Monday, March 28, 2011

Times of India releases first tablet edition along lines of NYT for iPad, but app lacks sustainable business model

The Times of India this morning saw its first tablet edition enter the iTunes App Store. The free app, The Times of India for iPad, is modelled after the NYT/Financial Times design which has proved popular for both readers and publishers.
PhotobucketThe app's description does an excellent job selling the app, though that is hardly necessary since at this point there is no price attached. "Speed News scroll with minute-by-minute updates posted by more than 500 Times of India reporters from more than 80 Indian cities," the description states. It also mentions "live cricket scores", gotta have that.

The app contains many of the important features readers are beginning to take for granted: video content and photo galleries, the ability to read news offline, and social networking sharing of news stories.

The feature missing here, strangely, is the ability to stream the video content. A user can tell if an app is AirPlay-enabled by whether the video content is still visible on the iPad's display while Apple TV streaming is enabled: if you can still see the video then only the audio is being streamed, but if the video player grows dark and displays an AirPlay message then you know the video is being successfully streamed to the user's Apple TV for displaying on a television set. This feature is missing on this app, as it is the New York Times app, as well.

Left: The video player shows that this app is not AirPlay-enabled;
Right: reader commenting is built right into the tablet edition.

The video content also requires a live network connection to view, something that is fairly common with news apps (magazine apps often embed the video content, making them hefty downloads.)

While the app allows readers to view the comments on the articles inside, though there is no built-in mechanism for adding your own comments at this time. This is too bad, but probably to be expected since there is no registration built into the app other than the ability to sign into your Twitter or Facebook account to share stories.

This is a good start, as far as a first app is concerned, but the lack of a subscription or even single issue mechanism (combined with a lack of in-app advertising content) calls into question the long-term business model being employed here.