Hailed as a strategy opposite of raising paywalls, Kent News has released a free iPhone app with a battery of features, some new, some not so new. See below for the promo video of its features.
The app allows customers to access page-turning editions of Kent News titles with full e-Reader capability, watch live news video updates, and search for jobs, cars, restaurants and properties that are linked in the news organization's database.
Archives and articles can be searched by keyword with the ability to download single pages or editions to read offline. Advertisers can have links in the paper enabled to go directly to their websites, which is great for them but could be rather annoying for the mis-clicking consumer who would have the app close and replaced by safari opening to the ad page.
PageSuite Limited and KOS Media, the publishers of the Kent on Sunday, have described the app as 'revolutionary' and 'world first' in a few different senses. First, somewhat vaguely, as "world first functionality when it comes to newspaper publishers" according to PageSuite marketing manager Benjamin Edwards, who I think means that it has functions that other newspaper apps don't. Secondly the app is held out as a hope of redefining how newspapers are consumed and interacted with on a mobile device.
"We have always prided ourselves on being at the cutting edge of new media. We are delighted with the results of this iPhone App - taking all our newspapers, live news and video, and supplement product searches to the SmartPhone market. This new world first is really going to change how readers consume media on the move over the coming years" explains Paul Stannard, managing director of KOS Media.
OK the e-Reader function is pretty cool, but the screen of an iPhone is not exactly reading-friendly. Perhaps what makes this app 'revolutionary' and 'world first' is that it bundles several features all together in one app. The functional e-Reader for current newspaper editions, classifieds and advertising searching, live story and latest article updates and the streaming video are pretty neat to have all in one place, and for free.
"The timing of this launch has been planned to meet the massive iPhone demand over Christmas. This new application will only go to heighten the debate over free news content and pay walls. Our multi-media strategy through print, digital and iPhone will hold the real key to developing a more sustained business model within regional and national media," continues Stannard.
While this certainly is involved in the paid content debate, I fail to see how exactly giving products services away for free will be a sustainable business model, especially since its based on advertising which has been the downfall of newspapers' profits. After all, how long will it be until there is a fully functional globally enabled Craigslist app? If there isn't one already.
Source: PageSuite press release (received in response to this article, interestingly enough).