May 21, 2015 Last Updated 10:32 am

The Guardian updates iPad app, supposedly adding pinch to zoom

The Guardian’s iPad edition, which requires a subscription, remains uniquely designed, but probably of limited appeal as the paper’s open website continues to attract U.S. readers

The Guardian and Observer today issued an update to its iPad edition, its paid digital edition with reformats the daily newspaper into a more tablet friendly format.

The update brings the app, The Guardian and Observer daily edition, up to version 2.9.

What’s New in Version 2.9

  • Navigation enhancements
  • Introduction of pinch and zoom for an improved reading experience
  • Bug fixes, including for crosswords

Guardian-iPad-updateI’ll be honest, I have no clue what they mean by “introducing pinch and zoom” as I tested the app after the update and could not get pinch-to-zoom to work in any story or with any pictures, even in the “In Pictures” section. Maybe the developers messed up with that one and mean to add this feature in the future (or maybe I just couldn’t see where it worked).

The iPad edition is a very nice app, but its appeal is definitely limited. For most U.S. readers, The Guardian’s website, without any paywall, is a popular destination. The newspaper is a bit more to the left that the NYT, which means it is one of the few consistently liberal newspaper voices in America (though I understand that conservatives consider all newspapers too liberal just by definition of them being newspapers). For U.K. readers, well, they can still find the print paper around to buy.

For those expats who miss their Guardian print newspaper, the app works quite well by delivering the newspaper’s content, but in a tablet-native design. But regular readers will have to pay for the privilege (after a free introductory period), so the question is whether they consider it worth it in comparison to just accessing the website.

As a former newspaper publisher, I’d like to think that the real purpose of the app is to add valuable advertising real estate. But the app is ad free. It may be that the paper thinks that paying customers will not want to see advertising in a digital product if they are paying for it (probably true) but don’t mind it online where the content is free.

I get it, but I really think newspapers and magazines are doing their industries a disservice by not more aggressively going after advertising for their digital editions. Yes, the readership remains small (and getting smaller – thanks Apple), but together there are millions of readers accessing digital editions – and they are in the younger demographic that most brands say they want to reach.

The answer, many people thought, would be the launch of new tablet ad networks. These networks never materialized, so maybe the answer is programmatic.

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