Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Boston Herald releases a new tablet edition, developed by NewspaperDirect

The Boston Herald, formerly owned by Rupert Murdoch, but now part of the GateHouse Media chain, is another of the many newspaper companies that outsources its app development. Last spring I wrote about its baseball app, Boston Herald Baseball 2011 (now 2012, of course), developed by DoApp, which I praised as the paper was one of the few (at the time) that was launching apps for what previously had been print special sections.

Since last spring the Herald has released other DoApp developed apps for the Patriots, Bruins and Celtics, as well as a holiday gift guide. DoApp also developed the main news mobile app – which, by the way, appears under the developer's name rather than the Boston Herald's.
Today the paper released a tablet edition, this one developed by NewspaperDirect. I've praised the new apps from NewspaperDirect because of their e-editions are fairly reader friendly, though I continue to question the idea of basing a tablet edition off the print edition as layouts can be awkward.

Tabloids would appear to have an advantage in that their size and page orientation is closer to the native size of the iPad. But if a paper's print page is ugly, gaudy and decidedly old fashioned, it will appear even worse on the display of the iPad. That is one reason why so many users complain about low resolution photos and pages of those magazines and newspapers that have not adapted their apps to the new iPad.

The Boston Herald is certainly one of those paper's that looks like it is in a time warp, and this is reflected in its new iPad app, Boston Herald e-Edition. The paper's designers, for instance, love to cut out people from photos and drop them into stories, complete with drop shadows. The headlines are large, and the fonts are mixed, and the paper's editors look for the least flattering shots of liberal politicians, while fawning over right wing pols.

I couldn't help think about the local high school paper when reading the Herald – the content may be different, but the design is the same.

Because of this, the new Boston Herald e-Edition will probably appeal to only those currently reading the print edition, and probably no one younger than 50 (I'm assuming younger readers wouldn't be attracted to such an old fashioned looking a paper touting reactionary politics, but I could be wrong).

The NewspaperDirect app can only help so much as the app does offers text versions of stories, in addition to the replica view – but its layouts are automatically generated, leading to some pretty awful looking headlines (see above-right).

Currently the app description features no screenshots of what readers will find inside the app. Maybe this is intentional, or maybe the paper will update its app description with more screenshots, but for now the app looks pretty unattractive in the App Store.

The new e-Edition, once downloaded, will be found inside Apple's Newsstand, and print subscribers can access their issues for free. New readers can buy single editions for $0.99, or purchase a one-month subscription for $9.99.