As part of a debate on free versus paid mobile content.
The first session this afternoon at the M-Publishing conference in London focusedon free versus paid content on mobile, pitting Stephen Pinches from the Financial Times against Tom Hume of Future Platforms.
Pinches kicked off by pointing out that 2010 is expected to be the first year that the FT makes more money from content than from advertising.
"We're seeing a significant demand for paid content, and that translates to mobile," he said. The FT has seen 350,000 downloads of its iPhone app, according to Pinches, who had another stat to reveal on its iPad business.
"We launched our iPad app two weeks ago, and have already seen 130,000 downloads," he said. "That was before the iPad launched in the UK, so those downloads were just from the US."
Hume took the opposing view for the debate. "I think digital content should be free," he said, while specifying that he meant "free at the point of use" - someone might be paying for it, but that isn't the person consuming it.
He admitted that there are problems with digital advertising models, and suggested that publishers could learn from the 'ancillary services' model practised by budget airlines - additional services sold on the back of access to content.
"Other models include sponsorship and syndication," said Hume. "You can look at the Guardian with their open API as a model of syndication for a Web 2.0 world."
"Free isn't a crazy idea inflicted on the industry by the internet," he concluded, saying that the key for publishers is to look at a mixture of ways to make money, while making their content free to consumers.
As ever with debates like this, the answer isn't one or the other. Smart publishers will be able to make money from mobile through a mixture of free and paid content, rather than sticking dogmatically to one or the other.