Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tribune Interactive launches app for The Baltimore Sun; Hollywood's Walk of Fame also gets the star treatment

Like The New York Times Company, Tribune Interactive is beginning to launch specialty iPhone apps that are both separate from their newspaper titles, and complimentary at the same time.
Yesterday the company released its 18th mobile app for the iPhone (the NYT have only five total apps in iTunes), this one in support of The Baltimore Sun -- and continuing a trend they started months ago, this news app is a paid app, costing $1.99. Other paid apps for news properties now in iTunes include their apps for the Chicago Tribune, and the LA Times. The other apps in support of radio properties are free to download.

As time goes by and Tribune Interactive launches and updates its apps, the company's programmers are slowly adding features and capabilities to their apps. This new app for The Sun allows some customization of content, share tools for Facebook and Twitter, as well as your own address book, and includes some offline reading capabilities -- great during commuting on mass transit.

While Tribune Interactive appears committed to adding new features to their apps, they are in no hurry to deploy these new features until they are confident in their ability to function properly. "Having a feature completed is not the same as having a feature deployed," Jonathan Ozeran, manager/product innovation for Tribune Interactive, told me during a recent conversation.
In addition to Tribune Interactive's 16 news apps, the interactive division has also released two stand alone special apps. The first was a bit of an experiment, launched in the very early days of iPhone apps -- Mobile Zodiac.

But now the division has launched an app they have put into the Entertainment category that both supports its LA Times brand, and works as a separate consumer product.

LAT Star Walk is a 99 cent app that gives tourists an easy way to find their way around the streets of Hollywood to find their favorite stars. This well designed app is perfect for the smartphone as it combines maps, and easy to read directory, and just enough content to satisfy iPhone users.

“Our goal was to create an amazing user experience and we’ve done just that. Users of this app are getting not only a map of the Walk of Fame, but also a complete download of historical information from the archives of one of the country’s top media sources, the Los Angeles Times,” said Marc Chase, president of Tribune Interactive, in a release for the app.

Left: TI's new LAT Star Walk app incorporates Google maps to assist with navigating the streets of Hollywood; Middle: an easy to use directory allows users to find their favorite stars; Right: a short biography accompanies each listing, very helpful for silent era movie stars!

Ozeran made clear that Tribune Interactive is interested looking into all forms of mobile and tablet applications, not just free news apps tied to their media properties.

"I think the branded applications for our publications are not the only apps we're focused on," Ozeran told me. "I think they're important. (But) I think there are new opportunities within the space to find ways to bring in revenue: paid apps, in app purchases, those kinds of things can extend beyond reliance on advertising."

Eventually we should start to see apps for the iPad, as well. "I think the iOS frameworks give us a lot of powerful features and components to play with," Ozeran said last week. "We've done a few things (on the iPhone) that get us into the space, give us the ability to experiment, and gives us feedback. I think that feedback has helped build our understanding, and build our excitement for larger screens."

"iPad is a great platform," Ozeran concluded. "I have an iPad, I use it. I have really good things I like about it, and things I'd like to see improved -- whether it is from an app, or even the device itself. So, personally, I think there are some incredible opportunities to put content on it in ways we can't with the smaller sized iPhone."

Like the Times, the Tribune Company's interactive division is launching a division to assist other companies who want to launch mobile products. The company's one Android app for WGN radio (there will be more) was released under the moniker, and it will be under that name that the company works with other clients. The division has not launched a separate website yet, but a Google search of Jonathan Ozeran at Tribune Interactive will bring up contact information if you would like to talk about your company's mobile needs.