Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Globe and Mail launch their own branded iPad app; Canadian paper also has an app from NewspaperDirect

Several weeks ago NewspaperDirect launched a couple branded apps for individual newspapers, a strange decision since it had its own PressReader app which offered PDF versions of newspapers from around the world. Because of this move one could now read the Globe and Mail using either of two different apps -- each of which would charge you to read an electronic exact copy of that morning's newspaper.
This week, however, the Globe and Mail has launched its own branded iPad app thanks to its mobile applications partner Spreed Inc., a Toronto based developer which up until this time had only launched smartphone apps, having released eight iPhone apps so far in iTunes. The Globe and Mail for iPad is free to download.

All these apps for the Globe and Mail seem like an experiment to me. The new iPad app offers free access to the news from the newsroom, with a layout that feels native to the iPad, but still feels slapped together. Layouts for articles, for instance, simply don't work in either portrait or landscape mode.
In portrait mode, the "More Stories" gets placed on the bottom of the page while a medium rectangle is housed in the upper left hand corner of the screen. In landscape mode the 'More Stories" navigation button opens up to a full column but the ad gets place awkwardly in the middle of the page, forcing the article copy to the side. The reader can swipe across the page to go to the next story, something very native to the iPad multitouch interface, but the same ugly layout remains, of course.

What one sacrifices in this rigid layout scheme is the pinch and pull feature that would allow you to zoom into a story for clearer reading.

But the app does allow the user to adjust the font size, but this doesn't prove very useful.
A very useful tool, however, is an option under settings that allows for offline reading, as well as a story sharing button.

Because these apps are driven by RSS feeds that populate the layouts, occasionally a story will not feature a photo. As a result a maple leaf (very patriotic, don't you think?) is placed in the spot where a photo would go. Wouldn't you know it, as soon as I opened the app the lead story did not have an accompanying picture.

Opening the app I saw a brief message stating that the app was "Proudly bought to you by CapitalOne" Later CapitalOne was replaced by Infiniti, and later by Chevrolet. It is assumed, therefore, that the Globe and Mail will keep this app free and pursue an advertising model. We'll see, of course. I've always been a fan of the newspaper and it deserves a world-class tablet app so I hope Spreed updates both the look and feel of this app soon and often as its capabilities increase.

Below are a couple of screenshots from the Globe and Mail's other app from NewspaperDirect. This exact copy version has no native features, of course, being essentially a PDF version of the newspaper. The Globe2Go app gives readers a 14 day trial of the paper for free, then charges a monthly subscription of $19.95, a 40 percent discount off "the standard print home delivery price". Current print subscribers are offered a rate of $9.95 per month. Or you can download the free branded app and get free content. Strange, no?