By now you know that I’m pretty enamored by my iPad, particularly it’s knack for dematerialization. Newspapers? Plenty of apps and the iPad’s own browser deliver my news fix. Magazines? I roll my own, thanks.
Life was good. Until last week, when The New York Times iOS app called it quits.
No number of resets or re-installs could get it to load properly. I hit the iTunes store hoping for an updated, bug-free version. No dice, but I was able to scope out some of the feedback. Sure enough, as of early February, the latest version of the app (v.2.0.4, last updated Dec. 23, 2010) has been acting up for many users. A Google search also confirmed that others are running into the same problem.
Mind you, I can still read The New York Times via the browser perfectly fine, so it’s not like I’m cut off from the content that I enjoy. But the app makes it so easy. And while not the most mind-blowingly awesome software to ever grace the iPad, it’s clean, responsive and keeps supplemental materials like image galleries and videos finger tap or two away.
As a newspaper replacement, it simply works. Or at least it used to.
Getting with the times
If print publishers are hoping to make their fortunes on tablets, their apps should be up to the task. It’s disconcerting that with so many one-star reviews flooding the iTunes store, an update hasn’t been issued yet. Contrast this with the The Daily, which quickly issued an updated version after some app instability began taking a toll on its iTunes rating. (A super-recent, high-profile debut undoubtedly contributed too.)
If the iPad is to play any part in justifying The New York Times’ paywall — or any other company mulling a subscription model, for that matter — its app ought to run flawlessly. Once you wean your readers off paper, don’t make them long for the days of physical newspapers that never crashed on them. Those days are gone.
And apart from leaving unflattering feedback, spurned users will just tap on the icons of competitors that offer more stable, Apple-like experiences. Some might even be drawn to apps that leverage Instapaper’s newly announced API and take the wonderful service in exciting new directions. Others may elect get social with Flipboard and never look back.
Here’s hoping that The New York Times is able to work out the bugs soon. After several attempts, I was finally able to get it to load properly tonight (literally, minutes ago). And although all’s well that ends well, it’s unfair to ask readers to jump through so many hoops.
So why make them?