Monday, March 12, 2012

Tribune Interactive launches a tablet edition of its Chicago tabloid, RedEye; subscription priced at $1.99 per month

The Tribune Company's Chicago area tabloid, RedEye, has just launched its first iPad app – a native app that will test whether young buyers of the daily publication will be willing to purchase, even at a low price, a digital publication that is otherwise free on the streets.
RedEye was launched in 2002 by the Tribune Company as an attempt to lure younger readers age 18 to 34-year-old. The tabloid has gone from free to paid to free again, and in print the publication has circulation of around 250,000.

Launching a tablet edition of RedEye, because of that younger readership, would seem to make a ton of sense. The question is what to do about pricing. The Tribune Company could have chosen to launch that app inside Apple's Newsstand but make the subscription free-of-charge – this would allow for daily delivering at no cost, but would not have created a revenue stream, nor would it insure that readers would actually read the digital publication.

The decision, at least for now, is that RedEye for iPad will have a $0.99 per issue price tag with a low $1.99 per month subscription fee. Unfortunately $0.99 is as low as Apple lets you go, so the Trib was in a bit of a bind pricing individual issues. When the print edition had a price tag on it readers paid only a quarter in the street boxes. So this means that the tablet edition is four times as high – will that be a problem, or will most readers decided to buy the monthly subscription?

Many newspaper publishers, especially alt weekly publishers, should probably keep a close eye on how this works out for the Tribune Company as this app should be a good test.

Tribune Interactive has created an app that readers should fine easy to read as it is not just a PDF conversion of the print tabloid. Most layouts employ a similar, easy to duplicate layout which should make is easier to produce a daily product. The Monday edition contains a spring fashion section and weighs in at a little over 70 MB – not an instant download, but small enough that it should be quickly downloaded in any environment.

The digital edition can only be read in portrait, which probably makes perfect sense since the tabloid almost fits nicely on an iPad's display now. A landscape mode could have been employed – assuming their production solution allows for instant conversion of the layouts – but the added size is probably not worth it.

RedEye for iPad is a more attractive effort than the Tribune's own daily newspaper apps. The apps for the L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, South Florida Sun Sentinel News, and others have a sameness that forces the papers to lose their individuality – a problem faced with most newspaper chains. In addition, the layouts look very web-like – not surprising since they are a feed driven.

A tabloid newspaper, though, can use a model closer to Murdoch's The Daily where the paper is designed more like a magazine app. The real issue, though, is whether that tablet edition content will be driven by the website feeds, which would constantly update the app, or whether to go for a more magazine look and feel where the content is locked in for the day.