Monday, October 8, 2012

Chattanooga Times Free Press launches its first tablet edition with the help of NewspaperDirect

The Chattanooga Times Free Press, owned by Little Rock-based WEHCO Media, Inc., has launched a stand-along iPad edition late last week. The app is powered by NewspaperDirect.

Chattanooga Times Free Press iPad Edition is a free app also is also currently offering its content for free, as well. This seems like a rather crazy business strategy so one might expect that this will change in the future. There is currently a setting that allows print subscribers to log into their existing accounts, but since everything is free here there is little incentive to do so.

The app is being sold under the publisher's name, Chattanooga Publishing Company. An existing iPhone app can be found inside the App Store from freerange360. The same mobile app is also inside Google Play.

Like other NewspaperDirect apps, this one starts with a replica edition of the print paper. The default zoom is set so that the paper appears too big for the display, but can be read easier. The user can use both portrait and landscape to read the digital edition.

A tap of the headlines brings up a reformatted version of the print stories. A built-in speech feature can also be used to have the iPad read the content.

The app also incorporates a reformatted version of the paper's website so that up-to-date news can be accessed through the app, as well.

NewspaperDirect continually is improving its apps for newspaper customers. Although I don't like the concept of building tablet apps off of a replica of something built for another platform, the NewspaperDirect apps are stuffed with very useful features. An example of this: a reader can hold their finger to a headline to bring up a dialogue box that allows them to return to SmartFlow (the reformatted story format), to have the story read to them, to share the story through social media, to copy the story, or to print it.

The obvious next move – though it should have been instituted at launch – would be to charge for access to the digital editions, while keeping access to the reformatted website content free of charge.

(There are references to subscriptions inside the app, but nowhere does it actually ask or require you to subscribe. Additionally, there is nothing in the app description that mentions a paid subscription. If I were a reader of the print paper I would seriously consider dumping my subscription if the paper really intends to offer everything for free through the iPad app.)

Here is a short walk-through the new iPad edition from the Chattanooga Times Free Press: