Wednesday, April 10, 2013

USA Today Makes Strange Advertising Bedfellow

Daily News Takes the Money Anyway For Its Work-In-Progress Mobile Site

As I was scanning the mobile version of the (N.Y.) Daily News, what should be viewed as an unusual banner ad kept popping up at the bottom, even in these desperation-driven times in the troubled realm of newspaper advertising.

It was there that readers were offered an opportunity to click to get a discounted subscription for USA Today for $10 a month. In other words, a newspaper selling ads for another newspaper.

Granted, the degree of overlap between a typical Daily News reader and one who might regularly scroll USA Today is likely limited. And if someone is reading the News on an Android, chances are better than even they're not plunking down a George for the real thing. But even if it's not Macy's reluctantly taking ads for Gimbels (as he seriously dates himself), that the News or whichever digital ad behemoth it uses to sell banners would cough up real estate on its home page to a putative rival is a bit unseemly and certainly sad.

What the News should be working on more is the user-unfriendliness of its mobile incarnation. Exactly what is the real difference between the "Metro View" and "America" sections, anyway? Not much, unless you scroll to the borough tabs in the former. Ah, the tabs. For the city, that means Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and, uh, "Uptown." Apparently, the News has no readers in Manhattan below 125th Street. Who knew?

Only thing: if you're going to have sections, you have to do a better job of restocking the shelves and removing the journalistic equivalent of moldy bread. On April 10, we should not still be seeing prominently featured a March 31 story about a dead Columbia co-ed.

While you're at it Newsies, make those tabs a little easier to the touch. I felt like all thumbs pressing on the "Mets" tab in the sports section and stories about the Knicks kept coming up. And why not also include the sports columnists--some of the best in the biz--in the sports section, rather than just lumping them in with the paper's other columnists in yet another section. The sports columnists are destination reading, so you shouldn't have to go on a maddening journey to find them.

If making people work for their free content is a way for the News to gently encourage people to buy the paper, it won't work. At least not as long as the New York Post site is free. And I haven't seen any USA Today ads there.


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