Two Southern Calfornia newspapers owned by The Los Angeles Times (and therefore, The Tribune Company) today released their first news apps for the iPad and iPhone.
Why they are separate apps is a mystery as both versions of the apps are simply RSS readers that any high school programmer could probably build with a rudimentary knowledge of Xcode. Had these apps been released in April of 2010, when the iPad was first launched, they would have been appropriate. But released today, they simply seem outdated.
Neither app requires a subscription to access the content, which is extremely limited in any case (ten articles per section, four sections plus an About Us and Contact tab.
These news apps lack the one advantage local newspapers still have over many of their big regional counterparts: local advertising. Neither of the four apps released today contain local real estate advertising or features, nor do they have geolocation features that might take advantage of the needs of local retailers.
I am a big advocate of decentralized decision making when it comes to mobile and tablet product launches. There is a serious need for experimentation. But it is equally important for large media companies to be offering help to their local properties, as well. Apps that don't generate new subscription revenue or support local ad sales efforts are really a waste of time and money. Unless, of course, these newspapers are running counter to revenue and profit trends, it's hard to see how these kinds of simple RSS driven news apps have much of a future.