Apple's iPad has become a beacon of hope in the newspaper industry's quest to monetize content, although skeptics like Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner caution that it may take "decades" before the move becomes profitable. Nevertheless, a few papers in Europe and the US have recently issued iPad applications, hoping to use the digital medium as an opportunity for innovation.
The San Francisco Chronicle introduced its new iPad app this morning. The paper's print edition has been in decline since 2001, but its online readership has grown since the launch of SFGate, making it a major online U.S. paper. The release of the iPad application is another means to reach the paper's consumers who live outside of the Bay Area, the SF Chronicle explained on its site. The app will differentiate itself from SFgate by releasing pictures and videos exclusive to the tablet, as well as interactive links to share content on Twitter and Facebook.
French daily Libération released a new version of its iPad application last week. The unique format has two reading options: one similar to the print version of the paper (albeit with some interactive content), and the other designed to show all news at a glance through sliding vertical columns. The first is paid-for, the latter free. This marks the first time a French newspaper offers a digital subscription option directly through an application.
In other tablet news, the German paper Main Echo's new iPad app is the first combination of mobile newspaper contents and e-paper editions. Ulrich Eymann, the Managing Director of the printing house Main-Echo GmbH & Co. KG, claims the app is "ideally integrated in the production processes for the editorial department". It requires no daily customizing of the layout, as the news is automatically displayed in the template defined during production.
In a markedly different strategy, the Orange County Register's second iPad app, released last month, seeks to tailor the news to a tech savvy audience with a hyper-interactive experience. The format is updated by the new publishing team, composed of people from television, movie, and magazine backgrounds. The Register is a branch of Freedom Communications Inc, an Irvine based company that publishes over 100 local papers in the U.S. The Register's new app is a testing ground for other similar projects.
"Most newspapers are going to work on a transition strategy to these devices, whereas we are working on an audience transition strategy," explains Doug Bennet, president of Freedom Interactive. This approach is meant to differentiate the app from an online paper. The app will eventually include a standard print format.