Friday, April 6, 2012

NewspaperDirect releases a new version of its PressReader app for the iPad; buggy app still an improvement over previous version

The Canadian company NewspaperDirect has released a new version of its PressReader iPad app that, while buggy, is an improvement of previous attempts at creating a tablet reader for its catalog of newspapers.
The new PressReader, released today, should be familiar to many TNM readers who have checked out the new Boston Globe ePaper app. That app is but a single brand version of the new PressReader.

The app is an attempt to take the basic replica edition model and tweak it enough so that it works on the iPad. It starts with the exact look of the newspaper and builds in links and native text layouts of the articles.

As a publisher, I would probably look at this approach much the same way I look at Zinio – as a company I would want to work with to extend the reach of the title and to reach those readers who feel most comfortable reading a digital product that looks exactly like the print product (probably older readers).

The result is not what I would call a tablet edition so much as a conversion product. Does it work? Is it readable? Yes, thanks to the adjustable fonts and native layouts that can be created within the app.

Downloaders get to download seven newspapers free of charge before committing to a subscription – a great way to entice readers to continue to use the app.

Some of the best features of PressReader (besides the adjustable fonts) is the instant translation services and the ability to save articles through Evernote and Instapaper.

The app is a bit buggy, I should warn you. The app crashed several times on my new iPad, but was otherwise OK as far as speed and smoothness of the navigation and file loading.

TNM readers know that I am a huge proponent of the tablet platform and developing products specifically for that platform. But replicas will remain with us, and this is a highly advanced take on that approach. And like the Zinio digital newsstand for magazines, PressReader gives the reading public access to a large range of publications that might otherwise not be available. More importantly, the NewspaperDirect conversion is often going to be better than options being employed by the publisher.

For some publishers, such as the Orange County Register, the NewspaperDirect version of the paper is a nice compliment to their own native tablet application, The Peel, which takes a completely different approach to attempting to duplicate that day's paper.

Here is the promotional video NewspaperDirect has created to show off its new version of PressReader. They've also released a press release, but the quote from Alex Kroogman, CEO of NewspaperDirect, was so hokie I felt it was unusable. The video has some pretty outlandish claims, as well, but at least you get to see the app in action: