Thursday, April 5, 2012

Gannett updates its USA Today iPad edition to support the new iPad

This afternoon the digital team at Gannett have issued an update to its USA Today iPad that adds 'retina' support for the new iPad, as well as fixes some minor bugs.
If you are not familiar with USA TODAY for iPad, it is a free app that resides outside of Apple's Newsstand. That makes some sense, I suppose, because it isn't really a tablet edition so much as an app that takes the RSS feeds from the newspaper website and reformats it for the iPad.

These kinds of apps, of course, make no sense whatsoever, as far as I'm concerned. First of all, the iPad's Safari browser does a perfectly good job of rendering websites. Only if a site is made using Flash would a separate app be necessary. This is one reason why I'm not much of a fan of those HTML5 solutions that turn your website into a group of boxes when rendered on a tablet. Second, by not creating a true tablet edition, the publisher is missing an opportunity to drive subscription revenue, but are instead duplicating the free web strategy that has not exactly proved to be a money maker for the industry. There is no sin in driving revenue and profits, but there is in laying off staff.

I suppose one reason to create the app is that the USA Today website is so God awful – check it out, it's just a list of headlines.

As for the iPad edition, well, it is at the mercy of the website, so as you can see in this screenshot, what you get isn't so much news as a digital publishing version of morning television in newspaper form. Read that headline about the hurricane season, who wrote that one?

Then there is that little ad in the upper right hand corner – you're right, I don't see it either.

Listen, writing snarky posts can be fun, and there is nothing more fun than writing about Gannett these days. Except it stops being fun when you have to put in news items in the Short Takes section about people having to take an unpaid week off. That's not fun, and it's not fair, especially when you read elsewhere about what those in the corporate offices are making.

Like other iPad owners, I like that USA TODAY for iPad is free of charge. But the reality is that I rarely open it, there are simply better things to read on my iPad. But when I look at the print edition of the newspaper, care of the Newseum, I see that I might want to read that product. Give me that in tablet form and we might be on to something. And guess what, I might even pay for it.