Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sjællandske Medier releases three universal media apps for their newspaper titles, apps as if from another time

It is very difficult for some writing in the States to get a feeling for the market penetration of tablets and smartphones in another country unless one visits the country themselves. In Europe, the U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Spain and the Netherlands all have physical Apple stores while residents in other countries must depended on authorized sellers.

My recent trip to Greece was not very enlightening simply because I tended to be in areas frequented by tourists. During two weeks I saw one Kindle and lots and lots of iPads.
So when a newspaper publisher decides to release mobile and tablet editions of their newspaper I would guess that judging the kinds and numbers of devices in the market would be hugely important. But when releasing something for a specific device, such as a Kindle or iPad, the nature of the digital edition should be tailored in some way for the device.

But, of course, many publishers just don't think this way. The urgency to release a tablet edition, for instance, seems to drive them to make strange decisions.

The original release of the iPad in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland occurred later than in other European countries – December of 2010. But Apple's own App Store in iTunes is in English, which is generally a sign of something (though what that is I don't know). After all, the French App Store is in French, etc.

In any case, today a Danish newspaper publisher, Sjællandske Medier, released three universal apps for three titles and the fact that the apps seem so rudimentary I found curious. Why would a publisher release such awful news apps?

All three new apps, Dagbladet, Frederiksborg Amts Avis and Sjællandske, were developed by Visiolink, a Danish technology company providing online services for print media companies.

The mobile and tablet editions are purely replica editions in their purest form: images of pages without any evidence of interactivity. They are, to be brief, impossible to read (unless one has a fetish for pinch-to-zoom).

The app for Dagbladet contains three regional editions. Print subscribers can access the digital replicas for free once they sign in, but individual issues are quite expensive at $2.99 at piece (18 Danish Krone).

Are all Danish news media app so backwards? No, it turns out that like any other market, there is a wide variety of media apps to be downloaded. Dagbladet Børsen, for instance, is a universal app that offers readers of its business newspaper easier to read layouts in addition to replica pages – sort of like the NewspaperDirect apps such as that of The Boston Globe.

Almost two years, during the very early days of tablet editions, there was some discussion that expresses the view that European readers, more than American readers, would prefer replica editions. I never really bought into the idea, though early app releases certainly showed that European publishers were moving in that direction. But really good app releases by other publishers, especially newspaper apps from Germany, seemed to negate that line of thought.

I don't know for sure where European digital editions are heading, but I seriously doubt they are heading in the direction of these new apps.

I should add that the new apps from Sjællandske Medier reside outside the Apple Newsstand as stand alone apps. This is pretty typical of Danish apps, and apps from other countries without their own language support inside Apple's ecosystem.

News apps in the Danish App Store are dominated by local media properties, while the Newsstand is dominated by English language publications such as Top Gear Magazine, British Vogue, Wired and the NYTimes for iPad.

The Bonnier title, Illustreret Videnskab+, is the highest grossing title in the store, however. As the name suggests, it is one of the Bonnier titles using the Mag+ platform to produce its digital editions.