Home iPad Newspapers: Ripe For Innovation

iPad Newspapers: Ripe For Innovation

Just as the iPad has proven to be a boon to magazine publishers, newspapers have flocked to the device too. All of the major western newspapers have an iPad app now: the New York Times, Wall St Journal, Guardian, USA Today, Financial Times, and others. There are also new forms of news services that have arisen based solely on the iPad’s touchscreen interaction and multimedia capabilities: Newsy and Flipboard come to mind.

In this post we’ll look at how some of the leading newspapers are using iPad, what the user experience is like, and what could be improved still. We’ll specifically look at WSJ, NYT and Newsy.

The Wall Street Journal

The default front page of the WSJ app immediately shows that the WSJ has thought a little outside the box in making its iPad edition different from the print and website editions. It offers up two versions of the paper: a daily one and a “Now” one. The “Now” version is updated with breaking news coverage throughout the day. It also features “top article picks from Journal editors.” Users are invited to choose one or the other as their default version when they open the app. Both versions offer a mix of content from the print and online versions of WSJ.

As well as two versions of the paper, the WSJ iPad app has three useful sections: My Watchlist, Saved Articles and Saved Sections (the latter is only available to subscribers). It should be noted that the WSJ iPad app offers only limited content and features to free users. Subscribers get the full experience for $3.99 per week. A good portion of the content of the iPad app isn’t available to non-paying users.

From a user experience perspective, the WSJ iPad app is very slick. The now familiar ‘swipe’ and ‘pinch’ iPad functions are deployed smartly and the only new thing users need to learn is that pinching returns them to the section homepage.

The New York Times

In contrast to the WSJ and many other newspapers with iPad apps, the New York Times offers only a limited amount of content in its iPad app. Called NYT Editor’s Choice, the app features “a selection of latest news, opinion and features” from the venerable paper.

The NYT app has been heavily criticized for its lack of content. Gizmodo argues that the NYT’s deal with the Amazon Kindle could be a big factor behind that decision. Politics aside, what is the user experience like?

The app is divided into sections: 6 content ones (News, Business, Technology, Opinion, Arts, Features) and one for video content. The first thing that struck me about the app is its relatively small default font. There is an option to select a larger font, but – like some of the Zinio magazine apps I profiled yesterday – one can’t magnify the content. The content also has few images. Navigating the app is via the same swiping motion in WSJ, but it felt clunkier.

The video section was good, but (you guessed it) there wasn’t a lot of content.

Overall, the NYT iPad app is rather disappointing from a content perspective – and just average from a user interaction point of view.


The fact that both WSJ and NYT offer only limited free content on iPad surely leaves room for other companies to innovate. And that’s exactly what video news service Newsy has done. It was probably the first iPad app that I used regularly, when I bought the device.

Newsy creates short video summaries of daily news. They’re presented by people who wouldn’t look out of place on the E Channel. Each clip runs from 2-5 minutes and is comprised of commentary based on TV news networks, news web sites and (refreshingly) blogs. They’re concise summaries of the news of the day, taken from sources across the Web and other media.

I often watch Newsy on my iPad during my lunchtime – it sure beats watching midday TV! Here’s an example clip, about the iPad’s WiFi problems back in April:

iPad Newspapers Lite on Innovation Currently

There’s no shortage of newspapers that offer iPad applications, many of them with much more free content than WSJ and NYT. However the sector is ripe for innovation, which is what apps like Newsy and Flipboard are doing.

Over time, newspapers will add more interactive features – video, infographics, slideshows. Much of the type of content that the Wired iPad app is experimenting with.

Newspapers could also do a lot with personalization on the iPad. Every newspaper reader (obviously I’m referring to older generations – joke!) has their favorite sections. But more than that, newspapers should offer in-depth news coverage on topics of interest to individual readers. It could even be esoteric content that doesn’t often make the print edition due to space restrictions. The iPad is a Web-connected device after all, so it could theoretically pull down any content from a newspaper’s archives – in the case of WSJ and NYT, those companies have decades of content that could potentially be accessed by iPad users. Imagine reading a news story about the BP oil spill, and wondering what other oil spills there have been through history – why not scroll through the WSJ or NYT archives on that topic within your iPad.

Let us know in the comments what your favorite iPad newspaper apps are. Also, what features would you like to see in these apps?

Disclosure: ReadWriteWeb is syndicated by NYT, although not on the iPad. Image credits: ReneS.; stevegarfield

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