Monday, October 1, 2012

Advance Publications releases three branded apps for its newspapers in Alabama, all replicating the app for AL.com

On Sunday, the Times-Picayune published its last "daily" newspaper. From today forward, the Advance Publications newspaper will be appearing in print only three days a week.

But while the fate of the New Orleans newspaper reading community has gotten lots of attention, the fact is that Advance is implementing the same three day a week printing schedule at other papers owned by the chain, including its Alabama group.
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Late last week the chain released three new iPad apps for its newspapers in Birmingham, Mobile and Huntsville. The paper already operates a single website under the AL.com URL, and earlier the chain released an iPad app called AL.com for iPad.

But you can see the wheels churning in the heads of the old media titans: how does an app for AL.com help the three local newspapers?

It doesn't, so today the same app has been re-released three more times under the names of the local papers: AL.com: Birmingham for iPad, AL.com: Mobile for iPad, AL.com: Huntsville for iPad.

All the apps that use the content from AL.com are universal (meaning they will work on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad).

The new apps, like the old one which is still available in the App Store, follows the same model. Each app mirrors the content of the AL.com website and really serves no purpose other than to reach those readers who feel like they would prefer an app to the browser on the iPad.

If you look really hard you can see that the content is slightly different in each app, but barely.
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Since the AL.com website renders just fine on the iPad's Safari browser (see right) it is hard to see what the advantage of these apps might be. None of the apps require a subscription, and the advertising is pretty limited (though it does exist).

It looks like the digital team over at Advance hasn't been keeping up with the research coming out of sources such as the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence. If they had they might have concluded that an app such as this is really a waste of valuable time and resources.

Update: the original AL.com app was updated, as well. The early reviews by users are not good. "This is perhaps he (sic) worst news app for iPad in existence," writes one user. "Crashes every time I open it," writes another.

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