Free New York Times iOS App Isn’t Entirely Free

This week, The New York Times released a free iOS news summary app. But there's a catch (or two), says CIO.com blogger James A. Martin.

Is there room for another iPhone news aggregation app? Even if it’s from the esteemed New York Times? Probably. Will NYTNow, a free iOS-only app released Tuesday, supplant Circa News or Yahoo News Digest as my quick news fix? Probably not.

NYTNow serves up the day’s top stories from The Times. You’ll scroll through about a dozen news stories, followed by a few op-eds. There’s a brief summary for each story; tap it to read the full story. Story summaries are highlighted with photos, plus an indication when the story was posted (‘4h’ for four hours ago, for instance).

NYTNow

Tapping a bookmark saves an article for reading later (as long as you’re logged into your New York Times account). A sharing button lets you share the story via iMessage, email, Twitter, Facebook. The copy button lets you copy the article’s URL.

The stories represent a range of topics: breaking news from the US (the Fort Hood shooting, for instance) and international; entertainment (David Letterman’s retirement); science (“A Moon of Saturn Has a Sea, Scientists Say”); politics and more. It’s what you’d expect from the New York Times: a thoughtful, respectable news summary.

The summaries are brief, which makes it easy to scroll through the list. Also, you’ll receive a morning briefing every day, to help you catch up on what happened while you snoozed.

So what’s the catch? For one thing, you can only read 10 full stories per month using the app — unless you’re a Times subscriber. Circa News and Yahoo News Digest don’t impose reading limits. You’ll also see paid posts, such as advertorial copy for Cartier watches; to date, Circa and Yahoo’s apps don’t include ads.

Also, unlike Circa News and Yahoo News Digest, the Times stories I read didn’t include additional content, such as Wikipedia entries or maps, to add context to a story.

One other thing is worth mentioning. In addition to the Times stories, there’s a parallel section within the app for ‘Our Picks’ — articles from other sources, which the Times editors choose.

Sometimes, the articles are redundant to those you’d find among the Times articles. Do we really need to be served two stories about Mozilla’s CEO stepping down?

When you tap one of those stories, you’re taken to other websites, yet you remain within the Times app. In some cases, the Web pages aren’t optimized for mobile screens, so it’s a sub-par experience. My unsolicited advice to The Times: You don't need to give me other sources for news in your own news app. You’re The New York Times.

If you’re a Times subscriber, you’ll most likely appreciate NYTNow. If you’re not a subscriber, I’m not sure this app will transform you into one, especially when there are so many other quick and completely free news readers available. 

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