Monday, August 8, 2011

The Star Tribune releases a native app tablet edition; no subscription or registration mechanism built into app

The Star Tribune, Minnesota's largest circulation newspaper, has released a tablet edition this weekend. The app, Star Tribune News App, must have been designed by the web team, because it offers the content free of charge, without even requiring registration. The circulation department must be going bananas this morning.
The app is an attractive tablet edition, avoiding the pitfalls of replica editions, articles are easy to read, and the app looks good in both portrait and landscape modes.

Navigating the tablet edition is a bit strange because swiping the front page immediately takes you to stories (after seeing the single sponsor ad from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota). Swiping in the opposite direction takes you right an obituary.

But that aside, the app contains all the sections you would expect. Well, except the ones the paper might make money at like classifieds.

In fact, this app seems to be completely without a business plan at all: there are no in-app subscription options, tempting readers to dump their print editions for this free tablet edition; and the advertising is limited to the single sponsor ad, hopefully they are being charged a couple million a year, otherwise the business model is a bit perplexing.

One wonders if this app is solely the work of the web team without the input of circulation or advertising, because I can't see how the other teams at the newspaper would be happy with a free version of the newspaper without circulation or much ad revenue.

Oh well. I know that if I lived in Minneapolis I'd be pretty happy with this app and would be on the phone immediately cutting my ties to the print edition (except Sunday, of course, due to the coupons and supplements).

Left: the front page in landscape with the drop down menu of the sections; Right: the full screen photo gallery feature.