Does new Web app bring New York Times a step closer to abandoning native apps?

New York Times

The New York Times has officially released an HTML 5 Web app, previously in beta for iPad but now available on all browsers, called Today’s Paper.

The app includes all sections, articles and photos found in the print edition, as well as some select video. Users can access editions from the previous seven days. The app features swipe- and scroll-friendly navigation; optimized, responsive designs for both portrait and landscape modes; and offline reading for a seamless, efficient reading experience.

Putting aside free RSS feeds and the Kindle e-reader edition (which isn’t included in the Times’ All-Digital Access subscription), subscribers have a number of elegant ways to read Times content on tablets:

  • A New York Times native app
  • nytimes.com or mobile.nytimes.com on the Web
  • Google Play Newsstand (Android only, with iOS to come)
  • Flipboard
  • Today’s Paper Web app

With a robust Web app, a website redesign coming next year, and services such as Flipboard and the new Google Play Newsstand that offer paywall integration, subscribers can access Times content on tablets in much more attractive ways than downloading a native app that is closed-off from social, clutters your device and might be more likely to be ignored than apps that offer content from a variety of sources.

Certainly moving away from native apps would appeal to the Times for another reason: avoiding the sizable cut taken by Apple and Google for subscriptions that originate in the apps (Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman raised this point last year when the beta Web app launched). But audience migration is a concern considering the millions of devices that have downloaded a Times app. Just as magazine publishers sometimes fear ending inferior PDF editions in favor of interactive editions because they can’t guarantee readers will come along for the ride, the Times would likely worry about cutting users off.

Unfortunately, that means an ever more dizzying array of reading options. What publishers do with existing native apps as better, more open content delivery systems are developed is something to watch out for in 2014.

Related: New York Times employees preview redesigned homepage | Is Google Play Newsstand a viable alternative to standalone Android apps? | With new tablet Web app, New York Times may avoid Apple’s fees

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