Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Miami Herald and Seattle Times launch replica editions produced by Olive Software for their print subscribers

The Seattle Times today launched a replica edition app into Apple's App Store – even calling it The Seattle Times Print Replica.

The app was created by Olive Software, though the paper released it under its own name, leaving the paper the option to release a native app at some later date.

The app, along with one released last week by McClatchy's Miami Herald, is intended strictly to be read by print subscribers – sort of an added-value for those readers.

Upon opening the reader is immediately told that they can not access the current issue unless they sign-in. If they are not a print subscriber the user can then access older issues.

The app from McClatchy's property, called The Miami Herald Print Edition, is the second app for that title. The other app, The Miami Herald iPad Edition, is a NYT-styled app that charges a discounted fee of $0.99 per month to access the daily content.

Neither the native designed app, nor the Olive Software app, support Apple's Newsstand.

While it is nice that the publishers of the Seattle Times and Miami Herald are offering an added-value to print subscribers, it is unlikely readers will find these editions of much value as they are bare boned apps that force the reader to pinch to zoom in order to read the issues. But maybe that is the point, to offer digital readers a product that will not compete with the print product but will merely serve as a convenient way to read the paper on the go (even though this isn't really the way most tablet owners read, and it isn't very convenient).

My distain for replicas is obvious, but the best case for them continues to be situations where there is no real alternative – such as old, out-of-print books or other publications, for instance. That, obviously, isn't stopping vendors from selling replicas to publishers struggling to figure out the new digital platforms and the right business model.

It is interesting to me that Apple is prominently promoting the Miami Herald's new replica app in the News category. This is an example, among many, of occasions where Apple has promoted apps that I'm sure the company does not think are the types of apps developers should be creating. You just know what Steve Jobs would have thought about a non-native designed app like these replicas.

Nonetheless, Apple is helping promote the app inside the App Store. Good for them.