Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Media app update news: Hoodgrown and Project update their iPad apps; ESPN updates its main scoreboard app

New app launches often get all the attention from the press, but updates are an essential part of the new media app environment. Updates not only bring in new features, but fix problems with the original app, or problems that have cropped up over time due to OS updates.
Chris "Cartel" English has issued an update to his Hoodgrown Magazine tablet edition. The new app gives you access to his three issues so far published for the iPad. The app itself is a shell app -- that is, it is only .7 MB in size, and once installed the reader then downloads the individual issues which tend to be rather large. The February issue, for instance, weighs in at 187.8 MB, and I must warn, does take a while to download.

English tells his readers in the iTunes App Store to delete the old app before downloading the new one. His update brings a polished look to his app, already one of the best tablet-only publications out there. (By the way, is it better to update an app, or launch a new one? New apps, after all, show up first in the App Store, while updates get seen by readers who already have downloaded the app, but remain buried in the App Store? Just a thought.)

English is working with Alligator Digital Magazines and has nothing but good things to say about them. A second magazine is about to launch, pending approval by the Apple app team.

Project, the tablet-only edition from Virgin Digital Publishing, has updated its iPad app, as well. The update is minor, but the publisher is able to promoted its third issue's release date of February 17th.
Project landed with a thud back in November, with most media writers pretty disappointed in the effort. My original post back on November 30 said that the initial reaction was positive, but it didn't take long for that to change. I was pretty happy with the app at first but didn't find myself returning to it -- a problem typical with many tablet editions.

So why is this? The reason I think is more simple than most media writers will admit to: who has time to read all the content available out there? Before tablets and smartphones, one was limited to the number of print publications one could consume -- nothing has changed with the advent of tablet publishing. For all the emphasis on bells and whistles, relevant content is still the most important element in a publication's chances at success. This was apparent from the day Wired was released. So many new readers downloaded the app and commented not on the magazine's content but on its tech aspects -- this was sign that these were not "natural" Wired customers and that eventually the number of downloads would decline.

So what would I like to read: how about a jazz magazine in English?

ESPN has updated its ScoreCenter app, the oldest app in its portfolio. There is really not much to mention here other than this being a good time to remind TNM readers that ESPN, like Google, continues to be dedicated to launch and supporting its mobile and tablet apps.
ESPN ScoreCenter was one of the first iPhone apps released once Apple began encouraging third party apps. ESPN continues to lag behind other developers, but like a turtle in the ol' yarn, they keep chugging along. ESPN now has 24 apps available for the iPhone, and seven for the iPad.

Nonetheless, ESPN has not brought their programming to iOS devices. Where is the Baseball Tonight app, for instance? One of the things holding ESPN back is its web based ESPN Insider feature. Insider drives online revenue, but also limits the amount of content available to non-subscribers -- especially when a sport like baseball is not in season.

ESPN also has a stable of Android apps, with the equivalent ScoreCenter app last updated in January. But like much of the Android app environment, ESPN app's can be found under a number of developer names including AirKast Inc.

Next up for ESPN, according to The Guardian, are new mobile apps for Formula 1 and cricket. I will assume that the load times for these two apps will vary wildly.