July 21, 2014 Last Updated 7:54 am

Journal Sentinel updates replica edition app, maintains two app strategy inside the App Store

Morning Brief: media app updates include bug fix updates for Future plc’s Mac|Life and iPad User magazines, as well as The Atlantic Weekly

The newspaper industry continues to struggle to find a winning digital formula, weighed down by the concept that all new digital products are designed to be a replica of some previously designed product.

JS-iPad-newsThe Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, for instance, maintains two separate, stand-alone apps – each a replica edition. The replica edition of its print newspaper, Journal Sentinel e-Edition, was updated this weekend. The update adds back in a landscape view, something readers have complained about for a while. But the app is pretty worthless if you are not already a subscriber to the newspaper as it opens to a page the requires you to immediately sign in to your account. This not only prevents the reader from buying a subscription inside the app, but prevents single copy sales, as well. In short, the app doesn’t sell, a major fault of any product, let alone a digital one.

The app update brags that the reader can now see a replica of two print pages spread across their iPhone when in landscape. That means the 22.875″ by 20″ newspaper has been shrunk down to fit the iPhone’s 3.5″ by 2″ screen. Somebody at the Journal Sentinel has a pretty good sense of humor.

JS-iPad-loginMilwaukee Journal Sentinel for iPad/iPhone is the paper’s other app for the iPad, one that attempts to be a replica edition of the newspaper’s website. These kinds of news apps are popular with newspaper executives who seem to feel that they must have an app version of their website. The problem with these apps is that they are driven by RSS feeds and so display whatever the newest story is up top. So while the print newspaper this morning led with the news from Gaza, and the website currently is leading with a story about the state’s governor, the app is leading with minor news story that is buried inside a local news section online.

The app was developed by Mercury Intermedia, a mobile app developer from Tennessee. The app is modeled on other newspaper apps such as the NYT and appears to work just fine, though reader reviews in the past have complained about crashes and other problems.

The Milwaukee newspaper also has several other iPhone apps inside the App Store, including one for its recruitment category. That makes the paper one of the few out there to use apps for their classified section, something that I would think would have been obvious from the start (late 2008, which Apple began to allow third party app development for the iPhone).

TheAtlantic-iPad-RareWireMagazine app updates were issue for many of the Future plc Newsstand apps including Mac|Life (the app is called Mac Life: the ultimate Apple magazine) and iPad User (which now has the app name of iPad User: the companion iPad magazine for all iPad models.

Trying to keep up with what is going on at Future is pretty hard. Its internal politics is one thing, its app philosophy is another. Mac|Life launched one of the first interactive, native tablet editions back in 2010, then it was pulled and replaced with a replica edition, only to launch a new interactive edition late last year. Meanwhile, iPad User, which one would think would have a digital edition designed for the iPad, instead only has a replica edition.

The Atlantic also issued a bug fix update for its The Atlantic Weekly Newsstand app. The publisher uses the Mag+ platform to create its Apple Newsstand app, while the replica edition app was built by RareWire and delivers some of the articles from the print magazine free of charge and reformatted into a native tablet or iPhone design.

The Atlantic’s approach is more inventive than that of many magazine properties. But the problem with creating multiple apps for a single magazine brand becomes apparent when looking the magazine’s audit report. Last December’s publisher’s statement showed only 10,292 digital subscribers and 333 single copy digital sales. As low as those numbers may be, they do represent a doubling of digital subscribers in one year.

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