May 292012
 
AFR_iPhone_App

I really wanted the Australian Financial Review’s iPad application to be great as the country desperately needs good reporting on the platforms people are using. Unfortunately Fairfax’s misguided commercial judgement gets in the way of delivering a killer app.

Many publishers are putting faith in iPad applications, seeing them as an opportunity to catch a market that is fleeing paper publications for their online equivalents.

To meet this demand, the Australian Financial Review has released their iPad application with a free fourteen day trial and plans starting from $59 per month for the digital editions.

It’s telling the subscription plans favour those buying the paper editions as the feeling from using the iPad app is that Fairfax’s management would rather you bought the paper.

This continued focus on print shows in the news not being updated – a reader of the app in an airport lounge at 6am will find little different logging at lunchtime or in a cab on the way home in the evening.

Clinging to the old news timetable is admirable but it means the AFR isn’t taking advantage of its marketplace strengths or the talents of its staff.

One of the reasons the iPad has become so popular as a reading device is the rich, relevant content publishers can display, for instance The New York Times iPad app, their stories on the Syrian massacre in Al-Houla link directly to Youtube clips from local news sources.

So it is disappointing is that the AFR hasn’t harnessed the multimedia advantages of the iPad. For instance Canberra correspondent Laura Tingle’s political stories don’t even link to Laura’s video page on the service.

Similarly a story on BHP won’t have any links to the AFR’s profile of BHP, its stock price or financial results. These are features that could make the AFR’s a killer application for anyone wanting to understand the Australian business scene.

Compounding the issue is Fairfax’s unfortunate policy of reluctantly linking to outside sources – this short sighted view devalues all Fairfax’s online efforts as it detracts from the authority of their broadsheet and business publications. This again is true in the AFR iPad application.

Overall, the AFR’s iPad app is a missed opportunity which is a shame as the Australian business sector desperately needs good reporting delivered through the tools today’s executives and investors are using. Hopefully the next version will do better.

The Australian Financial Review online subscription was provided by Fairfax and the AFR. I have free subscriptions available for the best two comments on the blog this week so fire away with your views on this post or others.

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