Friday, August 31, 2012

McClatchy releases a series of replica editions; lacking Newsstand and in-app purchase support, the apps require readers to find a way to subscribe to the paper's e-edition

Earlier this week I wrote a post about the new tablet-only sports magazine launched by the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth. Digital only publication launches by U.S. newspapers are a rare event and so I was very very enthusiastic about the experiment. I was all the more surprised and pleased because the tablet magazine was coming from McClatchy, a company that has definitely not impressed me with their digital efforts.

I spoke to a couple of people involved with the DFW OT Sports app to get some background. It appears that the project went through the usual bureaucratic hurdles, but it has launched and now the paper can gain valuable insights into the ins and outs of the tablet publishing platform.
Today, however, McClatchy has released a series of tablet editions that reinforce my earlier impression of the company. The new apps, Bradenton Herald for iPad, E Cenre Daily Times for the iPad, The Myrtle Beach Sun News, and Merced Sun-Star for iPad, are all produced for the newspaper chain by Olive Software, a maker of replica editions and Flash flipbooks.

The app descriptions for each of the new apps are incredibly bad: one or two sentences, written as if the person couldn't be bothered.

None of the app descriptions tell you the most important thing you need to know about these apps – that they require that you currently be a e-edition subscriber to the newspaper. Without this, a local reader can not use the app to access issues.

None of the new apps support Apple Newsstand, and none allow for in-app purchasing of a subscription.

So how much does an e-edition subscription cost, a reader might ask themselves. Well, that's a bit hard to figure out. A look at the Merced Sun-Star website does not feature e-editions. A look under the "Subscribe" navigation button shows that the paper is only interested in selling print subscriptions.

The website of the Bradenton Herald does not promote digital subscriptions either, though way at the bottom you'll find a link for e-editions (they're $4.95 a month).

Prior to finding these new McClatchy apps in the App Store I was reading a story about an Athens woman who threatened to jump from a building – another austerity victim, I suppose. She ended up being rescued.

But these McClatchy tablet editions immediately created an image in my mind of a newspaper executive, standing on the ledge of a high rise, screaming about their digital media woes. "Will no one save us?" the exec cries.

Behind the screaming newspaper pro emerges a sales person from a digital replica maker company. "I will!" answers the vendor... who promptly pushes the newspaper executive off the ledge.