Kara Swisher at All Things Digital reported early this morning that The New York Times Company had complained to Apple about the Pulse Reader app, which we previewed before it was released, prompting the company to remove it from the App Store. At issue are the app’s use of the RSS feed content for the New York Times and The Boston Globe as well as how the app “frames” these sites to display their content.
The App Store screen shots for Pulse Reader had prominently displayed content from The New York Times. Also, when a user chose to view an article from one of these sources in full, the app framed the content within its own UI, showing other articles in a bar across the bottom of the screen as shown below. Since Pulse Reader is a paid app, The New York Times Company is essentially claiming that it is re-packaging the company’s content and re-selling it.
We’re not lawyers, but we disagree with this assessment. Having used multiple RSS and news reader apps, Pulse Reader is no different from these in its functionality. It’s one thing if Apple is going to consistently apply this reasoning across the App Store and bar all RSS and news reader apps, but we think it’s unfair for it to single out one that performs the same function as many other apps.
The New York Times had recently written about Pulse Reader in its own technology blog just a few days ago, praising it as a “stylish and easy-to-use news aggregator.” This praise and attention from The New York Times itself is ironic in relation to its subsequent complaint to Apple. We can’t help but wonder if this is a little bit of sour grapes on the part of The New York Times, considering how Steve Jobs was purportedly disappointed with the company’s iPad app. In early May, Gawker had reported that Jobs himself has criticized the NYT Editor’s Choice app with its limited content and made his displeasure known to the news company. During yesterday’s WWDC keynote, Jobs had mentioned Pulse Reader when talking about the iPad and its success to date, calling it a “wonderful RSS reader.”
Pulse News Reader is now back in the App Store. No official word has been given on why the app was allowed back in the App Store, but we’re not complaining. The screen shots shown in its App Store description still show the New York Times, though we wouldn’t be surprised if this changes soon.
The New York Times posted an article yesterday evening, mentioning the company’s concerns with the app. However, nothing beyond what had already been revealed by All Things Digital is explored or explained in that article. It concludes with the following ho-hum observations:
The conflict highlights the distinctions that some news organizations are trying to draw on mobile devices. Often they are publishing two versions of their content for reading on devices like the iPad: one on the open Web, and one available through an application.
The Times’s iPad application, which is free, offers a more limited selection of content than is available on its Web site.
News-reading applications like Pulse force news organizations to confront the fact that those two categories can be easily blurred, with Web content appearing within an app.