Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Trinity Mirror releases a couple eye examine apps (disguised as newspaper Newsstand iPad apps)

Over three years after the release of the original iPad by Apple it is hard to believe that newspaper companies are still releasing apps as bad as those released today by Trinity Mirror. Far worse is that the newspaper executives behind these apps still don't quite have the basic language of the medium down.

Two replica edition apps were released today: Irish Mirror Newspaper for iPad and Evening Gazette (Teesside) Newspaper for iPad (Irish App Store links), though only one of the papers made it into the U.S. App Store – that made downloading a bit difficult.

One app descriptions talks about "our interactive e-edition" but there is nothing interactive here except the subscription process. Otherwise, the apps are strictly replicas of the print edition.

Newspaper replicas basically come in two flavors: one is simply a PDF of the print paper, possibly with some embedded links, maybe even some video or photo galleries; the other takes the print PDF and uses it as a navigation tool to lead readers to new layouts that work better on the iPad.

Examples of the latter would be the apps from NewspaperDirect and the new Washington Post app. Both work well because they have the look and feel of the newspaper format, but the easy readability of native tablet solutions.

Then there are the pure replicas like these. Reading them will give you a headache (and must certainly been promoted by newspaper executives intent on proving that the tablet platform is a fad).

Building a good newspaper tablet edition is not easy, let's be honest. To go totally native one would need to replicate The Daily, which means a dedicated production team. But The Daily looked more like a native tablet magazine more than a newspaper, and it suffered the fate of being too early, with a limited audience of Fox News aficionados, and with an overhead that would make any self-publisher blush. So much money was behind The Daily that it could never have succeeded simply because making back its investment was a non-starter.

The other solution is to follow the NYT's example of making your tablet edition into a reformatted version of the paper's website. I find this unsatisfactory, as well. After all, if your website doesn't work on the iPad your job is not to create something new but to fix your website, right?

That's why I continue to believe that newspapers need to think out of the box when creating their tablet editions - don't replicate print, don't replicate the web, do something new. Unfortunately, "doing something new" and "newspaper" is a bad combination.

So we get these monstrosities, newspaper apps that are better at testing the vision of the iPad owners than actually providing readable newspaper content.