We cancelled our 69 euro / 3 months subscription to the printed edition of Helsingin Sanomat a few weeks ago and we’ve been testing the iPad version since then. It is less expensive (54 euros) and the weekend breakfast table is certainly less crowded. I have however found some drawbacks.
The navigation works well and the app is reliable, but it is too predictable. New technology or a new medium always tends to mimic the characteristics of the old ones. When making the transition from analog to digital you need to look at the best parts of the old product and transform them so that they align with the possibilities of the new one. I will not pay for and consume content that has been published 9-12 hours earlier when the main point of it is that it’s served fresh. The iPad app’s content does not change during the course of the day, compared to the iPhone app that is constantly updated, although in a much more condensed free version. If you do offer old content, you’re expected to have insights and commentary that no one else is able to offer and preferably from people you know and trust. Compare it to buying an assortment of international coffee blends with unlimited refills, without knowing who made it or when it was made.
This is what I would like to see. Look at what Flipboard is doing and make as many of your editors equal members in a network of content producers. Allow them to release their material immediately when it is ready and include all – text, images, video, graphics and virtually everything you produce (and no being cheap with the image releases, make albums). Make it a current flow of content that stretches through a 24 hour news cycle. Naturally most of the content will be released between 7 AM and 23 PM but in between you can have curated news agency content. The readers will get a more natural news cycle and a closer relationship to the people making the news and thus to the news agency itself. Better still, create lists of editors to follow and allow readers to customize it.
Allow people to share the content through the app (not possible now) and let their friends access it with a similar model as the New York Times, although only showing a bit of the content. Allow people to access and pay for the content in as many ways and on as many platforms as you can handle. People will still read the shortened articles but an ever growing number of them will move across to pay. People will of course copy your material but then there will always be a delay in it. The key is the constant flow and the knowledge that your’re getting a fresh brew from a trusted network of coffee connoisseurs.