Ryan Tate over at Valleywag writes that Apple‘s Steve Jobs has been “shunning” the New York Times iPad app. With any other app, this would be such unimportant gossip that not even the most Apple-crazy fan site would bother writing about it. But Jobs positioned the iPad as a savior of periodicals, and put the Grey Lady right up front. Ads feature the iPad’s browser landed on the Times‘s site, and Jobs even brought a Times executive on stage when he introduced the tablet.
Yet, the NYTimes iPad app, called “NYT Editor’s Choice,” blows. It’s a wildly incomplete application, lacking huge swathes of content from both the newspaper and the website–and remember, the website is completely free (at the moment), and can be accessed in full from the iPad’s browser. Says Tate:
Apple has not profiled NYT Editors’ Choice within its app store, where it regularly showers special attention on “noteworthy” and “favorite” applications, assembles bundles of blessed apps with themes like “Music Creation” or “For Kids,” and even names an “App of the Week.”
In fact, NYT Editors’ Choice was not even listed in the “News” section of the iPad app store for weeks after the device launched, we’re told, although it has since been filed there. Talk about life as an orphan.
According to Tate, the reason for the lacking iPad app is due to a pre-existing relationship with Amazon and its Kindle. The agreement “apparently precludes the paper from releasing a cheaper, comparable e-edition on a competing tablet.”
There are also issues with pricing; the Kindle version is $20 per month (just upped from $15 prior to the iPad’s launch), and Times execs apparently want to charge at least that much, and preferably more, for an iPad version. That makes sense, actually, since an iPad app would necessarily be more complex, featuring a touch interface, color photography, and video. The digital arm of the Times would prefer a cheaper price, at around $10, but they may not win that battle–it’d require a pretty large change in the Amazon contract.
The Times is in the midst of a huge shakeup in pricing and distribution, which is why all these developments and numbers seem so nebulous. Hopefully they can get their act together and release something people want to buy–if the Wall Street Journal‘s app is any indication, it seems people will be willing to pay for good content.