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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    blaktron (profile), Apr 5th, 2011 @ 2:15pm

    When you program with the mindset of preventing access to your content, its unlikely you will end up with a good access system.... it only makes sense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Christopher Gizzi (profile), Apr 5th, 2011 @ 2:27pm

    Lesson in FAIL

    The whole effort smacks of incompetence. The pricing, the access, the workarounds, the investment costs, the lack of distinction between products and services (vs paper, vs apps, vs website), the customer service, the illogical arguments, the changing features, and the obscured realities just says this is a humongous study in failure at every level of its business.

    It's amazing how much failure there appears to be at the NY Times. They are failing at every turn. And I'm really surprised by it. Even if you think that pay walls can work (which I don't), the execution on this is horrible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Christopher Gizzi (profile), Apr 5th, 2011 @ 2:36pm

    Odd Quotes from Yahoo

    Something else struck out as odd to me in the Yahoo article, this quote from the author which I thought the audience, here, might appreciate (because it's been suggested otherwise):

    "They are a company, after all, and simply giving the product away for free for years and years doesn't make for good business."

    I think many of us believe there is a way to compete with free. In fact, the author even highlights this as a failure on the NY Times' part:

    "If you can't immediately roll out an unbeatable user experience, how can you expect people to thrown down several hundred dollars when there are dozens of other news outlets they can frequent instead for free?"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    vervespot (profile), Apr 5th, 2011 @ 2:43pm

    I have always liked The Times and still hope for them to find ways to evolve and watch their bottom line WITHOUT chasing readers away. This effort is a big fail. Is it possible that they don't have enough foresight to assemble the right team before launching this type of endeavor? This only makes them seem more like dinosaurs :(

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    DearMrMiller (profile), Apr 5th, 2011 @ 2:55pm

    Avoiding payment... just don't upgrade.

    Well I found on my NYT iphone app that if you acknowledge the update prompt but break out of it and then go back to the App you get all the content for free... so there's that workaround. Just don't upgrade the app, because then it'll ask you to pay.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 5th, 2011 @ 3:01pm

    Talking about apps, could we get a copyrightman app?

    That video was awesome!

    I even have a suggestion for the next one, put a sea Somali pirate, with some gangsters and some bootleggers complaining about how filesharing has put them out of business and they need to do something about, then put copyrightman saying I approve of this, maybe Clements and others labels and studios CEO's should be in there too LoL

    The idea is under CC C0, this probably guarantee nobody who uses that idea from me will see me ever trying to extort them :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    weneedhelp (profile), Apr 5th, 2011 @ 3:05pm

    There goes Mike again

    Talking all that value stuff. Just buy our crap. Dont you worry that it is lousy, you get what we give you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    athe, Apr 5th, 2011 @ 3:20pm

    $40M can go awful quick when your manager:developer ratio is something like 6:1.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Apr 5th, 2011 @ 5:23pm

    Re: Lesson in FAIL

    There's speculation that the paywall is really an attempt to drive print sales. Perhaps this app is designed badly intentionally for the same reason.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Danny (profile), Apr 5th, 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    Danny (profile), Apr 5th, 2011 @ 9:11pm

    Re: something I focused on this morning

    After I submitted I realized I haven't been using the NY Times app since last summer; it was introduced sometime later.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    PaulT (profile), Apr 5th, 2011 @ 10:39pm

    Re: Re: Lesson in FAIL

    If true, that's even more stupid.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2011 @ 2:54am

    "and people who had used the old app to archive favorite stories had them all deleted"
    WTF do they think? Deleting data off people's hardware is a pure malware work and should be prosecuted.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    WarOtter (profile), Apr 6th, 2011 @ 6:36am

    Yet another example of the lawyers and marketing people dictating design, rather than people with half a brain.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Arthur, Apr 6th, 2011 @ 1:14pm

    Digital price with home delivery is cheaper than digital only!

    Why is no one talking about the fact that you can order 7 day home delivery for $3.10/week ($12.40/month) for your first 12 weeks including all access digital. Then when it goes to full price after the 12 weeks, it's $24.80. That's $24.80 a month for 7 day home delivery and all access unlimited digital compared to $35 for only all access digital. Even if you don't want home delivery, it's stupid not to get it unless you like wasting money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2011 @ 1:23pm

    Well, NYT got my subscription working. If the paper plus electronic is cheaper than I'll be taking that fairly soon. I paid until they made it free. Now I think it's overpriced. But I guess I like it enough to pay for it, for now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Wise, Apr 29th, 2011 @ 12:25pm

    Just don't update

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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