Monday, October 31, 2011

The Independent releases its first tablet edition; free app, offering free content, modeled after the NYT iPad app

Almost 19 months after the release of the first iPads by Apple, 17 months after the release of the first iPads into Europe, it is increasingly rare to see the launch of truly bad apps from newspaper or magazine companies – and those are usually from newspapers who are sold on the idea of PDF versions of their papers by vendors who are exceptionally good at sales, and exceptionally bad at technology.
But the app released this morning from The Independent is the "trick" in "trick or treat", an app that somehow made it through the management team at the UK newspaper.

The Independent is a free app that also offers its content for free. Identical to the original New York Times app released in April of 2010, the app is a collection of boxes sometimes filled with content, and sometimes, as you can see in the screenshot, filled with missing code.

The Independent probably has licensed the digital publishing solution directly from the NYT as it contains the same navigation, font adjustments and article sharing mechanism that the Times app has. The problem, though, is that NYT has been less than enthusiastic supporters of the mobile and tablet platforms. I've always felt that they have been dragging kicking and screaming into the modern digital publishing era, brought onboard more by the weight of expectations rather than any real love of digital publishing. So adopting a digital publishing solution from the NYT is like taking communion from Richard Dawkins.

As a business proposition, this app is a publisher's nightmare: free, free, free. The app also does not support Apple's Newsstand - either because it is free, or because it is being used solely as a marketing device – and this only adds to the retro feel of the app.

Even the app description inside the App Store is a mess: two pictures of the splash screen, one in landscape, one in portrait. Simply putt, the first tablet edition of The Independent is one of those apps that simply leave you shaking your head.

After the well conceived tablet edition released by The Guardian released three weeks ago (which has gotten raves from users in iTunes), one would surely have thought that The Independent can do better than this.