Friday, May 20, 2011

Two new media apps look at news and events in the state of Texas: The Texas Observer, The Statesman for iPad

As far as I know, the state of Texas has not seceded from the United States, though the day is still young. The state has just passed a bill requiring women to view sonograms of the embryo or fetus and hear a lecture on its development before being allowed to proceed to have an abortion – very subtle, huh?
My sister lives in Texas, 'nuf said.

So it was with trepidation that I approached these two new media apps from the great state of Texas. One app is from The Texas Democracy Foundation for its magazine The Texas Observer, the other is from Cox Media for its daily newspaper The Austin Statesman.

Neither app breaks new ground, though both are usable and will be welcomed by loyal readers. Both apps are free to download but only the app for The Texas Observer charges for content.

The Texas Observer is strictly a replica editions app, offering those who download the app one free issue, the April 8th edition, while charging for older issues. Because of this, the iPad app is already six issues behind the print editions.

The app contains a direct link to the website, as well as a donate button. I wonder if the donate button caused a hiccup in the app approval process, creating the issue delay problem.
The Texas Observer writes about issues ignored or underreported in the mainstream press. Our goal is to cover stories crucial to the public interest and to provoke dialogue that promotes democratic participation and open government, in pursuit of a vision of Texas where education, justice and material progress are available to all.
– from the app description.

The Austin American-Statesman is the daily newspaper for the state's capital city, with a circulation of a bit over 173,000 daily, around 215,000 on Sunday.

The Cox Media app for its Austin property, The Statesman for iPad, is also a free download. For now, the app allows readers free access to the app's content. But the app description hints that this won't be the case forever.
Note: The Statesman for iPad app is free to download and during this introductory trial period, there is no charge for access to the full content.
The app is RSS feed driven and contains a refresh button that allows you to update the copy.

The news app allows for both portrait and landscape use, with the font page's ad switching from a button-styled ad in landscape, to a banner along the bottom of the page when in portrait. Currently the advertiser there is Dillard's, a major department store.

When the user taps a story it takes you to an article layout that contains a banner ad along the bottom in both orientations. In landscape the section navigation stays in place, but in portrait it is hidden behind a toggle switch.

The app is serviceable, though I wonder if it is a good replacement for the print edition. But since Austin is both a college town and the center of much of the tech community in Texas I would think that iPad ownership would be fairly high, so getting this right will be important for Cox Media. This app is at least a start.