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The Times launched 'The Times of London Weekly', its international digital offering, last month.
After investigating the app, I loved the idea of it and wanted to try a subscription for a month or two.
One problem, I can't get it in the UK. It's an interesting quirk of the all-or-nothing subscription model; let's take a look in more detail.
Simplicity and scrolling
The Times weekly app is all big images and bold headlines.
All of the content is there on the homescreen, consisting of the best 90 or so articles that have featured in the grown-up paper that week. These articles are manually curated.
The simple menu (see below) simply jumps you to the right section of this scrolling content.
It's very focused, easy to use and feels a very different beast to the sophisticated, multiformat Guardian app, for example.
The new The Times of London Weekly app is beautifully simple
..a stark contrast to The Guardian's sophisticated multiformat app.
...and designed to be 'finished'
There's a reason this new Times app and The Guardian's app look different.
Here's a quote from Nick Petrie, The Times' deputy head of digital (taken from this excellent NiemanLabs article):
An edition is something that can be finished. When you’ve read it, you feel up-to-date; you’ve been told what you need to know for the day or the week.
The weekly app takes that idea as well. This idea will appear in more and more of our products as time goes on because it’s resonated so well with our readership.
So, let's take a look at the content
Here's where we stumble. The Times of London Weekly is available in 46 countries, but not in the UK (where I am).
So, even though I managed to download the app from the App Store by creating a new US Apple ID as a workaround, once I tried to subscribe, Apple wouldn't let me without a US payment card.
The articles, if you're in the right country to access them, are also lovely and simple, with the editor apparently built on WordPress. They are just text and images, no video, audio etc.
An article from The Times of London Weekly - I took this screenshot from the aforementioned NiemanLabs article, as I couldn't purchase the app content in the UK.
Why I want to subscribe to The Times of London Weekly
I would have liked to subscribe (if only for a few trial months) to this new weekly, international app, for the following reasons:
- I like Times journalism a lot more than I used to a decade ago. That's because its paywall seems to have inured it to the effects of the web (namely it doesn't produce as much clickbait as other publishers).
- The $3.99 per month price of the 'weekly' app is a lot more up my alley than the $8.50 I would need to pay for the full digital subscription (the only one currently available to me).
- I like the fact that the weekly app contains only the best articles. It would broaden my reading.
Whilst the NYT is busy experimenting with multiple digital products and unbundling subscription packages, The Times is currently cut and dry - paper and digital, or just digital. No option for a funky condensed product.
But who am I to argue? The Times became profitable in 2014, and many other newspapers are not.
The weekly app is apparently going to include video eventually, and the ability to feature fast running stories more effectively.
It's exciting times for The Times; though some would say this sort of content is available for free elsewhere, it's packaged nicely and designed (and written) to appeal to the serious news reader.
Perhaps this weekly platform will be used to develop further products, or to update the main Times and Sunday Times app, which is looking a little tired (and getting poor feedback).