If You're Going To Ask People To Pay For Your App, NYT, You Should Make Sure It Doesn't Suck

from the just-a-suggestion dept

We've been quite critical of the NYTime's "Emperor's New Paywall," but there's another aspect to the discussion that goes beyond just the "paywall" itself, but the fact that part of that "paywall" is really granting access to either a smartphone or iPad app. Of course, they're charging an awful lot for the privilege of having access to the app, and you'd think if they were doing that, the app had better be damn good. Unfortunately, that appears to not be the case. Lots of people are giving the apps pretty bad reviews. Yes, some of them are just complaining about the price, but even if you ignore those, the people who are actually paying seem to be complaining quite a bit as well. In particular, many are angry that it removed functionality from the old app, and people who had used the old app to archive favorite stories had them all deleted. Others are complaining that the app seems to crash all the time, and does not appear to be well implemented at all.

This raises another danger of "charging" for things that might otherwise be free. When you put up a price on things, you also increase expectations. If you fail to meet those expectations, you could face some serious backlash (not to mention customer service costs). It's really quite amazing that in those 14 months and with that $40 million, it appears that the NY Times didn't really spend all that much money on actually making their smartphone and tablet apps work well.
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Filed Under: apps, business models, journalism, paywalls
Companies: ny times

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  1. icon
    Danny (profile), 5 Apr 2011 @ 9:09pm

    something I focused on this morning

    I really like the New York Times and I am hopeful they find a way to stay in business. They have great content that I enjoy reading.

    In fact, I have been using their iPad app for almost the full year I've had my iPad. It is decent; it got better from the early days last summer. I don't like the UX as much as USA Today or the Washington Post (my favorite UX of the newspaper apps). It is much better than the AP app, which belongs in a UX hall of shame somewhere.

    Or at least all this holds true through late last week. The first time I hit the new paywall in the app I took Paul Krugman's advice. I deleted the app from my iPad and added several NY Times RSS feeds of interest to Google Reader (which I read on my iPad via Feeddler).

    This morning I was talking with a friend--a long time business publication editor who is just as flabbergasted as me--and surfaced the obvious in our discussion:

    I used to read the NY Times on my iPad and would see many display ads presented to me via the NY Times app. Now I read the NY Times on my iPad and never see a revenue generating ad at all.

    I didn't mind the ads before; It isn't at all clear to me what the Times thinks its gaining by pushing me away from looking at them now.

    I guess the Times could decide to shut off their RSS feeds. But the result of that wouldn't drive me to a subscription--there are so many more sources of free and interesting information than I have time to read each day. I will simply substitute some other decent sources for theirs.

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