Should you build a iPad-native app for your newspaper or magazine?
by phil on Tuesday Apr 6, 2010 10:26 AM
The iPad is supposed to save the publishing industry, but based on playing with three solid news-related apps on the iPad, I don't think it will deliver on this promise, at least not in its current state. The NPR, NYTimes, and WSJ apps are very impressive coming out of the gate, and this has spawned predictions of a native app era. This is from Cameron Moll, author of Mobile Web Design:
Frankly, as the adoption rate of iPhone increases and if iPad follows suit, it will become increasingly difficult to argue in favor of a starting point other than iPhone OS. The NPR iPad app, for one, provides a much more pleasant user experience than NPR.org.
But the the disadvantage I find with the NYTimes, NPR, and WSJ apps is that they do not exist within my typical news-browsing stream.
Yesterday, for example, I was using Safari to open three windows: my Google calendar, my work Gmail, and personal Gmail (Safari is the only multi-tasking I've got). Then while I was on a phone call, I got bored and wanted to surf the web a little. So I opened a new Safari window and went through my usual routine (Drudge, HuffPo, The Week, reddit, Google Reader). I didn't tap Home to then go to the NPR app or the WSJ app.
And that's not because of my lukewarm interest in NPR or WSJ. Even if I had a DrudgeReport app or a HuffPo app, I wouldn't have used them.
Native apps are for focused interactions. I find them akin to tuning into a favorite radio station and staying on it for the entire twenty-minute commute (or at least beginning with that intention). There's very few news sources that I consume in a focused manner like that. There's only one that comes to my mind, actually, and it's The New Yorker.
Alternatively, if there was a more unified format and a single place for a "magazine rack" where you could subscribe to nearly-identical isomorphs of print-editions, I'd pay money for that. I'd rack up a handful of subscriptions, even to magazines I don't read that often, like The Economist or Wired. That way, when I turn my focus to the "magazine rack" app, I'd have maybe five subscriptions I could shuffle between. Otherwise, I'm not going to download and fiddle with an experimental Economist app or Wired app.
tl;dr: First, make one website version that looks good on the major platforms (Firefox, IE, iPhone, and iPad). Second, if you have to make an app for the iPad, make it look and feel as much like your print-version as possible, so people can equate the price of the print issue to the price of the digital subscription. Third, get in on the ground floor of some apps or programs that will let a lot of magazines come together under one umbrella, like a magazine-rack.
(via Daring Fireball)