December 17, 2012
For three decades, USA Today has been considered America’s newspaper. Unfortunately, the publication’s latest digital edition for iPad has left many looking for something else to read. The USA TODAY app launched on the same day as the original iPad in 2010. With it, users could enjoy the same basic design of the print edition, along with many of the same stories. This all changed in November when USA TODAY for iPad 3.0 launched in the App Store. This version keeps in place the sections that have long made the print edition popular, including News, Sports, Life, and others. However, beyond this, the app bares little resemblance to previous digital versions and to the print edition itself. The app, for example, has become very video-heavy. In addition, users now see pop-ups each time they click on an article to read. Finally, content is now arranged in horizontal format. This means readers must move their index finger left and right to find additional stories. Previously, articles were arranged (surprise, surprise) in a more traditional newspaper-like format. To find additional stories, users scrolled up and down. There was a time when reading USA Today was part of my daily routine. However, like many, my reading habits changed once the iPad launched. For much of its life, the app was essentially a place for users to read USA TODAY print stories for free. For me, this made the original app as stale as the news it covered. USA TODAY for iPad 3.0 is a different beast entirely. It still contains the print edition’s original stories. However, there is also fresh content and breaking news stories. For me, this has been a positive change. For others, especially the majority who post reviews in the App Store, the latest version has been heavily panned. As such, the app’s overall rating has slipped considerably. At the time of this writing, the app’s average rating is three stars. The current version, 3.0.1, is only two stars. I recognize that habits are hard to break. However, I also understand that change is a necessary evil. The editors of USA Today are clearly trying to distinguish their print and digital imprint, which is tricky to do. On one side are a legion of readers who grew up with USA Today and want it to remain largely untouched in the digital age. On the other are new readers that probably have never read a physical newspaper. These folks want their news fresh, in short bursts, and in a digital format that is cutting-edge. For now, the traditionalists seem to be the loudest. However, for the time being anyway, the new format remains. It will be interesting to see what happens to the app going forward. We thank reader Marc for bringing this story to our attention.