Tuesday, August 2, 2011

International Publishing Group releases an unreadable replica edition for their International Express weekly

Anyone who has developed their own iOS app knows that one of the big moments in the process is when you finally submit your app and you receive the initial email back from the app review team, automated for sure, telling you that your app is now under review. The next big moment is when you are told your app is about to appear in the App Store – or conversely, that the app has been rejected for reasons that seem a bit arbitrary.
If there is one complain media people have with Apple that I hole heartedly agree with it is that Apple's media app review process seems totally a crap shoot. A look at the apps in the News category of the App Store reveals a lot of apps that just seem amateurish and a waste of time. Then, occasionally, we hear of some legitimate apps being rejected for strange, arbitrary reasons – though to be fair, there seems to be a lot less of that now than in the past.

But one rule Apple constantly talks about, but doesn't seem to enforce evenly, is the app that simply duplicates the web or print, providing nothing new for the reader. Many replica editions fall into this category which is why vendors who push them like to include features like story sharing through social networks, good navigation, links, multimedia, etc. This is the big reason why, while I generally loathe replica editions, I try not to be dogmatic about it. I'm trying, I really am.

But now and again I run across an app and have to ask myself "how did this get approved?"

One of those apps, released today, is from International Publishing Group, an Australian firm that seems that is in some interesting businesses. For one thing, IPG publishes tabloid weekly newspaper versions of British publications for expats in Australia, Canada and elsewhere.

The company is also in the helicopter and boat charter service business. Interesting combination, no?

The app, Int'l Express, is the digital version of their weekly publication that takes content from the UK's Daily Express and Sunday Express.

The app is free, as is the content. But upon installation you notice that there is only a sample issue from the end of May currently available to read (maybe this situation will change now that the app has appeared in the App Store). At 20 MB it is a pretty easy download.

The small size can be attributed to the fact that the app only works in portrait, which isn't too much of a negative because tabloid newspapers generally look pretty good on an iPad in portrait.

But the app contains nothing other than the tabloid pages, no text versions of stories, and most importantly, no pinch-to-zoom. This makes the replica practically unreadable. No, it makes it completely unreadable.

So how does an app like this get approved? Your guess is as good as mine. I suppose the publisher could have argued that this would be only way many readers could access the publication in many places. That would be true, but "access" is not the same as "read".

Oh well, let's not beat up on the publisher too much, after all, they got their app through Apple's review team.