Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wehaa brings out a replica edition for the Athens News, but sadly it isn't 'that' Athens News

For one brief moment I got pretty excited when I saw an iPad app for the Athens News. I've been reading the online version of the Greek English language newspaper every day in order to stay up on events in the economically troubled nation. But alas this new iPad app was not for that Athens News but was for the Athens News that is in Ohio.
This Athens News app is a free download produced by the digital publishing company Wehaa of Franklin, Wisconsin. That means replica editions.

Wehaa has been business launching replica apps for weekly papers since late last year. Today the company released new ones. In addition to the Athens News app there are replica editions for Illinois Times, El Planeta (a Spanish language newspaper from Boston), San Diego CityBeat, and the B2B magazine Irrigation & Green Industry.

(I really wish the B2B magazine app had been around when I was the publisher of the Green Media group. Now, as a competitor, one can more easily keep track of the ads appearing in it!)

Each of the apps are released not under the publisher's names but under Wehaa, which limits each publisher to offering the apps and access to the content for free.

For free distribution publications, that is, ones that tend to distribute their newspapers at restaurants, grocery stores, vending machines, a free replica edition probably makes sense – the new iPad version is just another way to gain distribution; and this appears to be Wehaa's target market, free distribution publications.

But for B2B this model doesn't really make sense – most B2B try to "qualify" their readership in preparation for a BPA audit. But with so many B2Bs dropping their BPAs, or in the case of Irrigation & Green Industry, bypassing BPA for the far less stringent VAC, this might not be an issue.

As for these particular replica editions, I find them poorly created, with pages that don't fit the display because of variations in page sizes. In addition, the swiping between pages is sticky and difficult. While one can zoom into the page the action is clunky, with the page redrawing every time one touches screen.

But my guess is that the publishers chose to let these replica apps appear in the App Store because they were simply part of the package of services offered by the vendor, and caused no additional work on the part of the publisher. Cheap and easy, it is what far too many publishers go for when it comes to tablet editions.