Sydney Morning Herald’s digital complexity

Image: Sydney Morning Herald.

I’ve been using the Sydney Morning Herald app on my iPad and finding it a bit of a let-down. I don’t like the fact that not all the stories from the hardcopy seem to be there. I don’t like the fact that stories seem to be repeated in different places and I find the navigation awkward. One further little annoyance, you see a headline with an interesting picture thumbnail, click on it and it opens up the article with a different set of pictures. Finally I can’t schedule a download so the paper is ready for me in the morning.

I wanted to like this app, not least because it’s free. I read other newspapers in apps on my iPad – the New York Times app, for example, is absolutely excellent and I pay for that one. They use more text, fewer pictures, but they manage to make navigation a lot easier and you can quickly access a lot more information. It comes across like the Sydney Morning Herald app designers want to make the newspaper into a magazine, while the people behind the New York Times app are keen to retain the sense of its being a serious newspaper. The fact that I use an iPad does not necessarily mean that my attention-span has withered away.

Faced with this, I decided to subscribe to the other electronic version of The Herald. This one, the Digital Edition, is exactly the same as the printed copy (like a PDF). There’s a lot to be said, in my view, for the fact that someone has prioritised and layed-out the stories. Also being the same makes it easy to chat to people who read the hardcopy about a story – you’ve seen the same things.

So off I set, ready to pay and I find that I can only get the digital edition if I also get the hard-copy paper three days a week. But I don’t want the paper – trees will die for nothing as the paper moves directly from delivery to recycling because I’ve already read it on the iPad. And also because of the hardcopy delivery I can’t even get instant gratification on my order – I place the subscription order and am told someone will get back to me within 5 days (they don’t but that’s really got nothing to do with the principle here).

So upon resorting to phoning The Herald I get my access sorted out I am told that, in fact, I could just subscribe to the digital edition BUT it would cost more than taking the hardcopy as well does. Sadly for the trees my greed outweighs my environmental concerns and so I go with the lower price. Sadly for The Herald this makes its high-profile support of Earth Hour risible.

Someone at The Herald really needs to rethink this whole thing.

Just FYI should you want to see the Digital Edition options, rather than being forced to the offer that requires a hardcopy subscription as well, you need to go here.

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