Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Gainesville Sun goes in a different direction from its fellow NYT Regional Media Group daily in Santa Rosa

At the end of last week I did a quick round-up of some miscellaneous media apps that had been released. One of those apps was a tablet edition from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that I found mind numbingly bad. Produced by a flipbook vendor, it is just a mistake in every way imaginable – and that it was from a newspaper that is part of The New York Times Regional Media Group only made the app more inexcusable.
Well here is another one from the Regional Media Group and it goes in the opposite direction. It is a limited, though natively designed iPad app: The Gainesville Sun for iPad. This app is pretty much identical to the original NYT Editor's Select app released one year ago by the Times. The look is the same, the navigation is the same.

From a reader's perspective, the new app from The Gainesville Sun is by far a more enjoyable reading experience. But because the content is identical to the website one does wonder at the necessity for the app.*

From a publisher's perspective, both app are head scratchers: neither will drive much revenue, though the iPad edition of The Sun does have a banner ad along the bottom. One might argue, however, that The Sun's app can now be updated to include more interactive features, maybe its magazine which currently resides on its website as a flipbook produced by Zmags.

It should also be noted that The Sun's app is identical to that produced for the third NYT regional newspaper to have a tablet edition, The Ledger, from Lakeland, Florida.

As a former publisher, I appreciate the idea that individual publishers could pursue separate digital publishing solutions, but I would also think that a group approach could have prevented the mistake that was the Santa Rosa app. No newspaper only two hours down the road from Silicon Valley should have used a flipbook maker to produce a newspaper tablet edition, not unless they were drunk on the local product – which is, by the way, usually excellent.

* Another comment about content: why is it that the imaginations of those involved in the editorial content of these digital products appears to limited? With the resources of both the NYT and fellow newspapers, one would think that the question could be asked 'what new content can we bring into this new digital product?' Additionally, there is the question of both aggregated content and content that could be brought into the product from partnerships with bloggers and other electronic outlets. Instead, the material already in the content management system appears to the beginning and the end of the discussion. And don't get me going again about ad content like local retail and classified!