Thursday, May 23, 2013

Newspaper app updates: Washington Post updates iPad app, enabling 'cut and paste', but no paywall just yet; The Guardian updates its iPhone app to add swipe navigation

Media observers are anticipating the launch of The Washington Post's paywall strategy some time this summer. Meanwhile, the paper continues tweak its iPad app. In March, version 2.0 was released that introduced a new design and moved the app into the Apple Newsstand. Since then four more updates have been released.

The latest updates adds “copy and paste” and “define” functions in articles, makes the crossword puzzle printable for those still using the original iPad, adds more blurb text to section fronts, and fixes a few bugs.

The WaPo's iPhone app reached version 2.0 last August and has not had an update since the beginning of the year.

The Guardian for iPhone was updated today to add new navigation. Readers can now swipe the app to reach the next article rather than only using the arrow. There is a minor change to the layouts to improve headlining, and changes to commenting, as well as the usual bug fixes.

The iPhone app remains a stand-alone app, and separate from the iPad app. I think this is most definitely the way to go for newspapers, rather than creating a universal app. Newspaper iPhone apps are driven by RSS feeds that list the stories in a top-down fashion and are instantly updated. The mobile app is, therefore, an extension of the website. Tablet apps for newspapers are also generally extensions of the website, as well, but they don't have to be. In fact, I'd argue, this is a big mistake and why so many newspaper tablet editions are failures. If a tablet reader wants access to the website they can do so easily through the browser. Instead, a better strategy would be to create a new news publication for the Newsstand, either by using a replica of the print paper the way the WaPo or Boston Globe does it, or coming up with something new.

But the advantages of being inside the Newsstand are obvious for newspapers. Take a look at the app icon for The Guardian and Observer iPad edition this morning (right). The icon has been instantly updated to reflect that days news – in this case, the huge story of the killing in London yesterday. The paper has not swapped out its screenshots in seemingly forever, but at least the icon is there to help promote the paper. Newsstand allows for automatic updating of the icon in order to accomplish this, where as a stand-alone app forces the developer to make the change manually.