Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Miami Herald launches first tablet edition, offering readers full access to content for only 99 cents per month

Unless I have missed an app inside the App Store, it appears that The Miami Herald is the first McClatchy newspaper to launch a tablet edition. After so much bad news, poor earnings, staff layoffs at many of their newspapers, this launch might be finally some good news.
The app, The Miami Herald iPad Edition, is a free download which offers iPad owners the top stories that appear for free. But once opened, the app asks you to either sign into your print account or to buy a subscription. If you do opt to pay, you then get complete access to all content within the app. A click of the Sections button reveals all the sections, along with a little "lock" icon which shows that you won't be able to access the section until you have signed in or paid for a tablet subscription.

The subscription cost, however, shouldn't deter anyone: only 99 cents per month. This is very aggressive, and might make a few print customers angry, knowing that the website currently quotes $14.99 per month for a subscription to the print product. But it should be remembered that the newspaper's website is still free, so this is typical of many newspapers, caught between a free Internet and a home delivery model.
One thing that struck me right away when finding this new app in the App Store was that it was not launched by McClatchy – the 'seller' is listed as The Miami Herald. Does that mean that this was a local initiative? If so, the paper's publisher, David Landsberg deserves credit for this project and for getting the ball rolling at the newspaper chain.

As someone who recently cancelled their seven day delivery of the Chicago Tribune (though I retained Sunday delivery), if I lived in South Florida I would definitely be tempted to subscribe to the paper through the app, while continuing the print edition on Sunday. That is why I would priced the app a bit higher, but I can not argue with the pricing decision here. If corporate is not pushing digital initiatives, then someone has to get things going. (I suppose it's possible that this was a corporate initiative, though I have seen no evidence of that.)

I do have one major complaint, though: as I mentioned above, all the sections other than Top News are locked until you pay for a subscription or sign into your print account. OK, fine. But lock classifieds? Really? (It took me five minutes for my blood pressure to come down after seeing that. As a newspaper guy, and a former CAM, this really, really pissed me off. To me this is another sign that the ad folk are not being treated as equal partners in digital publishing decisions.

The app as a whole has a single sponsor: Baptist Health South Florida. As TNM readers should know I think this is a good approach to launching a first app. There are no other ad spots right now in the tablet edition, though this could change over time.

The app has good features: font control, the ability to save articles, and the ability to e-mail stories or share them through Twitter or Facebook. All the content from the newsroom can be found within, from the blogs to weather and the rest.

Other than locking away the classified advertising I see little wrong with this app. It's a good start, and something other McClatchy papers can build from.