New media icon Matt Drudge has resisted the pleadings of hundreds of loyal readers, and re-released The Drudge Report app without substantially changing the layout of the ill-received version released only nine days earlier. Version 5.0.2 was released in the iTunes store this past Thursday, October 18 and marks the third update this month to the mobile app for one of the most popular online destinations for news and politics.
More than two hundred users have reviewed the update in the iTunes stores, collectively giving this version of the app the lowest possible one star rating. Several days before the latest release, nearly six hundred reviewers had already given the prior version, 5.0.1, a lowly one star. In the Google play store, the newest version debuted today and nine reviews have been been published. Google doesn’t break down the reviews by release version of the app, but if you do the math, the new release scores a 2.8. Higher than the iOS edition, but still quite lacking overall.
What is shocking is that Drudge payed no attention to the major criticisms of Version 5.0.1, which was that it was essentially no different than opening up http://www.drudgereport.com in the Safari browser on iPhone. The font size was so small that it required lots of zooming and pinching, and there were no usable features. This new version incorporates no new features and does nothing to make the page more readable – the font is still tiny and not suitable for reading on a smart phone.
Strangely, developer Siren Tech LLC declares in the publishing details that “this app is optimized for iPhone 5,” a statement which is patently and demonstrably false. The update summary flatly asserts that the new version has been released for “bug fixes.” Siren Tech’s moniker (connoting a direct connection to the Drudge Report, which uses a siren to signal breaking news) and its inexperience (no other published apps to its credit) raise the question of whether somebody very close to the Drudge Report – perhaps Matt Drudge himself – has developed this app.
The disarray and apparent lack of a clear, mobile strategy stands in stark contrast to the well-earned status Drudge enjoys as a digital media pioneer. While mobile app users make up a small percentage of overall readers, they represent a loyal audience base and most likely account for a disproportionate amount of visits. It’s incomprehensible as to how and why The Drudge Report would not have a usable mobile app in 2014.
I have reached out to Matt Drudge seeking comment and will publish an update should he respond to shed light on this situation.