Monday, December 13, 2010

Political website gets into the iPad game, showing you don't need to be a newspaper to create a tablet edition

So why would a website feel the need to create an iPad app that duplicates its web content? Since iPad owners could just as easily launch their browser as an app, it does seem like a waste effort, right?
Not necessarily. After all, there are those times when you will be without an Internet connection -- like on a flight -- so an app that allows you to read while offline does have some merit.

The political news website Politico seems to feel that way. They have launched their own free iPad app to compliment their already launched iPhone app. While the iPhone app is a typical RSS reader, the iPad app follows the NYT model. It, too, relies on RSS feeds to populate the app, then it layouts out the copy very much as does the NYT's app.

The problem with news apps that allow offline reading is that travelers will still need to remember to launch their apps before they lose their Internet connection, allowing the app to access the copy. Some apps, like the Financial Times iPad edition, have a download button that brings in the content for all their different sections. Here, where the content is more limited, simply launching the app and keeping it open for a while is all that is necessary.
Strangely, Politico does not mention offline reading in the app's description -- at least not directly. "The clean, easy-to-navigate layout is ideal for staying up to date when you’re on the go," -- I suppose savvy iPad owners get the message.

Comparing the iPad version to the website itself, the first thing I noticed was that Politico had enough inventory available on its site that it could dedicate a lot of real estate to the promotion of its free iPad app. As for the app's business model, it is single-sponsored: in this case, Shell.

If there is a problem with these kinds of apps for web-only properties, it is that some readers will be expecting such things as full, searchable content, etc. That is why some newspapers have decided to call these types of tablet editions "Best of" or "Editor's Choice" to show the reader that the content is a bit limited. This is also why the iTunes app description should point out the advantages of an app version of the product: offline reading, native layouts, etc.