The Wall Street Journal for iPad gets bad reviews

Reading all sorts of things on the iPad is one of my major uses for the iPad.  While I already read books on the iPod and magazines on my notebook, I’m extremely keen on moving both activities to the iPad. Given this basic interest, it is no wonder that I went over to the AppStore on Sunday to have a look at the first reviews for the newspaper offerings for the iPad.

At a first glance The Wall Street Journal’s application seemed to present a better looking version of the printed paper than, for example, the Editor’s Choice application from the The New York Times. This however, seems to be a misleading perception as most of the reviews for WSJ were terrible while the ones for the NYT were pretty good.  There are two major factors involved here: pricing and application quality.

Starting with the later, it would seem that the WSJ tried to do too much in too little time.  There are many complaints that the application is unresponsive during user interaction.  This would suggest that they made an effort to build their application into a complete finished product within the space of the two months between the iPad’s announcement and its actual release.  While this might be a reasonable goal for specialized software houses, it would seem not to be a viable goal when one is talking about redefining how printed newspapers are presented to the public.

The approach taken by the NYT seems to have been better thought out as they have brought out an Editor’s Choice application that offers access to a limited set of articles and which will probably serve as a testing ground for a future paid version with access to much more content.  But this already starts to take us into the second major factor in the bad reviews for the WSJ: pricing.

Someone at the WSJ must have been seriously delusional when they thought that charging more for the iPad edition than for the combined paper + online subscription would be a good idea.  Let’s face it, this couldn’t be a good idea for any one with a half functional brain.  There is such a thing as customer value perception and it doesn’t seem that the WSJ’s application comes remotely close to having such an impact on customers for them to perceive them as being more valuable then having the paper version and access to the online news.  Quite the contrary, instead of comparing the prices for print against digital users are forcefully directed to comparing the cost of printed+online which raises the bar on content and availability while being underwhelmed  with a half tested and irresponsive application.

Of course it might be thought that being accessible from the iPad from day one is good marketing for the company and the paper, but the huge number of bad reviews which leave the WSJ app with a one and a half star in the App Store would argue against releasing such an application without adequate testing.  If they couldn’t get devices from Apple for testing before April 3rd, then they should have released the application some days later and have gotten it to at least work well, regardless of it being in the best format possible.

As it stands the WSJ application seems to be leaving users with the impression of a low quality application which is married to an expensive subscription ($17.29 per month).  Not the best combination to make a good first impression on readers.

For further discussion on how newspapers might work on the iPad, check out “A look at how newspapers should tackle the iPad“.

*Images: iTunes App Store.

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