Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Newspapers in the app world: A look at the top U.S. papers and their mobile & tablet efforts

In a few weeks we will reach the third anniversary of the launch of the iPad. On that day in April many new owners eagerly unboxed their shiny new tablets, a few media properties launched their first early apps, and more than a few media observers dismissed the new device as a waste of time.

So as we approach the anniversary I thought I'd prepare a couple of tables that look at the top newspapers and magazines. It's a lot of work, to be honest, and this first table is not complete - I will revise it to include the top 20 papers as reported by the Alliance for Audited Media.

First a couple of things that should be mentioned about the table below. When speaking about "mobile" and "tablet" apps we are only thinking about main news app, not special sections and not sports apps. Also, you will notice that every newspaper today has a mobile news app. Each of these is pretty much the same, an RSS feed driven app. Most newspapers that have "native" tablet apps have created RSS driven apps, as well – only a couple of newspapers, usually tabloids, are building a native app that in any way would remind one of The Daily, or other digital publications. Finally, pricing continues to be an issue with newspapers with many papers continuing to give away their content for free. Some are charging for replica editions of the print newspapers while giving away a native RSS feed app.

One final note: this table only looks at iOS apps as media companies continue to develop for Apple's platform first. Also, so many media companies have only launched a tablet app for the iPad, while leaving their mobile Android app to serve Android tablet owners – I'm sure this will change over time. But the thing one sees when looking at the top newspapers is that, unlike magazines, newspapers remain confused and very uncreative when it comes to tablet editions. The design introduced by the NYT three years ago is pretty much standard fare for many U.S. newspapers.

Here is a first look at the top newspapers, I hope you find it useful:

 photo Newspaper-Apps-Table-sm_zps795b3295.jpg
Click to enlarge