What makes Headlines Reader different?

With the release of my first iPad application, this is a question I’ve been thinking about a lot this week: what makes Headlines Reader different that any of my competitors? Why would someone spend $7.99 on my app when they can get Zite or Flipboard for free?

It’s interesting, then, that just today, Zite has reminded me of the answer to that very question and the key word was at the end of that sentence all along: free.

Today, Zite announced a new Publishers Partnership program that allows publishers who sign up with Zite to have their publications inserted as new categories in their app for all their users.  Admittedly, you can opt-out of this feature, but, as we all know, most people don’t bother to change the default.

From the press release:

With the Zite Publisher Program, publishers not only drive additional article views by having their own section, but they also encourage readers to download their apps or subscribe to their digital publication at the best possible point: after they read a great piece of content.

And:

All participating publishers receive regular analytics and reporting to understand how their sections are performing in Zite.

Zite’s free-ness is a double-edged sword.  On the one side, their users can download and start using their app right away with no required investment.  If they like it, great.  If they don’t, they can delete the app and walk away.  On the other side, like any business, Zite needs to make money.  One way they made money was by being purchased by CNN.  But, CNN isn’t doing it for charity — they need to make money too.

And, as many others have said before me, we see it’s true again: if it’s free, you’re the product.

To get back to the original question: “What makes Headlines Reader different?”  The answer is this: it’s not free.  When you pay for the app, you can be assured that with Headlines Reader:

  • There are no ads.
  • I won’t sell or give away your personal information.
  • I won’t sell or give away aggregate information (with the exception of reserving the right to post zeitgeist-style statistics on the blog such as “The New York Times was popular in 2012.”)
  • I won’t add content to your app that you didn’t subscribe to.

So, in the end, what makes my app different is more about what it doesn’t have, than what it does.