Friday, May 4, 2012

DoApp redesigns the interface of its Mobile Local News platform; sameness of apps remains a branding issue

The Minneapolis local news app company DoApp has redesigned the user interface of its Mobile Local News platform. The company, which was originally profiled on TNM in February of 2010, has over 200 apps for the iPhone inside the App Store, and over 50 for the iPad (many of the apps are universal).
The apps for such media properties as the Journal-Advocate from Sterling, Colorado, and the St. Paul Pioneer Press continue to share an identical look, different only in the property's logo on the opening page.

These media apps are free and do not reside inside Apple's Newsstand. They are, in essence, substitutes for the media property's website. Even apps such as Justin Bieber - My World - Belieber photos pics news (what a name) look identical to the Pioneer Press app. In fact, the sameness goes all the way down to the screenshots used for the app descriptions.

The new interface, especially once one moves off the opening page, with its box design (see above) is pretty attractive, and in many ways superior to many websites as seen on the iPad. But once off the home page, the branding disappears – and, as you can see below, distinguishing one media property from another becomes virtually impossible.

“Our main focus for the redesign was making the interface even more intuitive for the reader,” Jim Kozlowski, Mobile Local News app designer, is quoted in the company's press release for the redesign. “We have taken the great features in the previous design and made them even better: more photos, ability to enlarge text and photos, swiping between articles, as well as many app performance upgrades so stories load quicker.”

DoApp has sold their app solution to broadcast outlets, as well as newspapers. The big lure, I would think, is that DoApp has its own ad network, Adagogo, a self-serve ad solution which allows advertiser to pick the applications they would like to use, and the locations they would like to target.

In the end, it is up to the publisher or station manager whether this one-size-fits-all is appropriate. For me, the draw of mobile and tablet publishing is that it by creating new digital products one can go after new subscribers and are creating new real estate for local sales teams. App solutions don't do either of these things don't interest me. But not all publishers feel that way, clearly.

Note: Somehow a paragraph of this post got dropped. In it, I remind readers that DoApp originally produced mobile apps (as noted in that 2010 post). Not surprisingly, these universal apps work quite well on the iPhone and Android platforms – though they are also designed in a cookie-cutter fashion.