In the ongoing debate over Web vs. native mobile and tablet apps, it would appear the Web just racked up a few major points.
When Apple changed their subscription rules to require that publishers fork over 30% of the revenue generated from apps sold in the iTunes store, many media companies played along, hoping that making their content available on iOS devices would help them survive the transition from print to pixels.
But not everybody was on board. The Financial Times decided to let its iOS apps get pulled from the App Store and instead focus its energies on creating an HTML5-driven, Web-based application that looks and works like a native app when viewed both on tablets and smartphones. It's essentially a simplified website, but one that supports swipe gestures and, unlike iOS apps, works across platforms.
So how's the HTML5 experiment going? Pretty well, it turns out. The publication is now getting more traffic to its tablet-friendly Web app than it saw on the old native applications, according to Reuters. The newspaper company said that's it now seen over 700,000 visitors to the Web app.
Just as with native apps generally, people who read the Financial Times via the Web app from their smartphones and tablets are more engaged than users who visit the publication's desktop website.
"They are consuming about three times as many pages through the app as they are through the desktop in an average visit," Rob Grimshaw, managing director of FT.com, told Reuters.
When you use the FT Web app from an iPad, the experience comes pretty close to mimicking that of a native news app. It's pretty light on the slick, animated type of UI tricks that tablet apps often have, but you can do things like swipe your finger right and left to navigate the paper's different sections.
It's still pretty early in this battle. For media companies deciding how best to allocate their budgets for their mobile strategies, the experience of the Financial Times provides an early indication that developing cross-platform Web apps can pay off.