Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Crain Communications releases its first iPad app for its AdAge title through the Toronto developer Polar Mobile

Could you imagine a publisher producing a new print magazine or newspaper and allowing the name of their printer to be prominently displayed? Never, publishers rarely even mention the name of their printers inside their publications. But for some reason some publishers don't mind that their app developers are given total credit for their apps rather than the publishing company. Maybe they aren't very proud of their work?
This thought crossed my mind when looking at the new iPad edition of Advertising Age, the advertising news weekly from Crain Communications. AdAge is one of the first advertising or media media magazines to launch an iPad app, the media and advertising industry's trade publications still mostly missing from the App Store.

Readers will find the app under the name of the developer, Toronto-based Polar Mobile. Polar Mobile is also responsible for the iPhone apps for other Crain properties such as Business Insurance and Crain's Chicago Business (under the app name of Crain's Chicago Daily News).

The free app, Ad Age News for iPad, is simply an extension of the website and is not to be confused for an actual tablet edition. The app simply takes the "Latest News" RSS feeds from the website's categories and displays them in a consistent layout.

Looking at the new iPad app and then the AdAge website one wonders what the purpose of the new app would be. All the app seems to accomplish to allow readers to avoid the advertising to be found on the website. No subscription fee, no advertising. Some business plan, huh?

Left: Layouts are simple in design with any artwork floating in the middle of the page, and without an ad spots; Right: The settings page is basically an ad for Polar Mobile, the developer – the publisher's name is conspicuously absent.

If an app such this one had been released a year ago I would chalk it up to the publisher attempting to get something, anything, onto the iPad. But we are 20 months from the launch of the first generation of the iPad, why release something like this now?

The app lacks basic font size controls or any other customization features. Stories can be shared through Facebook, Twitter or email, but there is no way to save stories for later reading.

Because the app does not allow for downloading of content, the app is worthless for reading on an airplane unless you had previously visited a story while still with an Internet connection.

It is strange to see so many publishing companies that otherwise proudly display the name of the company on their print products willingly let their mobile developers essentially become the publisher of their digital products.

The thing is that getting an Apple developer account takes, what, two minutes? Maybe less if you type fast. Is the publisher trying to save the $99 annual fee?

But the real problem lies in marketing. The publisher's name is part of their publication's brand, why else call it "Crain's Chicago Business", why not "Donnelley's Chicago Business" (assuming RR Donnelley is the printer)? I would imagine that the editorial staff at AdAge, which covers advertising and marketing for a living, have to a bit taken back that the app can be found not under their own companies name but under the developer's. This may explain why, at least at the time of writing this post, no mention of the new app can be found on the AdAge website.