Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Stuff.co.nz releases first New Zealand's first news app for Android; The New Zealand Herald still leading tablet app

With tons of iOS and Android apps to choose from, US smartphone and tablet owners have an easy time getting the news. But in New Zealand, not only is the market smaller, but media companies have moved a little slower in developing for Android smartphones or Apple's iPad.
Stuff.co.nz, the Fairfax Media Group owned news site, today launched what it claims to be the first New Zealand news app for Android devices. Found in the Android Market, the app is the perfect occasion for one of those PR agency-speak releases:

"Stuff.co.nz is the number one mobile site in terms of audience size, with nearly five million monthly page impressions, according to AC Nielsen Online data. Now, with our launch of an Android app, more people than ever can get up to date with Stuff’s award winning news on the go,” Nigel Tutt, General Manager - Fairfax Digital is quoted. Imagine if people really spoke like this.

If you want to get your news from New Zealand on your iPad you can download the Stuff.co.nz iPad app or one from The New Zealand Herald.

Unfortunately, the Stuff.co.nz has quite a number of complaints in iTunes from users who say the app is unstable and prone to crashing. I didn't find the app unstable myself, so it is possible that iPad users need to keep their tablets clean and reboot occasionally.

But Stuff.co.nz doesn't appeal to me as a news source with its obsession with violent crime stories. On the other hand, the story on the front page of The New Zealand Herald app, "It pays not to be too attractive if you're a woman looking for a job" had me scratching my head, as well.

The Herald app is number one in the New Zealand App Store, both for its iPhone and its iPad apps. It is by far the more attractive app, and the reviews inside that store are mostly positive. The app takes advantage of the iPad's display by blowing up its news photos to full screen, forcing readers to scroll to read the copy. But readers don't seem to mind this in the least, and I think it is something to consider when designing your own apps: readers are very much used to scrolling on the web, and so the 9.7 display doesn't have to be the limits of your design.

(One drawback to this design, however, is photo quality. The lead story right now in The Herald app uses a very low resolution photo that looks horrible when blown up to full display size.)

This is something the techies have been debating online: swipe versus scroll, fixed page versus expandable page. I know John Gruber of Daring Fireball has commented negatively in the past on apps that utilize both scrolling and swiping, but I think iPad readers are OK with the concept of scrolling within a story, and swiping to get to the next story.

Both news apps are free to download and the Herald app did not appear to contain advertising, making one wonder what the business plan would be for this company's tablet product. But it is worth remembering that not all nations are abandoning print at quite the same pace as the U.S.