Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Wichita Eagle gets its replica edition app launched; for many old media companies, investing in digital means sending money outside the company

It must be hell to be involved in digital media at The McClatchy Company. The company appears to committed to launching apps through third party vendors, while investing its money outside the company to new start-ups.

The result has been a series of new replica editions from Olive Software. The newest app released is Wichita Eagle E-Edition for iPad, the tenth iPad app to appear under the McClatchy name – others can be found under the name of the newspaper such as a similar app for The Miami Herald.
The decision to go with Olive Software must have been a corporate one as all the papers seem to be heading down this road. When the decision is top down one must hope that the big cheese making the decision knows what they are doing. If so, one might get the opportunity to be involved in a new digital publishing platform. If not, then you are stuck with replica editions produced by a third party vendor.

McClatchy, like many of the big newspaper chains, appears far more interested in investing its money outside the company than in it. It recently joined other newspaper chains in investing in Wanderful Media, the company behind the Find n Save product, yet another new coupon and sales company.

$22 million has been invested in that new start-up. Now compare the strategy employed by newspaper companies with that being used by the major magazine companies. Most have are building their own digital production capabilities, and have invested in their own start-up (Next Issue).

Not much to say about the new iPad edition from the Wichita Eagle
– if you've seen one McClatchy app you've seen them all.

The strategy being employed by many newspaper companies to developing digital products is pretty similar to the move to hot type and desktop publishing. Very little room from local experimentation is built into the system. Instead, a top down approach leads to solutions being implemented across the company.

The advantages of the approach, of course, is cost savings, and integration. The disadvantage is that the company does not become a center for innovation, something that is crucial in today's digital world. After an investment the publishing solution becomes entrenched.

Think about how fast things are evolving in digital platforms. Two years ago only a handful of newspaper apps had launched. One year later Apple launched its Newsstand.

Third party vendors generally invest in their app solutions then go out and sell them. Keeping up with technology is costly for them, so the emphasis is on sales.

For the digital publishing platforms, however, keeping up with changing operating systems is essential to success. Too often newspaper executives see both segments of the industry as the same – a vendor is a vendor. But one vendor works within your company to add skills and capabilities; the other takes the work off your hands, but also out of your control.