October 8, 2013 Last Updated 9:46 am

Developer plays hide and seek; The Guardian updates iPad app, adds content, but design and strategy remains the same

Morning Brief:

The developer that has been flooding the Newsstand with magazine apps has changed names again. Previously he had been releasing magazine apps under the name Chris Burns, then Emily Burns, and then again Graham Burns Burns (a typo?). Now the apps released under the Chris Burns account are showing up under the developer name HOT SHOTZ (QLD) PTY LTD.

I don’t know why he bothered to change names, he’d be better off fixing his website that has broken links to photos and pages.

The strategy to flood the Newsstand with magazine apps is to confuse the reader into downloading titles that look like they might be a title the reader has seen previously on a physical newsstand. Does it work? Are there enough downloads and purchases made to make it a money making enterprise? It is hard to tell. But there are hundreds, thousands of bogus websites in existence that link into stories from other websites – TNM gets lots of these link ins every day. They don’t drive traffic for TNM, but they might just generate enough traffic themselves to generate money from Google’s AdSense. Building these kinds of news aggregation sites is easy, and if the owner has enough of them they might be able to make a fairly decent living.

Now that strategy has come to the Apple Newsstand.

The Guardian and Observer iPad edition has been updated today. In addition to iOS 7 optimization, the app also fixes some bugs.

Guardian-iPad-update-lgThe update also brings in some new content: “The Guide for film, music, games, TV and arts features, previews and regulars every Saturday, and Observer Tech Monthly one Sunday each month.”

The Guardian did not immediately launch an iPad edition, but instead worked on its design and strategy, finally launching the iPad app in October of 2011.

While the paper touted its design, I found this to be a pretty weak feature of the app. The Guardian went with the design scheme du jour, boxes, in order to automate the process of creating the app edition.

Today’s Guardian app requires readers to sign up for a subscription $16.99 a month for both the Guardian and Observer, or $13.99 for just the Guardian, $9.99 for just the Observer. There is no way to simply buy that day’s paper.

I think it is a failed strategy (in the last ABC report, the paper’s daily circulation was down over 8 percent to 191,182). But I think that the paper took a very newspaper-like approach to its app: it took its time, spent a lot of money, and now feels stuck. This is the opposite approach to what is needed: move fast, developer internally, and experiment.

A number of other media apps were updated today including the BBC News, Flipboard and Netflix – each for bug fixes. The launch of iOS 7 has been a particularly difficult adjustment to make for many developers, as judged by the number of updates issued this time around.

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