Mobile apps for newspapers

“Did you check the recent news?
“No, the battery on my phone is dead”

When Steve Jobs approached the management of the Wall Street Journal and New York Times in February 2010, he was aiming to strike a deal between Apple and their companies. He sensed that there was a lucrative market for digital content if the companies agreed to cooperate. However, the managers were reluctant to accept his conditions as they feared Jobs would dictate his own billing policy and get hold of the credentials of their subscribers. Finally, Rupert Murdoch decided to try with The Daily. The rest is history. This could be regarded as the beginning of the development of mobile applications for printed media.

The birth of mobile media

We no longer just get news from paper but from our tablets and smartphones as well. We expect to be able to access our favourite newspapers from any mobile device anywhere. These days we are spoilt for choice as there are so many offers on the market. Apps for one newspaper usually come in a complete package for iOS, iPad and Android.

However, the question remains, to what extent does the growing popularity of the multimedia app represent the success of style over substance, or does it actually enhance the reader's experience? Apart from the website, why do newspapers need to have a dedicated app? Will it make any impact on their popularity?

Related: From idea to success

mobile site  vs app.png

An app for the newspaper does not replicate its website. The fonts, colours, design are the same whereas the structure is simplified to make it easier for users to navigate, scroll up/down, and switch between the articles; in short, to skim the news fast. A mobile app offers you only the most popular stories as well as some highlights of the day. If you want to delve deeper, you need to choose a particular menu from a pop-up window.

App design and layout are adjustable to different screen sizes. Furthermore, the app can also send you the latest news updates in a string of notifications during a day, making it a vastly more flexible news outlet.

Even if you do not have the Internet on the device, you can still read the cached news, which is quite convenient. This is how a newspaper app could act as an offline news source.

All things considered, mobile apps usually comply with the ideas set out by Daniel Bernard in Mobile Marketer:

  • Continuity and familiarity: the paper on the mobile device should look and feel the same as its website
  • Simplicity: it is unnecessary to overload readers with the information

One example is Indeema’s iPhone app for UaReview.com, a website for entertaining bogus news. You can review it on iTunes.

I have also analysed several other news apps you can download for free. I have made an attempt to share my user’s experience. Hopefully it will give you a better understanding of key features of a good news app regardless whether it is news app for Android or for iPhone.

  • BBC
  • Guardian
  • Spiegel Online
  • Feedly

 

Related: Why retailers should have a mobile app for eCommerce

 

BBC online


BBC News

BBC app has recently been upgraded again to suit readers’ tastes. When you run the app, you get a screen with a list of most read and most watched in a descending order of its popularity. If you want to read more news, you need to choose a specific section from the menu in the top left corner.    This menu is by no means obtrusive and comprises the majority of topics that are on its website.

You can change text size and send feedback.

To my surprise, the app is advert-free. Besides, the functionality of this news app for iPhone does not differ much from the one for Android.

 

The Guardian mobile app


The guardian

In contrast to the BBC app, the Guardian app does not have a simple and neat layout. Once you run it, most of the content of the newspaper is downloaded and you can scroll up/down and between the articles in a random order. If you sign in, you will be able to edit your homepage, bookmarks articles to be read later and receive personal alerts.

However, you get adverts in line with the news. To have the advert-free app, you need to have a premium subscription.

 

Spiegel Online


Spiegel Online

The app is bilingual: German and English. However, it is not easy to find this option since it is hidden in a pop-up menu below the Video menu. It is available either in compact or classic formats. When compact, the app displays only the headlines of the articles. When classic, in addition to headlines you get an overview of the articles. As other similar apps, its menu is hidden and includes most of sections from its website. The app does not provide as much information as the website. Nevertheless, it is proved to be highly informative.

 

Feedly


Feedly

The news you need to keep ahead a single place for all a wide range of newspapers, magazines and blogs.

To get started, you choose a site or blog you would like to read from a number of most common topics: tech, marketing, design, culture, comics, etc. What is more, they are also available in German, French, Spanish, and Italian and English. If you find an article intriguing and worth reading, you will be redirected to its website to be able to read it completely. You can get personalized suggestions if you use your Google or Facebook account to log in.

Those, still thinking of having a dedicated app for their newspapers, should remember that they need to have it for Android, iPhone and iPads. Once in a while you have to upgrade and revamp the version of the application not to let your readers’ interest wane.

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