Saul Hansell’s article in the NYT, Why Are iPhone Users Willing to Pay for Content?, tells the obvious part of the story:
Apple has created an environment that makes buying digital goods easy and common. With an infrastructure that supports one-click purchases of songs and videos, it was easy to add applications in the same paradigm. Paying for software, especially games, is not new to Apple customers. So when you see the iPhone manual or the Frommer’s Paris guidebook, it feels natural to click. (And of course, your credit card is already on file with Apple.)
But Lauren Rich Fine’s article in PaidContent, Micropayments? Won’t Work, makes the crucial, non-obvious point:
When someone buys a song, that person keeps it forever and plays it many times. News is fleeting, it changes by the second.
I would take it another step. People are clearly willing to put up cash for purchases that seem like one-time investments. Buying a $2.99 iPhone app that I end up using for a couple of days is far more palatable than paying $1/day.