Tuesday, October 26, 2010

World Series comes to SF and Dallas where the metro dailies lag behind in mobile and tablet publishing efforts

Tomorrow the World Series begins, that arrogantly named annual event that usually pits the New York Yankees against . . . somebody else. But this year the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers have upset the common wisdom and made it to the big show. As a Giants fan I'm thrilled, if a little leery of what is to follow.
This gives me a good excuse, though, to rag on the two daily newspapers that represent and report on the teams involved in this year's fall classic.

The San Francisco Chronicle, that newspaper that has made a tradition out of producing one of the worst newspaper websites in the country is also a newspaper that, until recently, was without an iPhone or iPad app. But the paper finally released its first iPhone app on October 19th -- and how do you like that title -- SFGate.com - Complete 2010 San Francisco Giants postseason coverage -- rolls right off your tongue, doesn't it?

Oh, and let's repeat that release date: October 19. The Giants and the Braves were the last two teams to play their first postseason game -- October 7. You do the math.

The app itself was probably the result of a high school computer project: a single RSS feed drives all the content, no menu, no photo gallery, no video, no way to share stories. On the bright side, the app is free to download, so you get what you pay for. But it is also free of advertising, you know that doesn't sit well with TNM. Frankly, when it comes to mobile apps from metro dailies it doesn't get much more embarrassing than this.

The "Seller" of this SF Giants apps is listed as Hearst Newspapers -- it is the only app to be found under that name. To see if other Hearst papers have mobile apps you have to search each individual name, meaning that despite the fact that the media company has its own senior vice president for digital media they do not have a corporate digital media development effort that is showing results.

A quick search of what is going on at other Hearst newspapers shows that the Albany Times Union has a mobile app, developed by "White Directory Publishers" which is a Hearst owned 'yellow pages' publisher. But searches for other Hearst owned papers like Beaumont, Bridgeport and other cities did not generate a hit -- even the Houston Chronicle appears not to have entered the modern publishing era. (I did not search for all the newspapers as I gave up after Houston -- after all, if you won't release apps for San Francisco or Houston you are pretty much telling the world your position vis-a-vis mobile and tablet media, right?)

But what about Belo, besides the Dallas Morning News they also own other papers, of course.
Inside iTunes: zip, nada.

OK, baseball is kind of an old fashioned sport, with years of rich tradition; it is often accused of being old fashioned and reluctant to change. Kind of like the newspaper industry, I suppose. But if the World Series were held between the Yankees and the Dodgers I could have written about all the mobile and tablet efforts going on at the Tribune Company and the Times. But instead we are have the Giants and the Rangers. Guess I'll boot up my iPad and open up the Sporting News Today app to read up on the series.

Disclosure: back in the day I worked for Hearst Newspapers at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner.

A quick follow-up: a quick search for "Rangers" in iTunes pulls up a few apps that attempt to capitalize on the Texas Rangers. Also, the McClatchy owned Fort Worth Star-Telegram shows up with an iPhone app, as well. A search for "Giants" reveals an RSS feed driven app for the baseball clue from developer LucidOne Communications which pulls in feeds from nine different news outlets.

It should be also added that both the Bay Area and the Dallas/Fort Worth area are represented in iTunes by mobile apps from the local radio and television affiliates.

Also, for about two minutes this post mentioned Belo and Seattle for some reason -- that was pulled.