Travel guide publisher NileGuide found there was a conflict between building its brand and retaining a fee-based iPhone app.
Thus, NileGuide made its previous $2.99 What's Next iPhone app, introduced in March 2010, available via free download.
The thinking at launch is that What's Next, which features content from a couple dozen content publishers, was more than just a carbon copy of NileGuide.com and as a complement to the website, it would be appropriate to make it a paid app.
But, NileGuide CEO Josh Steinitz says the company found that charging the $2.99 fee got in the way of expanding the NileGuide brand.
"There’s obviously a lot of noise in travel (and in the iTunes store in general), and we realized that building a super-compelling, truly functional app isn’t enough if you’re still in the process of building your brand, especially if you want to charge for it since you’re not explicitly monetizing the content," Steinitz says.
Steinitz says the company hopes that by making What's Next free, NileGuide will expose lots more users to the brand, drive traffic and engender loyalty.
"In addition," Steinitz says, "it opens up additional mobile business models like advertising, lead generation and sponsorships that are difficult if the app is not exposed widely."
The paid versus free content debate is taking place across the Web -- and not just in travel, of course.
For example, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp recently dropped its much-anticipated plan for the news media to band together to offer paid content on the iPad and other tablet devices.
And, NileGuide is unalone in its switch from paid app to free download.
One website, FreeAppAlert, for example, specializes in notifying consumers when paid apps go free.
A lot of mobile apps are headed down a toll-free highway.