Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Scripps Media launches its first non-replica edition iPad app for their Memphis paper The Commercial Appeal

The Commercial Appeal, an E. W. Scripps Company daily newspaper in Memphis, Tennessee, has released a new iPad app edition that is miles ahead of what the company has released to date, and provides other newspaper publishers with some interesting things to think about when developing their own tablet editions.
Prior to the release of this new app, The Commercial Appeal for iPad, all the previous Scripps Media apps for the iPad had been "e-editions", replica editions produced by Tecnavia. These e-editions make no economic sense whatsoever because they provide the paper for free and are not what readers want on their tablets. But publishers continue to buy them proving either that newspaper publishers are gullible, or that the sales people at Tecnavia are world-class.

But the Scripps Media app for The Commercial Appeal is a move in another direction. This app, though free to download, requires the user to be a subscriber to the newspaper in one form or another. But yet the app does not completely lock out the reader, either.

When the reader opens the app one appears to make access to the news content. But upon tapping a story a message appears asking you to log in. There is no direct link to the paper's site because this would violate Apple's developer rules.

The app description page for this app, though, does contain a direct link to the subscription page where you can buy either a home delivery subscription of some kind (seven-day, Sunday only, etc.) or a digital only subscription ($9.99 per month). The app description really doesn't do a very good job, however, of letting the reader know they the content will require a subscription, so a little copy rewrite might be in order.

But as I said above, the app doesn't completely lock you out of all content. There are three areas where the reader can get the content: Classifieds, Obituaries and Deals. As a former classified advertising manager you can bet that I applaud the inclusion of classified ads here.

The app also includes the e-edition of the paper (visualize me banging my head against my glass desktop). Oh well.

Left: the news front page, with its stories taken directly from the paper's website. Tapping a story brings up a log-in message; Right: the app does provide free access to classifieds, obituaries and the deals feature.

The app creates Tasaka Digital and Whiz Technologies in the app. Tasaka Digital is, in fact, Guy Tasaka, a former NYT product manager, and a business development professional for a number of digital media companies such as Page Foundry, ScrollMotion and LibreDigital (now part of RR Donnelley). Whiz Technologies is a San Jose company that appears to have its work done out of India.

This app will not blow you out of the water with its imagination and concept. Essentially the app is a RSS reader app that takes its copy from the website. That same website provides the same stories that are found on the iPad app, and for free, which probably tells you what local readers will say about having to pay for iPad access.

So, in the end, while this app is a major step in the right direction, overall digital strategy remains a problem at Scripps. But then again, you could say that about a lot of newspaper companies out there.