Had it not been for a tweet I would have missed the radically new iPad app released yesterday by Freedom Communication's Orange County Register. The new app is a far cry from the RSS driven app released last year that was more of a mobile app for the iPad rather than this new, more tablet-centric product.
Driven by the belief that the reading habits of tablet owners are different from mobile users, reading their devices in a leisurely fashion, late in the day, OC Register for iPad is designed as a separate media product, not just a brand extension of the print newspaper.
“People are using it (the iPad) a little in the morning, and really in the evening is when traffic spikes,” Claus Enevoldsen, Freedom’s Director of Interactive of Marketing says in the company's case study. “In the old days, you’d sit with your laptop at night...But when you’re on your laptop it feels like work. There’s a sensation that there’s always something extra to look at, that the reading is infinite. Plus the laptop will get warm when you’re using it, and it becomes uncomfortable.”
Claus Enevoldsen joined Freedom Communications in 2006 as the marketing manager at the chain's Victorville Daily Press. He moved up to Orange County in 2009 to join the team that wrote the company's mobile strategy.
"We're trying to get a new audience," Enevoldsen told me this morning in an interview. "We looked at our reach with our existing products said 'where do we have some gaps'. Then we looked at the iPad and asked 'where is the sweet spot for the iPad.' And there was just a good fit."
Because of this, the OCR has created a totally new and different iPad app than what was released back in December of last year. That app, developed by mobile app developer Handmark, was roundly criticized here for its mobile look and lack of tablet features. The new app, however, is more consistent with the publisher's digital strategy.
"Our strategy is more of an audience creation than it is migrating existing audiences to a new platform," Enevoldsen said.
"Our strategy is that we play to the strength of the platform."
The app currently gives gives readers free access to the content, which is designed more like apps from a developer like Bottle Rocket than a typical newspaper converted to tablet. This consistent with the company's of goal of creating a product that is consistent with the reading habits of iPad owners.
"There is a sense to this that we are bringing back the afternoon paper, but its just not paper," Enevoldsen said. "During the day you have the web, and 24/7 you have your phone, and the phone is really what you use for breaking news."
The new OCR iPad app does employ RSS feeds to bring in some content, and there is a ticker that can bring in breaking news, if necessary. But the app is not designed to fulfill the role of a constantly updated news product.
For one thing, the daily edition of the OCR does not appear until six in the afternoon, but then it can be updated several times a day, if desired. I would argue with the publishing time, but the concept has merit.
"We're taking a magazine approach. We believe in this design, and the design drives the story. Whereas a lot of the RSS based apps out there are automatic," Enevoldsen told me. "It's not a compromise, it's a choice, we're sacrificing some of the instant updates with RSS feeds over design and curation and this finite experience."
Because of those design and content choices, the app has forced the editorial and production teams to adapt to the new digital product. "We've had to reimagine our workflows," Enevoldsen said "The existing CMS is still our platform for this, too."
But at the end of the production process the paper is using WoodWing tools, much as a magazine might.
Here is the background video produced by the paper showing the concept behind the app and some of the people involved in its development including Douglas Bennett, President Freedom Interactive, Ken Brusic, editor of the OCR, Claus Enevoldsen, Director of Interactive Marketing, Edgardo Estrella, designer, Carlos Anderson, designer, Caroline Wong, production manager, and Kyla Rodriguez, Director, Interactive Sales: