Europe's biggest newspaper decides the iPhone browser isn't welcome

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Logo Bild.deSo much for the coming mobile nirvana of free mobile content – at least for iPhone users in Germany. Today Europe’s biggest newspaper, BILD-Zeitung, intends to use, in effect, brute force to compel users buy its new iPhone app. The paper tabloid is going to block anyone using an iPhone browser from accessing its website.

Now, readers will not only have to pay for the dedicated BILD iPhone app, but they also need to pony-up recurring fees for new articles. The same is planned for Axel Springer’s quality paper Die Welt. Users of Nokia, Blackberry, HTC or other smartphone brands will not be blocked – but only for as long as it takes for Springer to develop an app for each device.

Guinea pig: BZ Berlin for iPhone

Guinea pig: BZ Berlin for iPhone

Until now, was Germany’s second most visited news site with 5.6m unique users and 1.36bn page impressions per month. It’s catching up fast with the market leader Spiegel online which is only on 20,000 unique users away. But this growth could suffer a setback as the site’s holding company, Axel Springer AG, plans to implement this pay per use model.

Springer announced in August that in the long run every smartphone user will have to pay to access their content. The iPhone is the first device because its users are “especially ready to pay“, as CEO Mathias Döpfner puts it. The first guinea pig was the €0.79 iPhone app for Berlin’s biggest newspaper BZ that was released in October. Admittedly he has a point – iPhone users do pay for apps.

But blocking iPhone users, which in the US now make up 50 percent of smartphone web traffic and blow everyone else away with their data usage, is a dangerous move.

Döpfner himself says that today the iPhone makes up more than a half of Springer’s mobile users. As long as competitors give their news away for free and iPhone users can read the two newspapers on their laptops without a charge, his company can only lose, at least in theory.

Of course, the strategy may well back-fire, even when it could use more readers, unimpared by pay walls. BILD gets constantly censured by the German Press Council for sensational journalism and Springer’s prestigious title, Die Welt, has been losing money for most of its life since its foundation in 1946.

This bizarre strategy from Axel Springer is in marked contrast to other European newspapers, which are in the main a lot more generous to iPhone users.

The UK’s Guardian newspaper has a full iPhone browser version as well as a great generic mobile website. Even the prestigious Financial Times has a gratis iPhone app to access most of its content for free.

Incurable news junkies can get their fix from the €1.59 iPhone app World Newspapers which provides free access to 4,000 newspapers in almost 200 countries.

Seems like Axel Springer either didn’t get the memo – or it thinks its cunning plan will work.

  • Vincent

    Are you sure? I open and it just works.

    I also open it from the Newspaper(s) app on the iPhone and it also works:

    • Kolja

      As long as the RSS-feeds remain free you can still access the content from any device – via your favorite RSS-reader.

    • K

      This is exactly what I proposed a while back. If iphone owners demand an app for everything they do on their phones then they should pay a “tax” for that. I don’t see this company doing the same for other smartphone owners as we’re happy just using the browser.

      Apple have set the mobile web back a few years by training their users into expecting an app for even the most mundane of tasks that could be done on a web page. Such as reading news.

  • diego

    With a jailbroken iPhone you can bypass this by installing UAFaker (user agent faker) via Cydia.

  • What

    Dont worry about it. It is the shittiest paper in the whole country.

    • Farhad

      I second that: shittiest newspaper in the world. Poor Katharina Blum…

      • Martin

        Never mind. If the poor souls who read this stuff are really willing to pay for the shit they are served they don´t deserve any better.

      • Christoph Wagner

        BILD is made for idiots. No somewhat intelligent person reads it. So yeah, they’ll probably pay.

      • Hendrik

        But still every politician, manager and other persons with public presence are reading it.

        so its more like 50% of the readership is rather “stupid” – but the other 50% is willing to know what the other half is going to think (because Bild kind of dictates their opinion).

        But thats probably the case for every tabloid newspaper (like Sun in the UK).

  • App Review

    Definitely not the smartest choice. They can’t keep this up- it’s only a matter of time before they shut down all together or reverse their decision to save themselves from the newspaper graveyard.

  • striatic

    so either apple can allow user agent switching in the browser settings, or they can keep taking a cut of site specific app sales …

    i wonder which is more likely.

    • passerby

      If anything Apple should allow third-party browsers on iPhone. Don’t they still block Opera?

  • Aweb

    Android users won’t have any problem, because I think they can change their user agent in the browser’s settings.

  • bobdobbs

    But this growth could suffer a setback as the site’s holding company, Axel Springer AG, plans to implement this pay per use model.<<<

    Uh, ya think?

  • ArrowSmith

    What’s the problem? No wonder society is so frakked, with EVERYONE expecting a freebie. Pay up freeloaders.

    • ctrl+alt+startup

      Problem is that the model won’t work. They are digging their own grave.

      • MikeMc

        Go post spam for your free because nobody reads it blog elsewhere.

      • MikeMc

        “Of course, the strategy may well back-fire, even when it could use more readers, unimpared by pay walls.”

        Why does it need readers that don’t generate any revenue? If anything the people who access via mobile probably cost more more in bandwidth than they generate. Unless there’s some evidence to the contrary.

      • MikeMc

        Sorry, that was a little over the top.

    • OS15


      All content has to be free on the web or the company will be blacklisted. You can have small banner ads on the web, but no running commercials or any “for pay” scheme for data.

      We agreed long ago to that policy, so either accept it, or find another line of work.

      Regards, The Geeks

      • newspapers

        Dear Geeks,

        It is with deep regrets that we wish to inform you that we have to decline your policy. You are an insignificant portion (0.05%) of our readers. We will miss you. Find another site that suits your need. We hear that your kind hang out at twatter or whatever that is. Good luck.


  • netpaths

    Seems like a great publicity stunt, we have no problem accessing Bild on the iphone.

  • mike

    that’s pretty cool

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  • Garyg

    Noone will pay. I am now an ex reader of this news outlet.
    Idiots in charge are dumb

    • MikeMc

      “I am now an ex reader of this news outlet.”

      I’m sure they’re crying in their dopplebock over the loss of your non-revenue generating freeloader ass.

  • jeffj

    wall street journal did the same thing, to force people to get their app. Now a subscriber cannot log in via safari on the iphone! Is this legal? To discriminate based on browser?

  • carocat

    This is good news as it hopefully means less people are reading the trash the BILD Zeitung comes up with every day..

    There are daily grave errors with its reporting, some even causing the wrong people to be publically condemned for criminal actions they didn’t commit. is a good place to start for those that actually read the paper..

  • mj

    I reckon he’s right. iPhone users will pay to play.

    But the iPhone app has to be amazing. And if that fails, then they’re dead. Like it or not, these new phones are the way we will get news and, in my opinion, the way we will purchase in the future – with each of us carrying our own debit system. Great apps will define the ecosystem – shitty experiences will kill vendors.

  • Börje

    That is kind of good news. It would be even better if they would close down Bild, which is a paper made for stupid idiots. The same for Welt, which means world and was the most right wing paper in cold war times. This times it is just irrelevant.

  • Soren

    BILD is not a newspaper at all. It’s a big pile of bullshit every day. Yellow Press^2. Readers normally have an IQ below room temperature – they must have to take the pain in the ass while reading on…

    • Heidiho

      Just like SUN. Everybody claims it is shite but everyone reads it. Cos – how else would you know? I admit, I sometimes read it, it is also fun to do so, refreshing to have this beside the serious newspapers. And I know a lot of people with so-called high IQ who read it, and do not see anything wrong with that. Just don’t take it too serious, will you. Plus, in the past on quite a few occasions there have been breaking news first in Bild before all other news media.

      Back to the subject, I am not convinced people will pay for reading Bild on the iphone. Think it is a big mistake they are about to make, should they be serious and this is not a bit of (bad) PR in order to test the waters. One should rather get more visitors to the site and then see to earn more money via smart advertising with this higher rate of visitors. That would be progressive.

  • bildfan

    BILD readers (print + online) are pretty similar to the average Joe in Germany, they need guidance and they pay premiums for “good” guidance. You can be very sure, that some of the readers will be happy to pay. They already pay for “Volksprodukte” (rembering Hitler’s Volksempfänger) which are normal products with a Bild logo on it that cost much more than the normal product without logo – if you can’t understand this you don’t understand Germany.

    And if BILD hammers every day to its 12 million readers “you have to pay” this really changes the perception in one of the biggest mobile markets in the world.

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  • Axel Springer

    Axel Springer was sold out to Hellman Friedman Holdings, a San Fran investment firm, who also owns, surprise surprise, Getty Images: -the- monopolistic corporation that is currently using extremely anti-competitive tactics to kill the stock image industry – example being, buying Istockphoto and JupiterImages, and manipulating them to squash any competition through strong-arm tactics, particularly through using their legal dept. to sue the hell out of anyone they don’t like. The Dept. of Justice has their eyes on them big time and was well on their way towards an anti-trust case before Mark Getty sold out to HF and evaded responsibility for rendering the creative imagery industry a one-sided show.

    It is clear Getty sold to Hellman Friedman (thus abandoning their public trading status) specifically in order to mitigate anti-trust and monopoly-related dealings.

    It is no wonder that a subsidiary of HF, especially one with control of a large portion of sheeple in Germany (Bild readers = ham & eggers), would resort to extortionist tactics like this.

    • PJebsen

      Hellman & Friedman LLC only hold 9.9 % of Axel Springer’s shares.

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