December 11, 2013 Last Updated 7:15 am

Gannett updates USA TODAY for iPad app, adding customizable push notifications

Updates brings in real-time notifications for Breaking News, News, Sports, Life, Money, and Tech

The flagship newspaper for Gannett received a major to its iPad edition last night. USA TODAY for iPad, which remains a stand-alone, free application, was updated to add in customizable push notifications.

USAT-splash-aniReaders who did not give the app permission to send push notifications may not notice much of a difference. But if they go into Settings to turn on the notifications, then the next time they open the app a new introductory screen will walk them through the process of setting up the alerts.

Readers can choose between News, Sports, Life, Money and Tech alerts, and can choose what hours they will allow the alerts to appear. Readers can also customize weather and provide a small amount of personal information, as well (this customizes the ads sent to the reader).

The update also makes changes to the video content. Now the app comes with skippable pre-rolls and a continuous play and end-card containing more video options. The iPad edition also adds a new section containing movie trailers, plus a movie trivia game.

A couple of the newer reader reviews since the update have complained about the app crashing. I did not experience any crashes in my limited use of the app since the update, however.

The app’s business model is all about delivering more web-like advertising, rather than pushing for paid circulation. The articles feature a medium rectangle shaped ad spot on each front article front page. The design is fairly typical newspaper tablet design with standard layouts with one graphics spot. It is unimaginative, but takes little production effort. Also, the adjustable font feature will probably a very welcome feature for many readers.

The app resides outside the Newsstand, of course, because there are no subscriptions to sell. The app, therefore, is a reflection of the newspaper’s website rather than an alternative to the newspaper. But most readers see the app as a digital version of the paper they receive at hotels for fee, though in some ways it is a better product as it is constantly updated. What it lacks in newspaper design it makes up for in timeliness.

Gannett continues with plans to add in USA Today content into its increasingly trimmed down local newspapers. The media company has been testing the USAT sections in four of its newspapers for the past month or so and will roll out the feature in its remaining local papers in the New Year.

The move, like the iPad edition, is intended to increase the real estate for national advertising. The additional 12 to 14 pages will present an issue for local editors who have to make sure content is not duplicated, and that stories they find of interest, that would normally be the purview of USAT, still get coverage when USAT editors choose to ignore them.

For the local papers, the sales pitch will be that the paper is adding a feature, rather than cutting one back.

“Every day, an edition of USA Today will be delivered with The Desert Sun. On Sundays, we’ll deliver two USA Today sections, along with award-winning regional coverage by our special investigations team, local news and sports reporting and stories about the desert’s inspiring blend of art, culture and scenery,” The Desert Sun’s Publisher Mark J. Winkler and Executive Editor Greg Burton told readers recently.

“While some media are giving consumers less, we believe that you want and deserve more.”

Unfortunately, the reader comments are a bit more skeptical of the move.

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