While USA Today has seen its hotel distribution cut in the past year, the Gannett (NYSE: GCI) newspaper is still betting that travelers will respond to the brand as an app. The newspaper has released AutoPilot, its second free app, today with exclusive sponsorship from Hampton Hotels. The hotel chain will have its ads on AutoPilot all to itself for several weeks. The first USAT app has been in the top five news apps since lauching last December and has had 2 million downloads. Though USAT publisher David Hunke has expressed regret about not charging for its news app, execs are still holding off on the pay-to-download model.
Sources told paidContent that they are exploring a number of possibilities, including for creating new apps that will either could require a subscription or one-time charge. So far, UClick charges $4.99 to iPhone users who want the USA Today Crossword app, but that is just a branding deal and is not controlled by USAT. For now, USAT believes the app market is in an experimental stage and so, it is more interested in testing the waters and seeing how much advertisers will pay before turning to consumers. Company sources also emphasize that it is not likely to go down the Rupert Murdoch route of charging for its existing free apps, as the WSJ recently introduced for its news app.Release