If I have had one serious criticism of the New York Times digital strategy of late, it has been that the company has been lagging far behind others in experimenting with both the mobile and tablet publishing platforms.
But the release of NYTimes The Collection is a move in the right direction. The app is free to download, but the app description states that after the New Year only some content will remain free but to gain unlimited access the reader will have to be a NYT subscriber to the tablet plan or the all-access plan. To me, this shows that readers have reject the NYT tablet edition in favor of web and smartphone access. Customers are certainly telling the Times that their tablet efforts have been weak – this doesn't solve the NYT tablet app issue, it covers it up.
The app is another of those Flipboard box design apps, but I will admit that the concept definitely works here. The reason is that box design fails to convey editorial curation, the prioritizing of stories – that is unnecessary here. Instead the reader can browse the stories at their leisure in an unhurried manner.
There is a fair amount of content here that the reader can access, which is important in an app that a reader will linger over. From the app description:
Readers of this app also get:
- Updates from across the fashion industry and behind-the-scenes interviews.
- Photos of all the latest looks fresh from the runways in New York, Paris, London and Milan.
- New products that are hot in stores and the latest in beauty and cosmetic trends.
- Street fashion from Bill Cunningham’s On the Street, T’s Look of the Moment and reader-submitted slide shows.
- Shopping videos.
- The ability to seamlessly share their favorite articles, videos and slide shows via Facebook, Twitter and e-mail.
- Fashion reviews from Cathy Horyn and Suzy Menkes.
“It’s one of our first forays into what we think of as vertical app strategy,” Times product management executive director M.Z. Goodman told Women's Wear Daily's John Koblin. “What can we do with all the content we produce that might stand alone well? It’s sort of an experiment.”
Yes, it is. But this is what the NYT should be doing. It is what will continue to separate the NYT brand from other newspapers.
While many newspaper publishers see the new digital platforms as simply a way of extending the print product, others realize that tablets are a unique platform requiring their own unique, specially designed products. NYT The Collection is an "experiment" worth conducting.