Friday, July 1, 2011

KC Star launches first iPad app that replicates both its print and web editions, while bypassing the App Store; IHT updates mobile and tablet apps, adding improvements to the iPad's section navigation

The Indenpendence Day holiday is fast approaching, which means this site will be shut down on Monday the Fourth. But before I head off for the long weekend I felt I better make sure my desk is cleaned off and the floor is cleared of debris (oh my, the carpet cleaners are already here).

When it comes to new media apps I already have quite a backlog to look at. The Kansas City Star, for instance, has released its first iPad app, E-Star, iPad edition of The Kansas City Star. It is not what I would call a tablet edition because the Olive Software developed app presents readers with an enhanced replica edition of the print newspaper, as well as access to the Star's website.
The "enhanced" part is simply that readers can tap on the individual stories and pull a new window with the story alone. Otherwise, this is a replica all the way.

The purpose of the app is clear from the app description. The text is clearly a promotion for the newspaper and says nothing about the app itself. The reason is that this is one of those apps that use Apple's in-app purchase loophole: the app is strictly a "reader" app, only giving access to current subscribers of the newspaper.

Upon tapping on a newspaper one is confronted with a sign-in dialog box. Tapping it takes you to the sign-in form – but it also tells you how to go around the App Store, in this case by going to the estar website page where you are told a subscription will cost you $4.95 per month or $58.95 per year.

But while the publisher of the McClatchy owned newspaper may see this pricing as a discount over the home delivery price of $130 per year, the iPad owner will discover that they are not about to receive a newspaper designed specifically for the tablet, but a replica edition optimized in some ways for them. It's readable, but makes the reader to the heavy lifting.

The International Herald Tribune has updated both its iPad app and its iPhone app this morning, while the latest update hit the Android Market two days ago.
The iPhone version adds some font features and fixes some bugs, while the iPad version adds its cartoon contents, and navigation enhancements, as well as the usual bug fixes. The navigation change will be much appreciated by readers: now, when reading within a specific section, one can move on to the next or previous article within that section without having to jump back to the section front (though that option is available, as well). It's a small change, but a welcome one.

The app remains free to download and provides readers with free access to the content through the end of the year, provided you register with the newspaper. The iPad edition continues to be single sponsored by Bell & Ross watches.