I love 60 Minutes on the iPad

November 22, 2010, 1:16 PM UTC

To me, this is one piece of shovelware that makes a lot of sense

Unlike, some old-line media giants, CBS’s (CBS) 60 Minutes isn’t looking to Apple’s (AAPL) iPad to save its skin.

The longest continuously running prime-time show in any format, 60 Minutes is still the most successful broadcast in U.S. television history. It was a top-10 rated show for 23 seasons in a row — from 1977 to 2000. For five of its seasons, it was America’s No. 1 show, a record surpassed only by American Idol.

Back in the days of Watergate and Point and Counterpoint, I used to watch 60 Minutes religiously, a habit I lost over the years along with my patience for Andy Rooney and ad-supported television.

Which may be why I’m so fond of the 60 Minutes iPad app released this week and promoted on Sunday’s program. It’s basically shovelware — preexisting material ported to a new format — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good.

A la carte access means you can watch that Jon Stewart or Conan O’Brien segment any time you want, not just on Sunday night, without having to wade through another Obama interview. And if you want red meat — a report on how supercomputer-powered high-frequency trading has reshaped Wall Street, say — you get it without a commercial break.

I’d almost forgotten how good long-form television journalism can be when it’s well researched, tightly edited and has 12 to 15 minutes to probe its subject.

I only wish the archives weren’t so skimpy. Although CBS has access to 42 years of rich material, a quick search didn’t turn up any segment older than 2007.

Still, the app looks like a hit. As of Monday morning, 60 Minutes for iPad was No. 5 on the iTunes Top Chart for paid apps. You can download it here for $4.99.

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]