Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mobile news media app round-up: WaPo releases first iPad app; readers are a dime-a-dozen, even in Europe

Summer is in its last month and as promised the new apps are beginning to come out fast and furious. Here is a quick look at some of the new iPhone and iPad apps (sorry no Android today) that have come recently:
The Washington Post Company has released its first iPad app this morning, in this case for Slate. The online magazine has written quite a bit about Apple's tablet, with Farhad Manjoo alone writing over a half dozen stories directly talking about the iPad or its apps, with a few more mentions in other stories. Then there was Jack Shafer's two stories: Apple wants to own you and The Apple Secrecy Machine. I'm assuming Mr. Shafer's material won't be appearing on a tablet near you, right?

The free app offers layouts in both portfolio and landscape and offers some nice navigation features. The app seems to be a single-sponsored product (Marriott Hotels & Resorts), which is a common way many media firms have decided to create their first tablet apps. (The New York Times iPad app Editor's Choice started out single-sponsored, but now contains two types of ads: a leaderboard along the bottom of the home page, and a display ad with the articles.)

The WaPo have also released an iPhone app for its property The Root. The Henry Louis Gates Jr. edited online magazine gets the usual RSS feed treatment. The app is free to download.

Reader apps. Reader apps. Do we really need more reader apps.

It seems the easiest way for a developer to get into the media space is to create an app that takes the RSS feeds of the online newspapers and reformats them. Then the developer feels justified in charging for the app -- great business model.

Nurullah Beyter has released a couple of reader apps under the brand name Limon. The apps, one for French papers, the other for German papers. The concern I would have, as always, is 'who is this developer?' Now I am all for new people entering the space, don't get me wrong. But a click of the developer website listed in iTunes goes to a dead page -- something all too common with this cheap apps.

The opening for these reader apps is created, of course, by the conservative nature of many newspaper publishers. While publishers sit on the sidelines, developers swoop in and grab their RSS feeds and start to make money in iTunes. I guess I can't blame them -- iPad owners use their devices to read newspapers and magazines, believe it or not.

A growing trend in the mobile app space is political apps. This one is a good example: Referandum (yes, it is spelled correctly), an app designed to explain and promote the September 12th referendum in Turkey.
Here is an explanation of the vote I found online:

A referendum to modify the existing constitution of Turkey. The revisions would make the military more accountable to civilian courts as well as give parliament a say in appointing judges. It would also allow public servants the right to collective agreement and the right to strike, and end immunity from prosecution for 1980 military coup leaders.

iTunes is already filling up with apps from political blog sites such as Drudge, which has literally dozens of unofficial iPhone apps, as well as an official one -- though it is impossible to tell the difference. Apps from politicians running for office is now becoming common.

Need I say it again: those media outlets that can build their own app making capability will be able to use mobile apps as another form of custom publishing.

Finally, rumors are out there (aren't they always?) that HP will be using Android 2.1 in its new tablet to be released . . . who knows when. One of the first stories was posted here.

Frankly I'm skeptical of these stories that originate in some obscure government filing. They are often have an element of truth in them, but they just as often are a snapshot of what a company is thinking of doing months ago. In the case of HP, they have recently purchased Palm, and with it a mobile operating system. That they would not utilize their new asset seems odd. But with all tablet rumors it is best to simply say "I'll believe it when I see it."