Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The death of 'The Peel', the iPad app from the Orange County Register, gets examined in new blog post

According to a blog post by Doug Bennett, writing on his own blog, The Peel, the unique experiment in newspaper iPad app editions, was axed by the new management team at Freedom Communications based on a desire to concentrate on existing profitable products.

Understanding that the tablet reading experience would be more of a leisure time one, the OC Register for iPad app (link to my original story) did not try to duplicate the paper's website or serve as a digital edition of the morning print paper.
"There is a sense to this that we are bringing back the afternoon paper, but its just not paper," Claus Enevoldsen, then marketing manager at the Register, said. "During the day you have the web, and 24/7 you have your phone, and the phone is really what you use for breaking news."

"We're taking a magazine approach. We believe in this design, and the design drives the story. Whereas a lot of the RSS based apps out there are automatic," Enevoldsen, who is not at Next Issue Media, told me. "It's not a compromise, it's a choice, we're sacrificing some of the instant updates with RSS feeds over design and curation and this finite experience."

According to the Bennett post, The Peel, as the iPad app eventually became known as, was killed as the new management team brought in as part of the sale of the company, wanted the focus to be "on subscribers and profitable products."

Bennett says that the app got about 125,000 downloads and what he called 5,000 "uniques" per week – what was undoubtedly the real readership of the app. Both numbers are pretty disappointing, and the low readership number would have proved a hard sell to prospective advertisers.

Among the lessons learned by the launch Bennett lists using the paper's existing content management system and workflow. "What a mistake. Most legacy publishing systems start with a page-layout system that does not understand HTML5 or high-res images; we spent countless hours each day trying to make our desired functionality work within a system that didn’t want to accept it. We had wanted to focus all efforts around the needs and expectations of the end user, and not what the system would or would not do. Sounds naive, but we missed many opportunities to grow upon content functionality due to being held back by the publishing system," Bennett writes.

The Orange Country Register still has an iPad app inside the App Store, a rather dismal news app built off the paper's RSS feeds. The app was developed by FreeRange360.