Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Examiner releases iPad replica editions for their tabloid newspapers in San Francisco and Washington

The Bay Area is not exactly tech deprived, is it? But when it comes to newspapers on the cutting edge of digital publishing, well, it is the backwaters of the art.

San Francisco has been, for many years now, a sad newspaper market. When I worked for Lesher Communications, later Knight-Ridder, the Examiner was owned by Hearst Newspapers (my old employer in Los Angeles). Young Will Hearst III was as energetic a publisher as there was. This TV commercial will give you a feeling of the times:

But since 1965 The Examiner had been part of the joint operating agreement with the larger and more powerful Chronicle, famously made fun of in the movie "All the President's Men". When the Chronicle Publishing Company divested its interests, Hearst took over the Chronicle, selling off The Examiner to the Fang family to satisfy regulators.

Despite the fact that, the website home of the Chronicle, is one of America's top websites according to page views, Hearst Newspapers has not been a leader website design, mobile media or tablet publishing. This has created a huge opportunity for other newspapers in the Bay Area.
Alas, my old employer, Lesher, was sold off in 1995 to Knight-Ridder, who then sold the chain to Dean Singleton's MediaNews Group – which by that time also owned the Oakland Tribune and the San Jose Mercury News (whose parent company, Affiliated Media., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January of 2010).

All this is important to remember when you consider the attitudes of tech giants like Apple and Google. They reside in a part of the country where the newspaper publishers are the least adventurous, least tech savvy, and based on performance, the least successful.
What Apple thinks of our industry when they approve a replica edition such as this one from The Examiner is probably not hard to figure out. The free app, created by PageSuite Limited, the company behind the New York Daily News app, is a simple replica of the print edition.

While the app is free, the decision to make the content free here also is probably understandable in the case of The Examiner: the tabloid paper is delivered free to certain neighborhoods around The City.

Unlike the Daily News app, which offers more features, and is a branded app – meaning that the New York Daily News is listed in the App Store as the seller – this app is branded with the developer's name, generally a sign that the publisher has taken a less expensive option.

There is no reason to beat up on replicas again, I do that pretty regularly, but that this is the best app from a San Francisco publisher to date shows the sorry state of things in the Bay Area.

(On the bright side, the Giants beat their rivals, the Dodgers, last night.)

Also released today was the same app for the Washington Examiner. In the case, the Examiner in the DC area has some competition from the Washington Post's mobile and tablet offerings. (Note: I did not find similar versions for Android in the Android Market.)
The Washington Post for iPad has been having some technical difficulties, however. Users have been complaining that they can not log into the app despite an update on March 15.

I have not encountered any problems, so I assume the issue has been resolved. Of greater concern, however, has to be the presence of a house ad on the front page for Slate's iPad app. This may be being delivered to me because I am out-of-the-area, but certainly some sort of paid national ad would be better than a house ad, no?