Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Washington Post launches free iPhone app for Redskins football -- just in time for Week Three

Sometimes when I look at a new media app the first thing that I want to say is 'are you serious'? Not because the app is so bad, there are very few really bad media apps, but because often it appears that the company involved isn't taking the new platforms seriously.

This reaction never occurs when looking at the work of Condé Nast, Hearst or the New York Times -- their representatives have made clear they are committed to the finding ways to make mobile and tablets work for them. Heck, if you name someone to be in charge of tablet advertising -- Hearst -- you are definitely serious.
I don't get that impression with The Washington Post Company. The Post was late launching their first iPhone app, and the app for Newsweek appeared in iTunes almost exactly two years after Time magazine created an iPhone friendly mobile website (their app launched around September 1 of 2009), and right around the same time Time released its first iPad app. Then, of course, Newsweek was sold off.

Now WaPo has launched a separate iPhone app for the Washington Redskins -- two weeks into the football season.

The free iPhone app, officially called Football Insider for reasons that are beyond me, is the last of 14 Redskins-centric iPhone apps now in iTunes. The others basically grab the same copy produced by the Washington Post app, and then delivers it pretty much the same way.

The best feature of the new WaPo app is the stats that are found in the Games section. The website says these are "updating statistics from each game" -- if that means that the stats are updated live, during each game, then that is a nice feature along with the play-by-play feature.

Left: articles and blogs post are the editorial content of the app; Middle: the Games section features stats and a play-by-play log; Right: the photo gallery features lots of landscape photos that must be seen in portrait.

In the end, this is a timid, unimaginative iPhone app, and it is s shame that the company does not have a mobile and tablet publishing leader assigned to grab some editorial, advertising and design people by the scruff of the neck and throw them into a conference room where they can brain storm and invent.

Executive editor Marcus Brauchli held an Ask the Post session with readers yesterday. One of the questions asked of Brauchli concerned the company's plans for an iPad app. Here was his response in full:
We've taken more time than we probably should have developing an iPad application, but we hope to have one launched reasonably soon. Because iPad users can easily use their browsers to see, we felt readers could find our content as we thought through the right approach for an app. We'll review the iPhone app again soon, too. And we're looking at how we can better serve audiences using other platforms, such as the BlackBerry and Android-based devices. There's no question more and more people will read Post news primarily on mobile devices, and we need to ensure that we are serving them well.
You can read the whole conversation with readers here.