Mutter: Reader ratings mixed on first batch of iPad media apps

Alan Mutter reviewed the reviews of the first media iPad apps and finds that consumers are generally not impressed by the current batch of offerings. He studied the user comments and ratings for the top 10 most popular news apps and found they rated an average 2.8 out of 5 stars in the iTunes store.

Among his takeaways: consumers prefer multimedia apps from broadcasters such as the BBC and NPR, and they dislike, sometimes strongly, paid news apps such as The Wall Street Journal and Time Magazine. Mutter notes that the only app to receive an average four-star rating is France 24, which offers content in both English and French.

While interesting, Mutter's analysis runs into a few snags. First, France 24 has only received 62 total ratings, barely enough to be representative of user feedback. In comparison, USA Today has 1,242 ratings, and The Wall Street Journal received 7,241 for the original version of its app.

In terms of paid apps, despite the vociferous complaints in the iTunes store, both the Journal and Time appear to be selling at a respectable pace. Josh Quittner, Time's editor-at-large, claimed last week that the app is one of the best-selling magazines on iTunes. The numbers are difficult to assess because until recently each weekly edition was counted as a brand-new app. And Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch announced this week that the Wall Street Journal app had 64,000 active users, not all of whom are paying customers.

And finally, even Apple appears to admit that the ratings system in the iTunes store probably gives too much weight to the opinion of dissatisfied customers. The company has removed the "rate on deletion" option from its upcoming 4.0 iPhone operating system after developers complained that it was encouraging negative ratings by excluding happy customers who had no reason to delete the app from their devices in the first place.


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