We are one week into the soft launch of the new Orange County Register iPad app (download), and the feedback is starting to flow in. Good and bad.
From the outset, we had the feeling the product we are developing would not be for everyone. We are distinctively aiming for an audience interested in a curated, highly designed lean-back experience. It is an experience that perhaps won’t appeal to a so-called “news junkie.” A study conducted about The Daily revealed that they face such a dilemma. “Light” readers love the app while “heavy” readers are skeptical. (I wrote about that here prior to launch.)
For us it is still early, but there are indicators our readers are divided into two camps also. There are those who love the easy navigation, the focus on photos and design, the high use of multimedia. And then there are those who are not satisfied with one complete evening edition (we publish at 6pm) spiced up with some RSS feeds throughout the day. Personally, I can certainly relate to both camps.
Below, I have tried to organize and respond to the feedback received from April 19 through April 26. The feedback is gathered from Twitter, Facebook, iTunes, blogs and emails. I hope you will take the time to leave your comments at the end as well.
Total: 16 responses
First, the good news. It looks like a lot of readers favor the direction we are going in. Here are a few samples of the comments we have received:
“I downloaded & like the @ocreggie ipad app. Nice UI update & a “flowing” design; great job!”
“Howdy! Still playing with the app, I do like the pictorial layout and easy navigation!”
“I had no idea that OC Register had released this, and I LIVE in OC. I downloaded this right away, and I’m pretty impressed.”
“Cool. I’m a big fan of this app.”
“Totally entertaining & my new fave way to read the OCR!”
In addition to the positive responses from readers (thank you!), we also received a rather glowing review from ipadinsight.com: Blogger Patrick Jordan wrapped up his review with this quote:
“It’s very clear that the folks at the OC Register have swung for the fences with their iPad edition, and happily they’ve hit a homerun with it.”
But…. It is not all rosy. A quick look in iTunes reveals that the app is currently right below a 3 star average. Most concerning, there are many 1 star ratings.
Below, I have organized the not-so-favorable feedback into themes.
Total: 8 responses
Background: At launch we announced that for a “limited time” all content would be free, but in time we would ask readers to help pay for the work we do immersing ourselves in the community. What we didn’t say was when we would start charging, how much, and when. Our stated intent (or lack thereof) resulted in several bad reviews in iTunes, tweets and emails:
“Great first start! Thanks (hope you make it free for us “print” subscribers)”
“Crap. Jut downloaded it. You are going to charge me now when i already pay for it…. Good luck with that model….”
“My complaint is there is no info on the pricing structure. I will not pay for home delivery and iPad edition.”
“You’re going to start charging for what was free? Laaame”
What we are doing about it: We need to be more transparent in our messaging to readers. We have since updated the iTunes app description, so it now states:
“Some reviewers have noted that we plan to eventually ask you to help pay for the work of the hundreds of reporters, photographers, videographers, designers and editors who engage in the community… For now, enjoy it for free. The content will continue to be free for at least four months and potentially longer. For our loyal print subscribers, it will always be free. Hope that clarifies things a bit and please continue to send us your comments.”
Publishing time/how to update
Total: 6 responses
Background: We spent a lot of time researching when people use their iPads. Our conclusion was that people primarily pick up the iPad in the evening and sometimes in the morning. At the same time we evaluated our workflows and came to the conclusion that out the gate, we would publish a downloadable evening edition six days a week (Mon-Sat). At launch, it seems that this approach has created confusion for some of our readers:
“So, is this how the app will work? Daily edition comes out at the end of the day. I consume my news at the beginning of each day and will lose interest in this app and the OC Register if this is how it will be managed.”
“Now, why the heck am I stuck in Tuesday’s edition? I use computers for a living and even I can’t figure out how to update it…”
“One question though, why can I only download the previous days edition and not the current days?”
What we are doing about it: We continue to believe in the idea of a curated and highly designed experience. It is very time consuming to put together a compelling lean-back product. At the same time, it is certainly our intention to bring more immediacy to the app. Ideally we would publish several high-end editions per day. Based on the feedback, we have immediately enhanced some of the RSS feeds and made them more prominent, in particular in the sports section. Over time, we are working towards adding a morning edition as well as a Sunday edition. We will also be working closely with our development partner, making it more intuitive how and where to download the latest edition.
Total: 2 responses
Background: Our product is based on downloading the daily edition. The advantages are you can create a more high-end and interactive experience and you can read the content when offline. The downside is that it takes time to download each edition. In an online world where people are used to instant gratification, this is causing some concern:
“The April 20 issue took about 90 seconds on download on my iPad. Not sure why.”
“You now need to inconveniently download each issue (up to 10 minutes on wifi) and they are prepping to charge you. Looks like I’m done with you OC Register…”
What we are doing about it: We are working with our development partner to optimize the download size of each edition. Soon, we will also be introducing a progressive download feature, enabling the reader to start reading while the rest of the edition is downloaded in the background.
Launching the app really just meant starting the product development process. The initial feedback has been very helpful, and we will continue to monitor and respond to our audience demands. In my next post I will be describing the innovation framework we are implementing, in order to ensure the continuous development of our tablet product(s).
What do you think? Are we on the right path?