Monday, March 25, 2013

The Washington Post introduces new iPad edition into the Apple Newsstand; offers native layouts that use the print edition for design and navigation

The Washington Post today introduced a brand new tablet edition through an update to its existing iPad app. The update to The Washington Post for iPad keeps the app and its contents free, at least for now, but introduces a replica of the print edition to the app.

The first thing readers will notice is that the app is no longer a stand-alone app, but now supports Newsstand. The previous app had no need for Newsstand support as it was mirroring the contents from the website.

The update opens to a front that, at first, looks very much like the old app: a native layout that reformats the newspaper's website content. But there are lots of new elements in the app. The most obvious is the button found in the upper left hand corner – Print Edition. This takes immediately downloads a replica of today's newspaper.

Readers can choose to read the paper in this fashion, though pinch-to-zoom would have to be employed. But tapping the story the user wants to read pulls up the story in a native layout. In this regard, the app mimics the NewspaperDirect (though it looks like the WaPo team developed this app on their own).

The replica is divided by sections, and issues all the way back to March 12th are available to reading.

This use of the print edition as a springboard to the stories in native tablet layout is smart way organize the content. Of course, the whole idea goes out the window if the print edition dies, but then a similar approach might be taken using a front page that truly fits the iPad's screen. Here, the print page is made to fit width-wise, with the page too long for the screen and therefore requiring scrolling. This is far better than those replicas that try to fit the entire page onto the iPad's display, making it far too small.

I have mixes feelings about apps such as The Boston Globe's NewspaperDirect eEdition app, it seems to be trying hard to compensate for the fact that it is built off a replica edition. But here, the WaPo's app team seem to have come up with all the right answers.

Again, it should be mentioned, all this is still for free. The WaPo will be introducing their paywall this summer so eventually this will all require a digital subscription.

The old app wanted to be read in landscape, in my opinion, and I don't think this one is any different. Although portrait works find, the landscape orientation makes the replica page larger, allowing for easier browsing of the page, just as a reader would do in print, with the page folded. A newspaper that used a similar approach to their app, but for a tabloid, might find that portrait works best.