Netly: The Third Screen

Finally! The New Yok Times starts charging for its iPhone apps

Posted on: January 12, 2010

I was thrilled to see that the NYT has finally grown a pair, and is charging for two of its iPhone apps. And happily, for those of us rooting for the success of paid, online content, the two apps are tearing up the Top Paid charts at Apple’s app store.

Yep, that’s right: The New York Times Mobile Reader (“The power of the New York Times in your hands,” for 99 cents,) and The New York Times Mobile News Reader (“Get the most quality news and information with you on the go,” for 99 cents) are now in the top 20, ranked at number 14 and 17 respectively. At the same time, its free NYTimes app continues to dominate the Top Free news category.

That’s so great. Readers are willing to pay for quality content after all!

But hang on a second. Unfortunately, aside from “borrowing” the Gray Lady’s content and name, neither one of those apps has anything whatsoever to do with the NYT. Entrepreneurial third parties have built the apps, which appear to do little more than scrape the newspaper’s site and display the data in a hand-dandy downloadable app.

It almost goes without saying that plenty of enterprising dudes are doing the same thing to other branded sites, ranging from NBC TV to some Time Inc. mags, to Techmeme. And while I’m sure the smaller sites are happy for the referred pageviews, I’m just as sure that this is more evidence that big publishers can’t keep up with how rapidly the world is changing.

I suppose they could claim that the piracy is too small to bother with. But they’re mistaken, in my opinion. These unofficial apps dilute their brands. They also create confusion in users’ minds (“I paid the NYT 99 cents for this crummy app. Sheesh, you’d think the Times would do a more professional job…”)

I checked with someone at Apple who said the policy is to take down infringing apps when the authorized content creator complains. The reason they don’t bar this stuff from the get go is virtually all apps are made by third parties; how are they to know what’s authorized and what’s not?

Oh well. The good news is that it’s clear that given how popular the NYT’s unofficial paid apps are, that the Times will have no trouble charging for its upcoming, rumored Apple tablet edition. Of course, neither will anyone else making a NYT app.

2 Responses to "Finally! The New Yok Times starts charging for its iPhone apps"

[...] Josh Quittner notes, hijacking publishers’ names and content and turning them into paid apps isn’t [...]

You’ve failed to mention the most important aspect of all this: the rogue NYT apps are selling because the Time’s own app is horrible. Buggy, slow, bad UI. If they actually fixed the thing, I’d probably pay for it.

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