Monday, November 8, 2010

The Washington Post releases its first tablet edition; content free to iPad owners until mid-February 2011

The Washington Post released its first app for the iPad this morning, a tablet edition that shares much in common with tablet editions from the New York Times and Financial Times.
Although a bit late to the game, the Washington Post has nonetheless used the time since the April 3rd launch of Apple's tablet to make sure it has included many of the features that have become standard in iPad news apps: swipe navigation, adjustable font sizes, e-mail and social network sharing of content, offline ('Read Later') reading of content, both portrait and landscape reading modes. As a result, this is a very satisfying newspaper tablet edition -- all the more satisfying knowing that readers will have access to the content free-of charge through mid-February of next year.
"The Washington Post App for iPad is more than just an extension of our paper or website. It's an innovative, portable experience with our content that enables users to interact in a multi-dimensional way, wrote managing editor Raju Narisetti on the paper's website. "Users can take full advantage of the experience that the iPad offers through our rich destination pages that provide everything a reader would want around a topic in one comprehensive place. We feel we've created a uniquely dynamic news experience for users to discuss and share their viewpoints about relevant issues of the day."

"Mobile is an integral part of The Washington Post's strategy since we are focused on reaching people anywhere and anytime, said Ken Babby, Chief Revenue Officer and General Manager of Digital. "We hope users will find that our app for iPad places us among the leaders in mobile innovation."
Like many other new apps, the WaPo decided to go with a single-sponsor approach with the first advertiser being ExxonMobil (that seems appropriate). The banner ad appears along the bottom of the issue and stays fixed there throughout.

Because the banner is fixed, layouts are stagnant and seem like a mobile app more than a tablet edition. All stories are on one page with the reader scrolling to read the full story, and swiping to access the next one.

Because of an additional navigation bar on top of the ad, one that accesses Live Topics and Read Later material, the landscape mode feels crowded. It would be even worse on a seven inch screen. As a result, I preferred the portrait mode to landscape.

I haven't been a fan of past Washington Post new media efforts, but I will not be deleting this one. If the editors live a while with this app themselves they may be able to recommend some adjustments that make it feel a little more "native" than simply a mobile app ported over to the iPad. But this is definitely a good start.

Update: I forgot to add that what the price would be for access iPad content after the period of free access expires on February 15, 2011: print newspaper subscribers will pay 99 cents per month and non-subscribers will pay $3.99 per month for full access to the content.