What is it with these guys? Everything was fine and the Times decided to improve its online reading experience. But the gesture backfired and turned my tablet into slate. For a few minor improvements, the UI is now completely FUBAR.
Let’s back up. I use an iPad to read the paper and I like it. There are no trees to kill, I can (could) size an article to be readable in all kinds of conditions and I can move between articles, email, and other apps and, best of all, I can write comments on stories that interest me without leaving the paper and going to another app.
At least it used to be that way. About a week ago much of the UI went dead. I should hasten to say that my iPad works fine on any other website so this is not a hardware problem. Instead it is a software and testing problem and it highlights the challenges that a company faces today when it tries to take a function like IT in-house.
Now you might say that a paper like the Times has a long history of doing its own IT and like many other large companies, it has to keep that skillset in-house because it is part of the secret sauce. I get it, really. But I have to disagree.
If you combine this latest UI snafu with the fact that the Chinese repeatedly hack into its systems (ironically the Times reports on this too) and that the company decided to build its own subscription billing rather than make nice with one of the many professional software companies out there that would have been glad to capture the Times as a client, then a different picture emerges.
In the last century we were vertically integrated, in-house, and manufacturing centric but not any more. Sure papers still “make things” they push out one or more editions a day and fill delivery trucks and all that. But even that business is changing. The mere fact that papers are also delivering content via the Internet and charging for it through subscriptions tells me they are straddling centuries and business models.
But it would help all concerned if companies like the Times figured out where they really are in the time continuum and what’s important to customer satisfaction. I will give a hint: make sure the iOS product works.
(Cross-posted @ Beagle Research, LLC)