Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Crain Communications launches iPad app for Crain's Chicago Business, developed by Redpoint Technologies

This post has received an update which you can read here.

Crain Communications has not been a big believer in the mobile and tablet platforms, its ad news magazine Advertising Age still missing from the App Store except for an old mobile app released by Polar Mobile. It's an old story, those that should be leading their industries, AdAge, Folio:, E&P, are the most backwards when it comes to embracing the new digital publishing platforms.*

Today, however, Crain Communications has launched a new and very good iPad app for Crain's Chicago Business. I doubt this means that anything is changing at the publisher as the new app was developed by a third party, meaning that there remains little evidence that the company plans on developing its own digital solutions.

But this new app, developed by Redpoint Technologies, is an excellent all-in-one styled app. The app reformats both the financial tabloid's print publication into a new design, but also the paper's website.
Like all all-in-one apps, however, there are a few oddities one will observe. For instance, since the tablet page design is a series of boxes if there are not enough stories in a section the boxes simply remain empty. It looks strange, but doesn't really take away from the usefulness of the app.

The reason publishers decide to go in this direction is that the production of this kind of app is automatic, the content simply flows in from the backend system of the publication. Because of this feed driven mechanism, all the article layouts will be the same. In the case of this app, stories with photos will place that photo at the top-left of the article. The second piece of artwork goes lower and on the right of the article.

When the app opens there is a long sync period as the app grabs all the content from the server, there is no download needed, though there is a manual download button found on the lower-left of the screen for updating the app.

Also at open one sees the companies that are sponsoring the app: Deloitte, Land Rover and Wintrust Commercial Banking. As one swipes through the stories one runs across their ads. As a publisher it is nice to see that advertising/sponsorships have been built-in at launch.

The app will require you to be a print or digital subscriber to Crain's Chicago Business in order to access the content, or alternately you can subscribe through the app for $11.99 per month or $59.99 per year. I don't know if the app's appearance inside Apple's Newsstand caught the developer by surprise or not but I found that I could access all the content without having a subscription – one has to figure this will get locked down at some point since the app description does not mention any free trial period.

Those that are currently print subscribers, and who may have received a discount over the listed price for a print subscription of $99 should make sure they convert that sub to a print and digital subscription – offered now at no extra charge. That will guarantee you continued access to the iPad app.

* It's hard to convince advertisers to support tablet magazines when their trade industry magazines don't appear to be big supporters of the platform either.