Friday, June 18, 2010

The tablet abroad: News apps and the French

In between World Cup matches on Thursday I sat at my desk and wondered what iPad users in other countries were downloading, and what there reactions have been to the first attempts of media companies to bring their brands to the iPad. This is the first in a series of posts on news apps as seen through the iTunes app store.

As I write this France is about to play Mexico in both teams second game of the World Cup. So why not start this series with a look with what the French think of the news apps being introduced for the iPad?

Here are the Top Ten apps in the French iTunes app store:

1. Le Monde
2. Reeder for iPad
3. Wired
4. GEO Mag.no1
5. Pulse News Reader
6. Instapaper
7. NewsRack
8. TV HD
9. Digital Photographer
10. Buzz Aldrin Portal to Science
1. La Tribune pour iPad
2. 20 version iPad
4. L'
5. Paris Match
6. Libération pour iPad
7. Le Figaro
9. Le journal Le Parisien
10. Zinio Magazine Newsstand
Apple introduced the iPad to France on a few weeks ago on May 28, but for weeks prior to the release those who pre-ordered the tablet were able to see what owners in America thought of the device. Additionally, they were able to see that some news organizations had already released iPad apps, since there may be some interest from French readers in the states, and also to work out the bugs on their initial app releases.

But since May 30 more and more newspaper and magazine apps have been released, and just like in the U.S. different approaches are being taken concerning pricing.

The Le Monde app is priced at 0.79 € (99 cents) to download. That first download gives you access to your first newspaper. That is also the price for each additional edition.

Another newspaper, Libération, have launched a free app with a sponsor -- much as the New York Times did -- but in this case it is not a single-sponsor, just a featured sponsor as all the other print ads appear in the daily edition.  The app itself is mainly a flipbook version of the newspaper, but it does offer offline reading, and the app provides readers with a text-only version of articles in the newspaper should you prefer (see below)

Most people on iTunes do not go from one countries app store to another -- but it is revealing. In the U.S. store there are 27 reviews of the app from Libéeration -- actually, I'm surprised there are that many. But in the French store there are considerably more.

But though the app, officially called Libération pour iPad, ranks sixth on the free news app chart, the vast majority of uses are critical of the app:
Je garde l'app car j'aime le journal. Néanmoins la lecture en mode paysage est difficile (Impossible de zoomer assez). De plus, il est vrai qu'il faut essayer de faire plus que du PDF. Wired a par exemple fait des efforts. Inspirez-vous en!

I keep the app because I like the newspaper. But reading in landscape mode is difficult (not enough zoom). Moreover, it is true that we try to do more than the PDF. Wired has made such efforts. Get inspired!
Several other reviews offered similar criticism. I found this interesting for a number of reasons. First, the app is free so usually iPad owners cut the publisher a bit of slack with a free app. The other is that the iPad version isn't completely without some native iPad navigation features. Finally, many U.S. iPad owners have criticized the Wired app as not going far enough, so to speak. But here the Wired app is held up as a model to follow.

Left: a front page view; Middle: an article with a pop-up window that displays a text-only version of the article selected; Right: an ad! The sponsor of the edition Diesel Fuel for Life.

For the most part, it appears that for now the French prefer the free app model for the iPad. And while many different types of news apps dominate the Top Charts for French iPhone apps, iPad apps are dominated by the major newspapers and magazines.

I suppose many in France would consider the timing of the arrival of the iPad and the World Cup an unfortunate coincidence as their team is one game away from ending the tournament. Mexico cleaned their clocks yesterday, but today they can read the awful news on their new iPads.

I suppose some u.S. soccer fans will be happily reading about the draw the U.S. got today on their iPads, somewhat happier than French fans. But, really, this team is a mess. Still alive, but a mess.