‘The whopping $3.99 purchase price’ – Updated →

Jeff Blagdon at The Verge, on Instapaper being Apple’s App of the Week:

If you’ve never looked at Instapaper before or been hesitant to drop the whopping $3.99 purchase price, now is your chance. The free download campaign runs until December 19th.

I tweeted a link to this story earlier today, and several people replied hoping that The Verge was simply “being sarcastic” when it came to describing to Instapaper’s price point of $3.99.

I don’t think that’s the case however, as this sentiment isn’t a new one at The Verge. Back in October, Ellis Hamburger had a headline that got some people fired up: Tweetbot 3 for iPhone gets a fresh new design, but at a price.

In that article, he wrote:

Worth noting — Tweetbot for iPhone is on sale for $2.99, but will eventually make its way up to $4.99.

The reality is that $3.99 (or $4.99, in the case of Tweetbot 3) isn’t a lot of money for an app as good as Instapaper, but in the App Store, it’s becoming an outlier. Even relative to the App Store’s baseline, $3.99 isn’t “whopping.”

While paid apps may be dying, it’s hard to tell from here if tech journalists are making the problem worse or not. My Twitter replies are full of people mocking The Verge’s choice of words, but there’s no denying that free apps do better than their paid competitors out on the open App Store.

Do The Verge’s writers really think that $4 for an app is crazy, or are they simply reflecting the feelings of the wide range of iOS customers that may come across Instapaper and move to something like Pocket1 based on price alone?

I may not want to know the answer to that question.

Update: I reached out to Jeff Blagdon on Twitter. “I was being sarcastic, guess it didn’t come across in the post. Instapaper’s easily worth twice what they charge for it,” he said.

I’ll take him at his word, but it’s a poor choice of words, and probably even worse editing. Sarcasm isn’t a luxury journalists are afforded. I still think the comment reflects the overall state of thought around paid apps, however.

Update 2: As of a little while ago, The Verge added a parenthetical to he article making Blagdon’s sarcasm more clear. While this is an improvement, such sarcasm doesn’t have a place in actual reporting. Sarcasm is hard to read online, and based on the comments under the article, I’m not the only one who read “whopping” as a serious remark.

  1. To save you from emailing me let me say this: I don’t care how much you love Pocket, for reasons beyond the free price tag. I really dislike the app’s reading environment, which is far inferior to Instapaper’s. As that’s the whole point of an app in this category, I’m not interested in changing.  ↩