Monday, October 11, 2010

ESPN Magazine, the iPad App

I'm an ESPN Mag subscriber, so I was excited when they announced plans to release the Mag as an iPad app in September.  I was even more thrilled to hear the app content would be free for print subscribers.  Great idea.  The app arrived a bit later than anticipated, but now that it's here I've got to say I'm disappointed with it.

ESPN violated one of my biggest rules for magazine/newspaper apps: They don't include all the content from the print version.  You'll find the app editions only include the longer articles from the print magazine.  The app is also missing some of the great visuals I look forward to seeing in the print edition.  I absolutely love those full-page, oftentimes close-up, vivid images towards the front of the magazine.  They've also done a great job with some interesting visualizations in the last page article in the print edition.  None of those can be found in the app editions.  And can you believe there's no search capability in the app?!  How in the world do you offer a content app without search?  Unbelievable.

On the flip side, the app includes some content you won't find in the print editions.  That's nice, but I figured I'd be able to take my print subscription with me on the road with the iPad app and that's simply not the case.  Instead I'm forced to read through the app articles then flip through the print edition to see what the app didn't include.  Does that make sense to anyone?

Although the app doesn't cost me anything today (since I'm a print subscriber), in order to obtain full app content/issue access I had to give ESPN my credit card so they could charge me the "prevailing rate" for automatic print subscription renewal.  I interpret that to mean the inexpensive rate ($10!) I paid for this year's subscription will go up next year.  That's bait-and-switch.  They told me I'd get free app access as a print subscriber but what they're really doing is locking me in to a higher-priced renewal rate than I could probably get on my own.  That certainly leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I'm also wondering why the app editions don't show up before the print versions show up in my mailbox.  In fact, the latest print edtion arrived Saturday but it's nowhere to be found in the app.  Disappointing.

I'm a sucker for ESPN so I'll probably just bite the bullet if they charge me more next year.  I like the fact that they've built a model where app content access is free for print subscribers but I wish they would have been more honest about the missing content and the higher-priced subscription renewal requirement.  I'm also keeping my fingers crossed that ESPN will fix all of these boneheaded shortcomings in a future version of the app.

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