The New New York Times for iPad

| Just a Peek

OK New York Times, I’m sold. When do you start demanding your share of my meager purse?

As an iPad owner, I was never fond of the old Editor’s Choice app for iPad. It was a tease. It flirted with me, promising far more than it was willing or able to deliver. With the old iPad app I was never sure I could find the news I wanted, and while the articles displayed wonderfully on my iPad, I was always left with a feeling that I was missing something, that the experience should have been far more fulfilling.

Not anymore.

On October 15, 2010, The New York Times decided remove the hobble on its iPad app and let us see the whole edition, just like we could on the iPhone or online. And, they’re letting us get it for free.

NYT front page

Are they nuts? Newspapers are already tightening belts as more people drop subscriptions for news services they can get for free online. Why would The Times literally throw away more subscriptions by giving away their life’s blood?

Nothing is ever as simple as it seems. See, The New York Times is taking a gamble. There are millions of iPad owners out here, all looking for that definitive news outlet app, something that we would turn to daily to keep up with events that interest us. The Times has always been a major and trusted source for news, which is why millions of people still subscribe to the paper version even though they live nowhere near New York City. The paper just needed to figure out a way to present itself on the tablet platform.

It easy enough to write articles and slap some ads in good measure, but, as many magazine editors have found out, tablet owners are a bit more sophisticated than that. Too many ads and they start to interfere with the articles. The right kinds of ads, however, could open up a whole new revenue stream.

The articles also had to rely on the quality of the story, not glitz and flash, just as they do in pulp. However, there are times when a little sparkle can liven up a piece, especially where sports and the arts are concerned.

Browse through The New York Times for iPad app and you’ll notice nothing glaringly new over the old app. Now, however, you need to register, which gets you the full edition. A pop-up window lets you select the section you’re interested in. Once there, the headings and the first paragraph or so of each article is displayed for your consideration. Tab a picture in an article to get a better view (sorry, no pinch-zooming allowed). If there’s a video or multiple photos associated with the article a faded play icon appears over the photo. Touch it and enjoy the multimedia experience. The photos are high resolution and they, as well as the article, can be enjoy in portrait or landscape orientation.

In-article multimedia

I can’t emphasize enough how well multimedia is integrated into the articles. Nothing is distracting, but if you wish to watch a snippet of a play, for instance, a simple touch starts the video, and it plays inside the article, leaving you the choice to watch it full screen instead of forcing it on you. It reminds me a lot of the magical newspapers in Harry Potter’s world, where the photos seem to have a life of their own, except here they only come to life when we want them to. As Andy Rooney would say, “I like that!”

The best thing about the app is the ads. I’m as ambivalent towards advertising as the next guy, but The Times seems to have found the right mix that gets ads noticed while not being distracting. Some ads are in-article spots as you might see in a regular newspaper. The difference is that they may contain animation that highlights the product being hawked, but there’s nothing too distracting. Click the ad and you may go the a product site, or to another page that offers more information.

Then there are the “full page” ads. These literally take up the full page and may contain all manner of media, and they focus your complete attention on the product. These ads are high quality and you’ll find that you’re not so quick to hit the ‘Skip’ button when they appear.

NYT Ads

There are other nice touches in the app as well. When you get to the end of an article either tap the bottom of the screen or swipe as if you’re trying to turn pass the last page, either gesture brings up a navigation bar that lets you go back to the original section page or go directly to any of the articles contained in that section. Articles are also cached for offline reading. If you do need to stop in the middle of a reading, don’t worry, the app drops you right back where you were when you left, and that navigation bar appears, just in case you prefer to move on to something else instead. Touch the screen and the bar disappears.

So, is there anything The New York Times got wrong with its updated iPad app? Unfortunately, yes.

The app crashed a lot, to the point of being annoying. There was nothing specific about where it crashed, sometimes when a movie started, sometimes while turning a page, and at least once while just sitting there. Newspapers never crashed, but then your puppy would have a tough time chewing an iPad to bits. I’m sure The Times will find the crash culprit and issue an fixing update.

There are also no puzzles! What is up with that? How can this be The New York Times and not have crossword puzzles? Perhaps that’s something that will appear once they start charging us. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

The bottom line is this: Despite the crashing and the discouraging lack of puzzles, the New York Times for iPad looks to be on the right track. It’s the first newspaper replacement that might actually replace the newspaper for millions of current and potential iPad users. The last unknown in this equation is how much a subscription for the e-version will cost. While it is true that publishing a virtual paper removes much of the pulp infrastructure, new infrastructure to support electronic media would have to be installed, which can be expensive. I suspect The Times will eat the cost of setting up to support tablets, because of the long term savings. Still, reporters and editors have to get paid, so this free ride will have to end sometime. I, for one, am willing to pay a reasonable amount to subscribe to the electronic version of this venerable news outlet, and I’m sure the Times is betting the you will too. I Highly Recommend* the New York Times for iPad.

Review Item New York Times for iPad
Manufacturer New York Times
List Price
Street Price
Free! But expect to pay for a subscription in 2011
Minimum Requirements

iPad any version

* Note: My rating system goes like this;

  • Get it Now! - Highest rating and an absolute must-have
  • Highly recommend - Minor flaws, but a great product
  • Recommend - Flawed, but still a solid product
  • So-so - Problem product that may find a niche market
  • Avoid - Why did they bother making it? A money waster.

 

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