubow said that the app will remain free and ad supported at least through Q3. USAT has a set of free news and travel apps available across Apple’s portable devices, including the iPhone and iPod touch as well as on Google’s Android mobile system. In the year and a half since the first app was released, the various USAT apps have been downloaded 5 million times, Dubow told listeners on the company’s Q2 earnings call.

During the Q1 earnings, Dubow had said that the company planned to introduce a paid subscription plan for the iPad app by July 5th. But that was said three weeks after the iPad first went on sale and Gannett (NYSE: GCI) hadn’t anticipated that ad inventory on the app would be sold out so quickly and that demand would only rise. So, as we reported last month, plans for paid subscription format for the iPad app was put on hold, at least for the time being.

Among the blue chip advertisers Gannett has lined up, Coca-Cola, Chrysler, Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) have signed on as sponsors for the USAT iPad app.

Earlier this month, Gannett announced it would begin testing paywalls at a number of its papers as it seeks to find a model that can benefit all its properties. Gannett is now charging $9.95 per month for full online access to The Tallahassee Democrat, The Greenville News, and The Spectrum. Print subscribers will continue to get free online access.

During the Q&A part of the call, Gracia Martore, president and COO, said that Gannett should have a better sense of what works within three to six months. In terms of examples of ways of attracting paying online readers, Martore offered an example being prepared at The Tallahassee Democrat around sports coverage, which has generally been considered one of the few areas that consumers would pay to receive online news (finance is the other area generally considered unique and essential enough to charge for content).