Monday, April 11, 2011

Bloomberg Businessweek launches discounted iPad edition; swipe or scroll, the choice is yours

Business magazine Bloomberg Businessweek has released its initial tablet edition today in Apple's App Store. Bloomberg Businessweek+ is a free iPad app that creates a library where users can download one issue for free and additional individual issues after they have bought a highly discounted four-week subscription, an in-app purchase of only $2.99. Print subscribers can log-in to access their issues free of charge.
The app features both portrait and landscape modes with readers scrolling through stories when the iPad is in portrait, swiping when in landscape.

The app opens to an introductory video of either one or two people sitting around a tablet discussing the issue, something that could be shot on your cellphone, frankly. But it is consistent with an app that does not try to throw the kitchen sink at readers, making it far easier to repeat week after week.

If readers want a digital replica edition, Bloomberg Businessweek still offers its issues through the Zinio digital newsstand. But while that option offers the ability of the reader to access their issues through multiple devices (computer, tablet or mobile phone) the issues are still priced at newsstand rates of $4.99.
The app has an overall sponsor, NetApp, a digital data storage and management solutions company. Individual sections, however, have their own sponsors. The GlobalEconomics section, for instance, is "brought to you by" OppenheimerFunds, while Companies & Industries is sponsored by BASF, and Markets & Finance by Goldman Sachs.

The app allows readers to access additional information about companies mentioned in the articles by tapping on the company's bolded name – this pulls up stock price information and any recent news stories from Bloomberg's news service.

What is missing from the app at this point is a breaking news section that could pull in stories from the website. The app, strangely, does not have push notifications, so if any breaking news occurs this app will not help keep you informed. Of course, like any app, this could be updated.
There are three font sizes available, with the default size being the smallest. Articles can also be shared via Twitter and Facebook, as well as email.

But because this app does not contain animation and other video content, the issue sizes are rather modest, meaning that issue download times are fairly short. Even more importantly, issues can be read offline so that business travelers will have no problem quickly downloading, then reading their issues during air travel.

Finally, the app description promises that issues will be available to tablet edition subscribers by 10PM ET each Thursday.

I see at least one replica edition vendor arguing that the economics of creating these natively designed apps is excessive. The problem with that argument is that it implies that readers don't care whether they read a digital version of a print edition or a digital product specifically designed for the device's platform.

Unfortunately this is just wrong. Creating once and porting over to different devices leaves the publisher with one attractive product and a catalog of misplaced products.

I would rather see these vendors begin to offer publishers inexpensive native design options rather than continue to insist that readers just won't mind being fed these ugly and hard to read replicas. But I sense that a lot of vendors get pretty worried when they see important publishers investing in their tablet editions.