The iPad Express

Yesterday I stumbled across a video preview of the Daily Express’ new iPad app on the Press Gazette website.

After watching the video some initial criticisms came to mind which I tweeted.

  • Firstly I don’t think that a music player is all that relevant to a newspaper app and will be irrelevant when OS 4.0 comes out with multitasking.
  • I also didn’t think that using the iPad as a way of presenting the paper edition’s pages was particularly innovative and in fact rather lazy.

Almost immediately I received a reply from the developer of the app @PageSuite and we began a dialogue. Ben Edwards, marketing manager at PageSuite emailed me and discussed some of the issues I raised.

Ben said:

…appreciate your feedback and support the notion that some publishers should (&will) further utilise iPad functionality with interactivity…

These will be monthly titles with large investment and one of the top 20 or so brands globally. You are a journalist student, so will understand the publishing industry – it’s extremely challenging times, resources are limited, subs & ad revenue strategies are being challenged. How do you maximise the opportunities your existing content affords, without substantial investment in resource, skilled labour, time and technology? We have publishing clients who aren’t in this position and can commit to the most interactive apps you could imagine… but the purpose of this email is to indicate this will not be the majority.

Our publishing clients already generate print editions, e-editions and now iPhone & iPad apps… because it works i.e. revenues increase, engagement increases, customer data & brands… increase. Our Metro iPhone app – a print facsimile – 150k downloads, 16min av. Time on app, 500’000 daily page impressions.

To give you some perspective, we work with 19 out of the top 20 newspaper publishers in the UK, 40 of the largest in the US, the largest in Canada & Brazil… Magazines too – only a limited number will design iPad apps for that platform – the majority will use RSS, XML feeds, print facsimiles and video content but presented in an engaging format (targeting their demographic).

And really it was the last sentence that addressed my criticisms. I don’t there there’s a one size fits all approach for the news media on tablet devices like the iPad. The Daily Express is far from being a bastion of great online content, to be blunt its website stinks.

But the iPad can actually offer something to the Daily Express demographic, which is the paper that they know and love in the convenient form factor of the iPad. Would this solution suit the Guardian reader? No, not at all but maybe the Express has understood their market for once.

Forgive me for lazily stereotyping the Express reader, but they aren’t exactly young and not exactly modern. The iPad allows them to intuitively zoom in on articles and rend the text larger than the newspaper they buy which can help with readers with poor eyesight. The interface offers a few viewing options but the one that initially drew the most criticism from me is the traditional page format and maybe that makes sense to Express readers?

What’s certainly interesting is the notion that the iPad versions of newspapers might surpass the usage of the web versions especially among the more traditional media and less web-savvy users.

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