It seemed to take forever for 60 Minutes to get around to deploying much of a Web strategy, so it is heartening to see CBS ride the crest of a breaking trend to release a branded iPad app for the Sunday night institution. 60 Minutes often feels longer in the tooth than Andy Rooney is in eyebrows, and part of that creakiness gets transferred to the app. In this case, however, that may not be an altogether bad thing. According to the promotion, this is "the first prime time news magazine to have its own standalone application for the hand-held device." How many prime time news magazines are there left anyway? It beat out Dateline?
We joke because we love. The app opens by filling the screen with the satisfying march of the ticking stop watch. CBS is promising that the previous episode's segments will be at the ready and a reasonably deep back catalog of recent pieces will also be accessible for the $4.99 price of admission. There are additional takes that did not make the show and the "60 Minutes Overtime" content, which recalls some very old segments and behind the scenes material. We enjoyed a look at the making of the first episode and some great interview moments.
Like almost all TV content ported to digital platforms, the blend is a bit unpredictable. At times you will come up with a full segment from the early 70s on Henry Kissinger in the White House and elsewhere you get mere snippets. Stories can be indexed by correspondent, and the back catalog is segmented into familiar buckets: Newsmakers, Politics, Health & Science, Business, Sports and Entertainment. In other words, the app is as straight laced and full of its own gravitas as the show. And never mind that you are paying $4.99 for material that for the most part is available at the Web site for free. And as with the Web site the video can be surprisingly low-res.
Let's hope for more. 60 Minutes is among those rare remaining examples of mass media. It not only gathers an impressive audience but exerts agenda setting influence that is amplified far beyond its Sunday night reach. In some ways we like all of those gray-haired correspondents and doggedly familiar story structures and sets. We need 60 Minutes to feel a bit like a relic. But what an incredible opportunity is being missed on these second screens to capture something about that audience in chats, polls and any kind of interactivity.
For now we will take what we can get. For those of us who still can't navigate these damned football game overruns every Sunday night, we end up returning to CBS only after missing half of the opening segment on 60 Minutes. This app is promising to have the new episode segment available in the app after the Sunday telecast. For that alone, we are grateful.