Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Berliner Zeitung launches first tablet edition that offers a NYT-styled iPad design plus a replica of the print edition

Many newspapers have suffered through the experience of changing ownership, internal melodramas and the like. But the Berliner Zeitung seems to have all that, as well as the external dramas associated with being a newspaper from East Germany that must transition to the new capitalist realities of modern Germany. It has been quite a roller coaster ride.

Founded in 1945, the newspaper was bought by Gruner + Jahr, the Hamburg-based media giant, right after the fall of the Berlin wall. When the publishing giant decided to leave the newspaper business the paper was sold to another newspaper firm, only to be sold again in 2005 to a British company along with the PE media firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson. Well, you know my attitude about these media bankers.
Finally, the paper was sold off to M. DuMont Schauberg (MDS) when things didn't go quite as planned due to the debt games played by PE-backed media companies. As MDS is one of Germany's oldest publishing firms, one might expect things to settle down a bit.

(American Journalism Review did a nice review of newspapers vying for supremacy in Berlin in June.)

Today Berliner Zeitung sees its first tablet edition hit the Apple App Store. The app looks and feels a bit like the New York Times tab edition in design and navigation. The app features the ability to update the content with the tap of a button, and the section navigation is easy to understand and utilize.

Like many publishers, the publisher has decided to also include a replica of the print edition for, as the app description says it, "fans of the newspaper layout." The replica, of course, depends on pinch-to-zoom to read, and while the print design in attractive, it simply doesn't work on a tablet – though telling media executives that seems to be a fool's errand.

Subscriptions will come in three flavors: €13.99 for one month. €39.99 for three months, and €159.99 for a full year. 24-hour access is granted for €0.79. The app resides inside Apple's Newsstand, so new issue downloads should be automatic for subscribers (or at least the automatic download of the new issue image inside the app).

I did not see, however, any way for current print subscribers to log into their accounts, so I expect a number of negative reviews inside the German App Store once readers begin to find the app. Right now, there is only one review, a five-star rating from a reader who is clearly happy to see the new tablet edition hit the App Store.