Thursday, November 10, 2011

Digital publishing solutions employed by publishers are often influenced by the domestic vendors

After more than a year and a half since the first newspaper and magazine tablet editions began appearing in the iTunes App Store, one can see a distinct pattern emerging based on the dominant vendors based in each country.

In the U.S., one can see that the main solutions being employed either mimic the original NYT iPad app which, while a native app, streams content from the publisher's website and are more tablet versions of the web rather than true tablet editions taken from the print product. Other publishers, like the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, are taking the easy way out by creating replica editions from such vendors as Technavia. These apps are essentially the print newspaper in PDF form, often with some minor enhancements such as text versions of stories. Publishers love then for being cheap and easy, readers hate them for being so hard to read and poor translations of the print product for the tablet.
In Italy quite a number of publishers are working with the Florence based company Virtualcom Interactive. These newspaper apps are replica editions that often charge around 3,99 € to 36,99 € for subscriptions.

What I find very interesting is that while one might think that the expectations of readers might vary widely from country to country the fact is that the reviews inside the Italian App Store show that readers in Italy are just as disappointed in these tablet conversions as readers are in the U.S.

Having said that, though, for the most part the biggest complaint Italian iPad owners seem to have about their newspaper apps is simply that they crash or are slow to load or are expensive. Rarely do I read a negative review that talks about designing specifically for the iPad, though some seem to hint at that issue:

L'applicazione non consente de evidenziare o salvare articoli. Si allinea con le altre presenti sui mercato senza offrire alcun valore aggiunte.

The application does not allow saving of highlights or complete articles. Aligns with the others on the market without offering any added value.
The leading news apps in the Italian App Store are from Corriere della Sera from Milan, La Gazzetta dello Sport, National Geographic-International and La Repubblica, from Rome. With the exception of the National Geographic app, all are pretty much replica editions, though sometimes with additional features added to make them interactive or to take advantage of the iPad abilities.

The situation gets more interesting looking at the Italian version of Newsstand (Edicola in Italian). Here, where as of today there are 457 publications available, so many of them are in English such as ELLE Magazine UK, NYTimes for iPad, etc.

Sprinkled about in Newsstand, however, you can find Corriere dello Sport HD, or Mac magazine Italia, but they are definitely crowded out by other publications.

But while many Italian reviews appreciate finding their favorite publications inside Newsstand, there is still that issue of replicas versus native apps:

"Nulla di eccezionale e pagare piĆ¹ di 2 euro per dei PDF non mi sembra il caso," writes on App Store user review which complains about having to pay for reading what is essentially a PDF of the original print publication.