Monday, March 5, 2012

New media apps: with a little imagination, a bit of strategy, and some creativity, some apps could be vastly improved

Each day more and more media apps appear inside the App Store: some are from titles you have never seen before, like Business People Vermont; others are familiar brands that you are surprised have not launched an app before now, like Mashable.
Business People Vermont is a replica app that can now be found inside Apple's Newsstand. The app is free, but the app description says that a 1-year subscription costs $14.99.

But once inside the app one finds that they can download the issues for free. The app inside iTunes also does not show that there are any in-app purchase options – so either the app description is wrong or else the developer screwed up by not incorporating in-app purchases in the app.

The app has no credits on it, but I assume the app is coming from BlueToad simply because, before the publisher's site went offline, one could see that they had Flash flipbooks available from BlueToad.

The app is what you'd expect, a simple replica edition with no enhancements and no accommodations for the tablet's display size. But since these kinds of apps are made using PDFs from the publisher one must ask the question why do the PDFs have to be the same ones that go to the printer? For instance, the cover of the magazine here is has the same shaded area where the address label goes. Couldn't this file be swapped out for one without the shading?

Another new app that has appeared inside the App Store recently is from Mashable, the digital and social media news site founded by Pete Cashmore.

I would have assumed Mashable would have launched an iPad app by now, but hey, not everyone has an iPad app, right? (No app from TNM, for instance!) Mashable for iPad is a free app that very simple is structure. It is driven by the website's RSS feeds such as Social Media and Technology. As a result, the experience in the app is really no different than the experience in the iPad's Safari browser.

The promotional video suggests that the app version is better because the app version does not contain the "obstructive advertising". Of course, that obstructive advertising is what pays for the website. So what pays for the iPad app? Who knows, but since the app and its content are free, one only knows what the business model here is.

The problem I have with apps like this is that they attempt to improve on the web experience one has on the iPad, but does not reimagine the content. As a result one may get an app, but not really a new reader.

That is why the attempts at tablet magazines from Engadget and The Next Web seem more adventurous – they are creating a new product for the tablet, rather than simply jamming their websites into an app.

There is a promotional video available on the website of the interactive agency behind the app, Cody and Theory.