Thursday, October 14, 2010

New York Post brings its unique brand of journalism to the iPad with a paid app; includes in-app subscription options

One of my favorite stories about working at the ol' Herald Examiner in Los Angeles was the time Hearst execs approved a trial print run of a tabloid edition of the paper -- better to read on the city's non-existent subway system, the story goes. The union representing the truck drivers wanted to make sure everyone in the newsroom saw this monstrosity of a newspaper so they drove by the front door of 111 S. Broadway and dumped the tabloids out into the street (I was able to grab a copy and have it to this day).
In the end Hearst dumped the tabloid idea and then later closed the paper.

When you think of tabloid daily newspapers in America you think of New York, not California, and certainly not the Midwest. You think of the Post and the Daily News.

So it is that Murdoch's Post becomes the first of the NY tabloids to have their own iPad edition. In fact, since the New York Times has failed to follow-up with a paid app that offers full access to the daily newspaper, one could argue that the Post app is the first real iPad app from a New York paper -- unless one counts the app from that other Murdoch paper, the Wall Street Journal.

Yep, that's the Post.

The New York Post app costs $1.99 and gives downloaders access to 30 days worth of newspapers.

I suppose one could call the Post's initial effort a modified replica edition. The app basically gives you access to that day's paper, but it also has a few features that make it a little more than just a replica edition.

One feature is really a gimmick: the ability to create your own 'cover'. But other features allow you to open the paper to the sports section instantly (important, since this is the way many New Yorkers read the Post), there are in article slideshows, and others involve navigation. The essential feature is that complete issues are downloaded so that subscribers can read the paper offline -- extremely important in a city that actually has a subway system, right?. As a result, the app will probably serve readers well.

Left: the app's subscription page; Middle: the quick jump navigation pull down; Right: the app allows you to design your own issue cover.

I've nothing to say about the Post's content -- it remains uniquely New York -- but the in-app subscription feature is vitally important to point out. As mentioned previously, readers get a month's worth of access for their initial $1.99 purchase; then readers can buy continued access for $6.99 a month, $39.99 for six months, or $74.99 for a year. (The Post website says a home delivered subscription for Manhattan would cost $14 per month, or $182 for a year.)

According to Forbes, the Post's app is unique in that it has this built-in subscription model without first having a paid website. "What Apple has told publishers, according to sources that have been involved in those discussions, is that only those who had a “preexisting digital business” would be allowed to sell app-based subscriptions," Jeff Bercovici wrote today. If this is true or merely what the writer has heard is not known.

The Post certainly has a loyal audience, and like Fox News, its audience is going to be enthusiastic about this app. What will be interesting is to see, however, is whether the Post is able to sell a significant number of subscriptions through this app -- it will probably take a few months to reach any kind of conclusion. The only question I would have is this: are there enough NY-based iPad owners who will fit the Post reader profile to result in a significant number of sales? Frankly, I have no clue, but I'm definitely interested in discovering the answer.