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The Media Bug Handhelds Upgrades Apple

NYT Update Breaks iPad App, Annoys Subscribers 140

jbrodkin writes "The New York Times, which recently started charging iPad readers $20 a month, has a lot of angry digital subscribers after an update broke the NYTimes for iPad application. The update was designed to make it easier for readers to subscribe to the Times through iTunes (irony!) but instead left readers unable to access any articles. Worse, the Times didn't bother to fix the app over the long weekend or reply to users who complained on Twitter. It's not the first time developers have broken an iPad application with a poorly constructed update, but reader complaints noted that the size of the New York Times and the high price it charges make this gaffe particularly galling. Angry users have driven the app's rating down to less than two out of five stars."
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NYT Update Breaks iPad App, Annoys Subscribers

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  • by Anonymous Coward


  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is simply not newsworthy.

    • This is simply not newsworthy.

      That's why you won't ever read about this in the New York Times. At least that's the excuse they've using for years to cover up anything that makes them look bad or doesn't push their agenda.

  • Angry Users... all chattering like a bunch of parakeets

    • Angry Users... all chattering like a bunch of parakeets

      And actually paying for the privilege.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Angry Users... all chattering like a bunch of parakeets

        And actually paying for the privilege.

        Conclusion: what a bunch of douchebags!

    • I would like this game... you can fling ipad owners from a catapult into a giant concrete paywall of NYT. I dont care if the wall crumbles or the users just go splat.

    • wish I had mod points

    • Ah, Yes! Life on the bleeding edge.......

      I always let someone else try before I dive in (unless the update was forced).

      • by Altus ( 1034 )

        Didn't they block the Safari on iPad from accessing their website, instead telling users they had to download the app and pay a subscription?

        I have no problem with the idea of subscription news (though I'm not sure I would pay it) but once you start offering it you had damn well better make sure your updates don't break it. I'm sure they would have received even more grief if they just stopped delivering the physical version to paying customers.

        • That was the NY Post. Don't get me wrong... their paywall is a big, giant mess... but that specific action wasn't them.
          • by Altus ( 1034 )


            I guess if the app broke but users could still access the web site (specifically on their iPads), that is really not so terrible. Some kind of refund might be appropriate but this reaction seems a bit over the top.

            I guess its just that once you get used to something better, taking a step back to a lesser interface is pretty difficult.

  • $20 a month (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ceiynt ( 993620 ) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @11:17AM (#36661490)
    and they call MMO fees too expensive.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Worse, the Times didn't bother to fix the app over the long weekend or reply to users who complained on Twitter"

    They possibly did put a fix in place, but it will be sitting in apple's review queue for a week or more with a status of "Waiting For Review" before its actually reviewed, approved and able to go live.

    Not responding to users is another story though.

    • Guess who else tried not to work on the long weekend?

      All those people complaining about their app not working. Wonder how many customers were asking for their help, and given the cold shoulder?

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        And this, friends, is why you never ever release a major update to any software on a Friday, much less a Friday before a long holiday weekend.

        If their engineers were so clueless as to choose that date, then they deserve to have to work over the weekend to fix it. And if they were so passive that they let their management demand that they release it on that day, they deserve to have to work over the weekend to fix it. Starting to see the pattern here?

        • by jimicus ( 737525 )

          And if they were so passive that they let their management demand that they release it on that day, they deserve to have to work over the weekend to fix it. Starting to see the pattern here?

          It's a communications issue as much as anything.

          Where you've got management that doesn't really understand what they're talking about, they often gauge how important something is by how worked up people get over it. When an engineer says "We shouldn't release something on a Friday immediately before a holiday weekend because if it goes wrong it'll ruin a lot of people's weekends", the manager may say "I'll take that chance. Do it."

          When an engineer goes off on one about how releasing on a Friday is a Really

          • When an engineer says "We shouldn't release something on a Friday immediately before a holiday weekend because if it goes wrong it'll ruin a lot of people's weekends", the manager may say "I'll take that chance. Do it."

            When an engineer goes off on one about how releasing on a Friday is a Really Bad Idea, how it will result in chaos, destruction, dogs and cats living together - you'd be amazed the difference that makes.

            IME, that makes little difference. The average PHB will still take the chance. OTOH, if you can convince him that relasing on Friday will cost him MONEY, he will come to his senses and wait.

    • by Thud457 ( 234763 ) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @11:39AM (#36661764) Homepage Journal
      The review queue is probably in a dark basement, at the bottom of a set of broken stairs, in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ' Beware of the Leopard '.
    • by Lennie ( 16154 )

      That is one of the reasons many just use hybrid apps with webtechnologies and use HTML5-offline-cache.

      You don't update the app, just the part of the app that matters. And the developer decides when the update happends.

      easy peasy

    • You think the New York Times doesn't have an account manager at Apple who can help them expedite this kind of thing ? These are high profile, highly visible clients for Apple. They'll have someone a just phone call away at all times.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @11:20AM (#36661516) Homepage

    Well, it's one thing to have a crappy update. But having a crappy update that locks out the people you're charging $20/month ... well, that's pretty sad.

    I wonder if the NYT fully realized what all is involved in maintaining software like this.

    If I was paying $20/month, I'd be pissed at them if I was locked out for several days. Of course, I wouldn't pay that to access any site either.

    • let's get back to the REAL irony:

      if they never tried to make this ridiculous paywall they'd have a: more money in their pockets and b: people wouldn't be blocked from crap that either they do or accidentally do.

      which one do you think is better for business?

    • by eepok ( 545733 )

      They're charging $20 a month, yes, but they were locked out for 3 days, so throwing around that monthly figure is misleading. It's not like people aren't getting their "$20's worth". They've just lost $1.94 of service. Overpriced, but not that big of a deal.

  • by Maury Markowitz ( 452832 ) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @11:28AM (#36661578) Homepage

    I would love to love the NYT app on my iPhone, but it's always been bad. The common lockups, CPU eating and random failures to update took way too long to fix. And now that it's pay, I love the way it downloads the headlines for articles I can't read before the ones I can.

    • by necro81 ( 917438 )
      I agree. The whole purpose of having a NYTimes app was to make accessing articles faster and look cleaner than via the website. (Yes, the NYT's motivation is also to enforce the paywall, but let's stick with my needs). But while I appreciate the articles showing up better than the website's rendering, that really is only of any use if I can actually get the app to load and show the articles. When the app takes forever to load, refresh its article listings, and display said articles, then it is of negati
      • by Kelbear ( 870538 )

        The app is/was dreadful in all those respects. However, deleting and reinstalling clears up the horrible least for a while.

        Now most of my irritation stems from swiping to move to the next article. It's horribly annoying because when you're reading with one hand, it will continually switch articles and forget where you were in the article!

        Thumbs don't swipe straight up and down. They pivot from the joint. So of course it'll constantly hit the border and cause an article switch. No option to disable

    • This has been and continues to be one of the worst apps in the App Store. It was broken before they started charging, stayed broken and now is broken worse, from what I hear. After wasted complaints to their Customer No-Service, editor, publisher, ombudsman and Apple powers that be, I finally gave up on the app and just read it in Safari on my iPad (I sign on with the id tied to our Sunday paper subscription). Since I can double-tap on the article, I can get rid of much more of the crappy advertising and an

    • I could almost tolerate the iPhone app, but it presents a Fisher-Price reduced subset of stories and features. What's worse is that iPad app isn't much better.

      There appear to be a lot more stories on the web version of the paper, plus you have access to add comments and get the blogs that are missing. Why it's so hard to make an iPad app to access a snapshot of the web site I don't know.

      How about a simple app that just lets me read a PDF of the paper?

  • by juancn ( 596002 ) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @11:28AM (#36661588) Homepage
    Ask for a refund. Apple will grant it to you, but it will still charge the Times it's commission.
    • by keytoe ( 91531 )

      Ask for a refund. Apple will grant it to you, but it will still charge the Times it's commission.

      I'm pretty sure this is no longer true. Otherwise, your competitor could simply put you out of business with a concerted purchase/return campaign.

      • by juancn ( 596002 )
        It would have to get quite a few Apple accounts with different credit cards. It would probably get banned before being successful.
    • by Amouth ( 879122 )

      not always true - i've tried to get a refund for a bad app once.. basically got an all sales final stone wall.

  • by alen ( 225700 ) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @11:32AM (#36661632)

    it was a 4 day weekend for a lot of people since they took friday off and probably went somewhere far away from work. can't fix an app if all the developers are gone

    not like there aren't any other news apps in the app store. just ask for a refund from the NY Times for not getting access to a paid service, not a big tragedy

    • by Pope ( 17780 ) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @11:34AM (#36661690)
      That's the bigger WTF: who in their right might would push a huge update like this before such a huge holiday?
      • by alen ( 225700 )

        the same geniuses who mortgaged out that cool skyscraper in NYC a few blocks from where i work, that's who

      • Did they push it on the Thursday, or did they push it a week ago and Apple approved it on Thursday?

        • or did they push it a week ago and Apple approved it on Thursday?

          It doesn't matter. If you choose a distribution channel that has an approval process, you should know enough about its approval timelines to make sure that something like this doesn't happen. This should be no surprise to someone in a time-sensitive market with approval processes like news. This is just gross negligence on the part of the Times.

          Besides, if your name is on it, you should take responsibility for it. The Times chose to put up a

      • Fix found here. []

      • Why is releasing something just before a holiday bad? You have a lot fewer users that would be affected by any issues, and you'd have staff (hopefully, at least!) to check for any issues from users that *are* still using the app, and you have all the time in the world to fix said issues before most of the users come back. Though they might still need to install the fix, you'd at least get a jump on fixing it.

    • If everyone was going to go away for a long weekend, maybe that wasn't the best time to be releasing an update then, hmm?

    • by drolli ( 522659 )

      Well. Pay your critical developers/administrators a premium, dont be a PITA if they need some holiday or some flexible worktime for their family trough the rest of the year, compensate them in a generous way for over hours, agree on a person beforehand (and compensate appropriatly) who is in standby or has his laptop with him/her, who has the knowledge and authority to rollback the app version, and you will be fine.

      Oh... and: dont roll out new versions just before a holiday. A good time to roll out new vers

    • it's a newspaper. this should be familiar territory for them. My paper's not delivered one day, or the paper boy doesn't sleeve it and it rains, or he leaves it in the mud, I call the 800 number and they credit my account. Should be straightforward for everyone to get a credit for 4 days in July. 20 $/month *4/31 = $2.59 each. How many subscribers do they have?

    • so you draw lots or something and have at least one developer ON STANDBY during the holiday.

      Of course the complete MAROON that pushed this update over the 4th of july weekend should be either demoted to a safer job or promoted outside the day to day workflow.

      Managers should know that people do have these portable computer things and they do operate outside and everything.

  • Apps! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ptolom ( 2191478 )
    I can't stand all this app bullshit. They seem like websites, only you have to pay for them, they only work on one platform, and they all have they all have different interfaces and different ways of working. What's wrong with an RSS feed?
    • by foobsr ( 693224 )

      What's wrong with an RSS feed?

      Even those accustomed to acronyms have difficulties to properly convert 'RSS' into a convenient sound, whereas even the dumbest ass can do so regards app.


    • by Wovel ( 964431 )

      Well I read rss feeds in pulse, good stuff.

      I do not read NYT anywhere

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @11:36AM (#36661722)

    People are actually paying $20 a month to read news they can't even consider trustworthy?

    I can make stuff up, and spin whatever the AP and Reuters printed the day before. Can I have your $20/mo ?

  • If content of the site is not googleble from the site on the first page: the site is virtually non-existent.

    To get to the first page,one needs to have many first readers for starters, and many secondary readers who read it from their favorite seond-tier site links.

    Even assuming that NYT paywall did not affect much the number of first readers (which it actually did), it's obvious that second,etc-tier readers necessary to link it and rise the PageRank are non-existent.

    NYT days as a mainstream source are count

    • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

      Their niche is the same size as Barron's - who remembers Barron's?

      I subscribed to them for years. Before instant access to financial data became available online, it was a great source of info...and they're still not bad: []

      • Yes, but in your experience, how many times barrons popped up on the first page when you were looking for economy related subjects on Google?

        • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

          I don't equate google searches to accurate, timely, or the best financial data...especially since I tend to be a contrarian in the marketplace. So, while I see your point about NYT and Barrons readership, Barrons has served as all (but not source) of those for me.

  • by jginspace ( 678908 ) <> on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @11:47AM (#36661870) Homepage Journal

    > "Angry users have driven the app's rating down to less than two out of five stars."

    Reminds me of of the Noscript - Adblock [] fiasco. Registered members at all drove Noscript's rating down to one star but then Mozilla decided in their infinite wisdom that they should delete all those votes. If this campaign continues the same will happen here.

    • by Elbereth ( 58257 )

      I am, to this day, surprised at how many people still advocate that malware piece of shit, NoScript. It should have been kicked off Mozilla's Addon website and Maone banned for life. Oh well.

      But I'm sure you're right; the reviews will be removed and the votes discounted. This also happened when EA's Spore was vote bombed on Amazon, because of the heavy DRM. In the end, retailers (like Apple's App Store, Amazon, and Newegg) have no real incentive for actually allowing negative reviews to stand, and it su

    • I was just wondering about that, on the one hand you have a client who needs ratings to get subscribers and possibly has cash to spend to secure that, on the other hand you don't want to tarnish the integrity of your rating system. I expect the ratings here to be under some close scrutiny for the next few months, anything "odd" is likely to be flagged instantly - it'll be interesting to see how it plays out and whether NYT can weather the storm if they are being heavily voted down.
    • Apple would likely not make the change to artificially increase the NYT rating unless they royally wanna piss off the FTC who is already hot about falsified product ratings and ratings pumping schemes.

  • This just goes to show the problems allowing apps that have not been vetted by Apple to be installed on your device. If this had been an app for an iOS device this would never have happened.

    What's that you say? This was an iOS device? I guess the garden's walls are for keeping users in rather than keeping bad software out.
    • by sootman ( 158191 )

      News flash: nothing in the world is perfect. Film at 11.

    • What's that you say? You're one more idiot with a myopic viewpoint who spouts the phrase "walled garden" to try and feel intelligent and superior? I guess all that intelligence has managed to lift you out of the "i want to be seen as cool" stage in your life?

    • All I expect from Apple during its vetting process is to determine if the app contains a trojan or virus, is legitimate and is not selling out my privacy without my consent. And even then I don't expect Apple to catch all the "bad" apps immediately. Why would you expect Apple to find specific bugs within an app? It's not reasonable to expect more than a cursory validation from any app marketplace.
      • by Spykk ( 823586 )
        While I agree with you people often tout filtering out poorly written software as a selling point to Apple's philosophy of forcing all applications to go through them. This anecdote contradicts that stance. It is silly to expect Apple to debug every update that gets pushed their way and that is really the point I was trying to make.
  • All I see is a bunch of jokes (nothing wrong with that), and crapping on Apple for something they weren't involved in (de rigueur for Slashdot) - not one post about the stupidity of pushing an update out on a Friday.

  • and nothing of value was lost...
  • by rabtech ( 223758 ) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @12:21PM (#36662272) Homepage

    The NYT wouldn't dream of just shoving printed copies of the paper out the door without checking the plates, checking registration/color alignment, etc. Yet that same attention to detail is nowhere to be found when it comes to their digital app.

    I'm just one guy writing small iOS apps in his spare time and I sure as hell don't release an update until I've installed in on every device I own and handed a beta to anyone I can wrangle into testing. Then when it goes live I immediately download and run it just to make sure everything is working.

    The first rule of software: don't annoy your users.
    The second rule of software: all crashes annoy your users.
    The third rule of software: anything (eg updates) that goes from working to non-working really annoys your users.

    • by eepok ( 545733 )

      Their digital app likely doesn't affect many people by comparison to their print or web versions. Wiki says their website has 30 million unique users per month. How many subscribe to the app? How many use the app daily?

      Moreover, did the app subscribers have access to the web version? If so, how much damage was actually done?

  • by eepok ( 545733 )

    "Worse, the Times didn't bother to... reply to users who complained on Twitter. "

    Oh lawdy lawd and heavens to Betsy! They didn't respond to Twitter complaints. How cruel this world!

    Does it really matter if they didn't respond to Twitter complaints? It's not as though Twitter is an official communication channel. Did user email into customer service get bounced? Was customer service phone lines answered and promptly hung up?

    If not, suck it up. It was a three-day weekend based on a national holiday. You shoul

    • If not, suck it up. It was a three-day weekend based on a national holiday. You should EXPECT services to be unavailable.

      Perhaps, but in this case, you're paying for access to the material which is (a) created and distributed on said national holiday and (b) has a nominal 24 hour life span of relevance. You sure as hell should expect to be able to access your material.

      As for complaints via Twitter, (FTFA) "The Times has kept readers up to date on mobile app problems thorugh its NYTimesMobile Twitter feed . In fact, an update also ruined the iPhone app last week, and the Times used its mobile Twitter feed to let readers kn

      • by eepok ( 545733 )

        Ya, but are we required to satisfy those who leap in logic or just the rational? I just went to the New York Times main page, clicked on "Contact Us". Customer Service is the first group (

        Need to contact someone about our Web site? Make sure you've read our help and FAQs.

        For general help questions, please use our help form.
        For questions about digital subscriptions, crosswords or other paid products, please see the Help With Online Paid Produ

    • by eepok ( 545733 )

      In other news, Twitter-users and subscribers to the New York Times iPad app have mod points.

  • by LynnwoodRooster ( 966895 ) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @12:34PM (#36662402) Journal
    If it was just web-based, you wouldn't tend to have these kinds of problems. For 99% of these "apps" it's just a built-in browser with some pre-defined bookmarks. Seriously - drop the "app" thing, NYT, and just focus on your website.
    • I've subscribed to the NYT for years. I read online. I've read the app. The app is hands-down a better experience than the website (plus you can take it on the subway/airplane/wilderness). I appreciate the sentiment of your comment, but anything that is improperly engineered can fail - regardless if it's an app or a website, that's besides the point. It's not by virtue of it being an "app" that it failed, it's by virtue of an error in the construction. An error in the code of an app will crash the app. An e
  • In other news, the NYT has posted a smattering of job openings for iOS engineers in recent days. Coincidence??
  • Are the same demographic, so the NYT can rudely bend them over a table, and they will come back for more while apologizing for all the mean things they said.
  • Go to their website numbnuts! I have never figured out why people go to twitter to get help like this, here is a hint, there are millions of people shoutting into thin air as it is on twitter, the account your following is ran by a robot script, so if you happen to have good luck you might get heard by a computer that doesnt give a fuck anyway!

    Are people really just that dumb?

  • When I started using the NY Times app about a year ago, I really enjoyed it. I travel internationally a lot and often don't have a data connection. What the app will do is download all the stories so I can read them even when the phone is offline. A few months ago, the NY Times changed the app to only allow free users to access "Top Stories" and "Most Emailed." That was frustrating, but I continued using the app because I still got some good content, and I could still read it when offline. But a few we
  • Given Apple's track record on approving app updates, a corrected version should be out in 2-3 weeks ...

How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."