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.
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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.

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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.

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