Actually, to be correct, Postmedia group, publisher of the Vancouver Sun, The Province, Victoria Times-Colonist, Calgary Herald, and other papers across Canada, has released several apps (one for each major paper).
“The most awesome stage”
Last year, Facebook's VP of Design thought the TNW Conference main stage was the best she'd ever been on.
In the launch post on the Vancouver Sun site I liked this little bit of understatement (you’ll understand why in a minute):
Some of the features announced Tuesday have never been seen before in a newspaper application, said Steve Buors, Postmedia Network’s vice-president of digital media strategy and operations.
Read more: Vancouver Sun
I downloaded the app for the Vancouver Sun and The Province and right off (after watching a first-launch movie), I saw that this wasn’t your fathers’ newspaper app. Sure the app has the feel and layout of a paper, but videos play in the app, you can flip through the photos tied to the story while reading the story. I can go through the sections I want by thumbing through the app or just jump to them from the sections button.
And there are ads.
There are ads on each page and a big “full page” ad between sections. There’s even a Tron ad, with a trailer, and you can watch the trailer in the app. Frankly, I don’t mind the ads. I think a pause between sections is fine. A litte ad in the corner of the page? There are more ads in the print version for Pete’s sake.
As for the important part, the news, this is what is very cool. This app isn’t tied to static daily content. New content is loaded when you load the app. Yeah, the front page I saw this morning when I first loaded it? Completely different now. New stories, new features, even new ads (the Tron ad wasn’t there earlier). Honestly, that’s what a paper is for, getting the news in an easily readable format and getting the news, while it’s still “news”.
On re-reading the Vancouver Sun post about the apps, long after I’ve used the app for a while, this part caught my eye:
The apps are also a way for Postmedia to attract a new demographic — people who don’t read the daily print editions — as the company continues to move forward into the digital world, said Malcolm Kirk, executive vice-president of digital media.
“Products like the iPad and smartphones allow you to target new audiences,” he said. “But it’s also a symbol and a way to highlight the kind of innovative technology and compelling content our company is producing. We are more now than just a printed edition of your daily newspaper.”
Why did I zero in on this? Because I was thinking the same thing…this is hitting a group of people who don’t read the newspaper (in paper form). I don’t get the paper at home. It’s expensive and a pain. When the free papers are offered as I get on the train (even when they are the free days for the Sun or Province), I decline. I just don’t want to have to mess with the paper.
This app? This is different. Tomorrow morning, while I have breakfast, I don’t think I’m going to do my routine of checking email, I’m going to read the paper.
As far as cool features that you might not have seen before:
- Saving for later (when you aren’t online)
- Sharing on Twitter, email, and Facebook
- Leaving comments about the item within the app, but appearing on the web version as well (and vice-versa)
- Stories popular near me. Look at an given story and see where people are most interested in it.
Look, I know this might seem like hyperbole, but I honestly think these are the best implemented newspaper apps for the iPad. If publishers are worried about keeping (or increasing!) readership, I think they should look at these apps. They use the iPad’s strengths well, they help with needs like wanting to read offline, and the news is updated throughout the day. They way newspapers used to be when there were morning, afternoon, and evening papers.
Hits: Easy to read, nice sharing features, can save items for later, great use of multimedia, caches last opened version of all articles to read offline, updates newest stories automatically
Misses: A little slow to launch, doesn’t keep running in the background (not multitasking aware).
If you’d like to see the app in action, I even made a little movie for you: