Do Bloomberg Businessweek app and iPad click?
For all the griping about Apple's restrictive subscriptions plan, news organizations are beginning to embrace it. News Corp. debuted tablet-only "The Daily" in early February. The New York Times ended March like a lion, with new paywalls that included an iPad subscription. Yesterday, Bloomberg Businessweek app debuted on Apple's App Store, also with subscription pricing.
For this reviewer, the $2.99 monthly price is the most exciting thing about the app. Definitely it's a price I'd like to see more weekly magazines adopt. I'd ditch print The New Yorker, which costs me 29 bucks for a year, for iPad digital version, if available for three bucks a month. Last I checked, the magazine was available only per issue -- for $3.99. Get a gun so I can shoot the dog, too.
There's more to the pricing benefits. Bloomberg Businessweek subscribers can sign in for free if they subscribe in print. Now that's a benefit Apple subscription plan critics -- yes, me among them -- vehemently complained wouldn't be available. That 30 percent revenue cut Apple takes off the top might suck for publishers, but consumers should rejoice for getting digital for free when also subscribing to print. That's how it should be -- publishers rewarding existing customers with extra benefits that also should help retain them as subscribers.
In January, I was ready to cancel my New York Times subscription (again). We get the Sunday paper, which stacks up weeks on end before my wife gets around to reading it. I just read the Times online. Six months will pass, I'll call to cancel and the customer service rep will offer half off for another half year, and I end up keeping the Sunday paper. This time around I was determined to cancel, until hearing that the paywall was coming and the Sunday Times would open access to everything. That's a benefit I can appreciate. But I digress. This is supposed to be a Bloomberg Businessweek for iPad review.
Clean, but Too Lean?
I was excited about the app, having been a previous subscriber and feeling warm and cozy about the $2.99/month price. But disappointment was swift, sadly. But do give Bloomberg Businessweek for iPad a chance. Your mileage running this app might be better than mine. My problems started with the font size, which I found to be way too big at the smallest size. My eyes may be aging, but my vision isn't so bad that I need large print books or magazines. Perhaps the font size reflects an older readership. There are three sizes to choose from: biggest, very biggest and extremely biggest. Perhaps you'll be fine with these choices. I'm not.
Bloomberg snatched up Businessweek in October 2009 for between $2 million and $5 million (cough, cough, cough), according to a news story by Businessweek (or was it Bloomberg). The wire services gutted the newsroom (there was a sordid joke going about anyone with a photo next to his or her byline getting sacked). Don't worry, I'm not lost writing. I am going somewhere with this: The app feels more wire service than digital edition. The layout is spartan compared to most other news apps I've used on iPad -- that is based on reading the sample edition, which I assume is feature representative. It's supposed to be last week's issue -- April 4, 2011. If you're wanting flash and splash, like lots of audio and video content, look somewhere else. Bloomberg Businessweek is the quintessential definition of drab design. It's not bad, just spartan compared to many other apps.
Getting around is easy. News sections run across the top of pages, and there's a left-top drop-down issue "contents" menu that is highly useful. The search feature, which I didn't fully test having only one issue, works from current to past issues. Hell, that's handy. The app does provide some live market and company news, which is again handy. That's accessible from a related tab that opens a right-side pop-out sidebar listing the companies mentioned in the story and offering some current news items. But it's unclear at this juncture for how long content is updated. Can subscribers open a six-month old issue and get updates for companies mentioned in a story? That would be hugely useful if available.
The sharing feature works well, although it's limited to Facebook, email and Twitter -- but that's enough. One useful feature is called "Clippings." From a lower-left hand tab, readers can "clip" stories, which are then stored and accessible from a right-top drop-down menu. By the way, the navigation system of tabs and menus is clean looking and clearly understandable. It's not confusing. There's generous white space, which is easy on the eyes. Nor are there advertisements leaping out everywhere.
Again, Bloomberg Businessweek for iPad isn't a bad app -- there's lots to like here. I'm just not falling in love, particularly when so many other news apps tap into so many more iOS/iPad platform features. As I expressed earlier, your mileage may be better. As I write, there are 39 reviews at the App Store, with 35 of them giving 5 stars. Joseph Osborne likes the Bloomberg Businessweek app for what's not there: "I think iPad mags and newspapers go too far trying to be interactive, to a fault."
Matthew LaFollette shares Osborne's enthusiasm: "Any other magazine thinking of making an app should look at this one first. This is how it is done. Easy to read, easy to find articles, looks like the paper version."