The Bay Area News Group, part of MediaNews Group, has released its first tablet edition. The free app will serve as the iPad edition of for the group made of the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune, Marin Independent Journal, Santa Cruz Sentinel, San Mateo County Times, Palo Alto Daily News, East County Times, Tri-Valley Herald and other local publications.
If the Bay Area News app looks familiar, it should. It is identical to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch app talked about this morning. In other words, like Handmark, Verve Wireless is offering its clients an off-the-shelf app, customizable to a small degree, but otherwise exactly the same as offered other newspaper clients.
The good news, I guess, is that at least these apps from Verve Wireless appear designed for the tablet. That is unlike the apps for newspapers like Freedom Communications, which are really just variations of the iPhone designed app.
What's truly sad about all this it that for now this new Bay Area News Group app stands alone, thanks to the complete lack of apps produced by Hearst Newspaper for its San Francisco Chronicle property. How is it that the home to Silicon Valley can be so backwards when it comes to New Media, mobile and tablets? (Don't answer that.)
The Bay Area News Group app does offer a couple of improvements over the app produced by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch team: first, the app description plainly tells users that the app is "Free for a limited time" -- a warning that is missing from the P-D app; second, the bottom navigation buttons are clearly for photo galleries -- I couldn't figure out what the P-D app was trying to give me.
Considering the time and effort put into launching an app, an off-the-shelf, your app looks like my app, approach is not optimal. It reflects a lack of commitment to digital publishing, and tablets publishing, in particular. But then again, these apps don't hold a lot of promise of revenue. They are designed to tap into mobile advertising networks. Once again, the advertising people appear to have been frozen out -- or at the very least, they are not showing much faith in the abilities of their sales staffs.
I did a search of the Android Market but did not see an equivalent tablet app, though I do see that Verve Wireless does have several Android phone apps for such newspapers as the Post-Dispatch and the Philly.com.
Disclosures: I once worked for Lesher Communications in management, competing against what was to eventually turn into the Bay Area News Group. My paper, The Valley Times, was part of a group of newspapers eventually bought out by MediaNews, and the Times was closed in favor of the Tri-Valley Herald, the competitive paper (we were kicking the Herald's butt). I also mentioned Hearst Newspaper: I used to work for Hearst at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner.
Before the week is up I suppose I should point out another new media app, this one from Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Martha Stewart Everyday Food Magazine is the second tablet edition put out by the company. The first one was released back in November for the company's flagship Martha Stewart Living. That app was well received except by print subscribers who were not happy to have to pay again for the content -- something that the new Apple rules recognize.
The new app gives readers the January/February issue for free so that they can preview the magazine. The current March edition is priced at $2.99.