So... the Las Vegas Review-Journal has an app. Did you know that? I didn't... Until today.
It was released June 30th.
Sure, we had heard they were working on one but I hadn't seen it on the store. Or mentioned on the RJ site. Maybe I missed it. After having seen the app, I have more questions than anything else.
First off, the app is iPhone only. It's not designed for iPad, a device far better suited for reading news. That strikes me as odd. Second, the app isn't called 'Review Journal' or anything remotely similar. It's called 'Las Vegas News'. What's even more odd is that it doesn't appear in searches for 'LVRJ', 'review journal' or the like. When you submit an app to the App Store, you can add search tags to help users find your app. It seems they have failed to do this - I had to have someone give me the search term to find it. Are there ads directing you to this app on their site? I haven't seen them.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is the price: $5.99. While that doesn't seem like a lot of money in the real world, in app terms that's like charging $40 for a movie ticket. It implies a significant value. The top ten apps in the news category range from $0.99 to $4.99. That's not counting quality free apps from outlets like USA Today.
I have a lot of experience with app pricing and $6 surprises me regardless of the value of the news they are providing. I have no problem with a developer charging a fair amount for their app but it should be priced based on what the market will bear. I will be shocked if this is a hit for them at this price.
For $6 you get... ads! Yes, even after charging a relatively high price, they're still including ads in the app. This is not the kind of thing that endears you to mobile users where screen space is at a huge premium. The mobile banners take up about 1/6 of the screen.
I'm wondering if this should even have been developed. As the 'app guy', you might be surprised to hear me say that. Well, I believe that apps can be great but the Web is also a fantastic platform on the desktop and on mobile. An iPhone app that just presents the same stuff people see on your Web site isn't much use to anyone. Sure, you can do cool stuff like push notifications for breaking news but lets be honest, the RJ doesn't have a great track record in that department either.
If you're going to build an app, it needs to prove it has a reason to exist by including features that can't be done (or not done easily) on the Web. It seems like it was created because it was on a marketing person's checkbox, one of my complaints about the many Vegas casino apps out there.