Was The Times’ App Really Ready?

Whilst I’ve been playing with The Times’ ipad app since its launch, I think I’ve now reached the conclusion that it’s simply not the best way to read the paper.

On the one hand there’s the lack of choice and personal flexibility. Clearly from News International’s perspective, that’s the point –
indeed I’m currently subscribing to the website and the ipad app – but on a daily basis, whilst I would certainly read the Times some days, I wouldn’t ever do so at the permanent expense of the other papers. To be honest, I see this as a fatal flaw in the ‘one fee per month’ model – as it relies entirely upon reader loyalty, which fundamentally cuts down on the potential target audience. Moreover, given the demographic of web and ipad users, surely they are the most likely candidates to be ‘floating’ readers?

Conceptually, the app makes sense – it’s just that I’ve now come to the conclusion that it’s not the best implementation of the idea.

I’m delighted that they took the decision to offer a couple of months of additional free subscription for the first adopters – but this was clearly admitted to be in return for effectively being beta testers for a product that really wasn’t even ready to be in beta, never mind widely available. I realised that I haven’t even fired it up for a few weeks now, which is probably based on my frustration at the experience up to that point.

Ultimately, I think there’s a lesson here – which is that the ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach is not necessarily always better than ‘ready, aim, fire’. Whilst this has no reflection on the publication’s output, despite being a fan of the technology, it simply doesn’t stack up again other projects which have, quite simply, been better implemented.

And given the Times has so much to lose in terms of brand equity, I’m not sure what has been gained in terms of being perceived as innovative was worth what is potentially lost through treating customers as guinea pigs.