Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Johnston Press launches series of tablet editions for its UK regional newspapers

Johnston Press is a major UK newspaper publishers, its flagship dailies being The Scotsman and Yorkshire Post. The company had already launched tablet editions for some of its titles, but today it released nine new tablet editions for some of its regional newspapers, many of which are evening papers.

The new iPad apps are Yorkshire Evening Post, Sunderland Echo, Wigan Evening Post, Shields Gazette, News Letter, Hartlepool Mail, Boston Standard, Blackpool Gazette and Sheffield Star (U.S. App Store links).

Each of the apps are identical in look and feel, with two major sections: the web based news section, and the replica edition of the print newspaper.

The apps were built by PageSuite, a company that handles its U.S. customers out of its Atlanta office, and its international customers out of its Kent office in the U.K.
The web-based section, labeled Digital, can be read in either portrait or landscape. It probably works best in landscape but unfortunately the paper's logo at the top of the page gets stretched out. The layouts are typical tablet app: boxy and rather unattractive, especially in comparison with the print design.

The print section, labeled Paper, is a replica of the print tabloid newspapers. Some tabloids look acceptable in a replica edition because they are fairly small to begin with. The further reduction in size, therefore, sometimes makes the text readable on the iPad's retina display.

I'm not sure that is the case here. Readers will need to turn their tablets to portrait to have a chance, otherwise the app will spread out two print pages onto the display. But in portrait the reader will still need to use pinch-to-zoom to have a chance at being able to read the contents.

These are pretty lazy replicas, as well. The usual practice in a replica is to at least provide links from the front page when a story is jumped inside. These apps forego this practice.

(The apps from NewspaperDirect also provide the reader with a replica edition of the print paper, but also include links and text versions of the stories.)

The app description states that a monthly subscription will cost £3.99 for some of the papers, while others are charging £1.49. But access seems to be free for a limited time. The Yorkshire Evening Post, which I downloaded and installed, shows inside Settings that the subscription expires January 18, meaning that I am receiving the first month free of charge.

Print subscribers will be able to access the content without additional charge by signing into the app using their Subscriber ID and Order Number.