Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Washington Post updates its 'Politics' iPad app as it seeks to make app relevant to users after the election

One thing newspapers have never had to deal with in print is the issue of shelf-life. Print newspapers are not meant to have long shelf lives, in fact, the whole business model is built on this concept: you get today's paper, but you'll want tomorrow's paper, too.

Apps obviously don't work that way. A newspaper isn't going to launch a new app every day, it wants its users to open that app regularly, every day, if possible. For news apps, this is no problem, but for the special section or special interest app, this presents a challenge. What to do with those apps that aggregated the election news coverage of the papers?
Both The Washington Post and The New York Times launched apps that aggregated its election news coverage, but the WaPo is in the best position to update its app and make it relevant in the post-election environment.

WP Politics is an iPad app that has been updated numerous times since its launch. With the Presidential election cycle so long, there is no such thing as releasing an app like this too early.

The app team has done an excellent job of releasing timely updates for this app – I'm written about updates to WP Politics at least three times because I thought the updates worth talking about.

Yesterday the newspaper issued yet another update, bring WP Politics up to version 1.5. Now the election content moves from a focus on polls and electoral college projections to historical information. And, what has to be a bitter blow, any reference to Mitt Romney's issue stances have been wiped from the app.
Of course, a newspaper located in Washington DC is in a good position to continue to drive readers to an tablet app on politics. The New York Times, though, will have to move on and launch a new app.

The NYT app that iPhone owners gravitated to was NYT Election 2012. This app saw its last update shortly before election day and will either need to simply go away or have a complete overhaul to remain useful for readers.

It's fate is further complicated by the fact that access to its full content is tied to the digital subscription options offered by the paper. For me, who has a digital subscription, I found it somewhat useful. But the reviews in the App Store are pretty negative because of this tie-in.

The other problem with election apps is that editors are loath to make the content seen in the app exclusive to the app. Anything seen in the app is probably to be found online. It's taken editors a long time to become web-first advocates, to make sure that any content seen in print is also online - now we see that the same principal is effecting apps, as well.

As a result of this, apps such as NYTimes Election 2012 don't bring much new to the table. Their main benefits are that they gather up all the content of one subject into one area, and that they can archive important content for easy searching, as well.