Having wondered last week why The Guardian is still lacking a fully fledged, gung-ho iPad app, some light has been cast upon the digital dealings.
There is, unsurprisingly, an app in the works for the much loved, much advertised, other iOS device. Editor of the good old fashioned Guardian.co.uk website, Janine Gibson, gave some insight to sister site PaidContent. “It’s in the early stages of development…”
Only in early stages you say? But other papers have had an iPad app for yonks. How is The Guardian, now on its second iPhone incarnation, lagging so far behind? Well, it’s not so simple making an iPad app you know. Gibson explains:
“The original iPhone app was quite groundbreaking at the time. You want to do something that feels appropriate to the device… we’re not a fan of PDFs with the sound of a page turning… We’re focusing on designing a product we think is true to The Guardian, true to iPad, and is brilliant.”
A lofty target, but one that is certainly achievable. While there are a number of iPad apps out there, none have been a runaway success. Perhaps this is because the average iPad user is still working out where exactly the iPad fits into their life. Compared to an iPhone (which acts as a phone, remember) and a laptop (for lap-topping things) the iPad didn’t fit an obvious need.
Gibson seems fully aware of this, stating “What (content) is appropriate to what (device)?…Is an app more of a closed, finite reading experience, and is web browsing more of an infinite, take-you-anywhere experience. iPad seems to be a laying-down-on-your-sofa experience, judging from the research.”
The ‘research’ seems to add up to me. Which leads me to believe The Guardian app will be something quite special, and worth paying for. Perhaps there is a niche for evening reading to be exploited, with readers collapsing on the sofa at the end of a hard day and diving into the digital left wing. That would require less news content, but there’s no reason any app in development can’t focus on features, lifestyle, analysis and comment.
Whatever it looks like, there’s a good chance of grabbing some decent subscriber numbers – and for PRs an interesting new avenue for client coverage.
20 things that happened on the Internet in 2010: a puzzle
Do you want something to absolutely bake your brain for a few minutes/hours/days. Syzygy, a digital communications agency, has teamed up with illustrator McBess to develop the below image. The image, apparently, shows 20 things that happened on the Internet in 2010. As pleased as I am to see someone spell Internet with a capital ‘I’ (very please indeed), I’m upset that it’s been over six hours and I’ve only got nine.
In fairness to me, I haven’t given in to the temptation of Googling. But I just might have to.
According to the Syzygy website, the picture is “like the Russian national interest, a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. The picture contains 20 ‘things’ that happened on the Internet in 2010. These ‘things’ include industry events, memes and great web projects.”
It’s not a competition, mind. The good people at Syzygy will give you the answers if you email them, after a time. But by following them on Twitter and tweeting a link to the image you’re in with a chance of netting a print yourself. So go tweet.
There’s been some rumblings on Twitter this week. Not that there’s often a week that goes by without a Twitter rumbling or two nowadays – such is the modern web.
First up, a confidential Scotland Yard training dossier caused a fuss when it leaked on Twitter, with users believing police in the vicinity of London’s Oxford Street had issued “official warnings” of a gunman terrorising weekday shoppers. The farcical event was fuelled further by Twitter users claiming they could hear sirens on the street (is there a day that goes by when a siren is not heard on one of London’s busiest streets?) and a tweet from one user about a shooting of the photographic, rather than armed, kind.
A good example of why some materials should be kept off Twitter. The social nature of Twitter, one of its greatest attributes, also makes it prone to spreading unfounded information, rumour and fallacies.
With this in mind, the idea of MPs tweeting during debates in the House of Commons raises all manner of concerns. According to an article on telegraph.co.uk, there was some confusion over whether tweeting from Parliament is allowed following a verbal scuffle this week. It turns out, Twitter is not included in the guidelines given to MPs last June that dictate what can and can’t be done during a debate.
While not much can be done to stop the mob mentality type behaviour over the phantom Oxford Street gunman, it seems essential MPs should be clear exactly what tech and social media can and can’t be used within Parliament. While I agree democracy dictates political discussions should not be censored or hidden, information shared by MPs should be used to inform only, and not incite panic or speculation.
The vast majority of companies and organisations using social media for marketing and communications purposes will have a set of guidelines in place to keep employees’ noses clean when posting online. Why, then, are the clever clogs who run the country for a living seemingly lagging behind?
At the very least, someone should tell David Cameron that too many tweets don’t make a…well, you know the rest.
The Guardian has a new app out for iPhone and iPod Touch, following the original release in December 2009. The release coincides with a few stats from the developers on success to date. Over 200,000 downloads in the past year and a bit, with around 75% of those users still using on a monthly basis, and 25% accessing content every single day. No indication of who amongst that 25% also access guardian.co.uk – or even fork out more than a few bits of shrapnel for a slice of ink stained tree.
The new app sounds like it is up to scratch. Rightly so because in this game, as the developers’ note on the Inside Guardian.co.uk blog, you can’t afford to “stand still”. They’re not standing still on pricing either. Having opted for a single one off payment of £2.39 for the first version of the app, this new one will work on a rolling subscription of £2.99 for six months or £3.99 for a full 12.
In the US it’s different again. Ad revenue will support the app, which will be free to US news consumers – with the underlying aim of increasing presence in the lucrative stateside market.
I’m not averse to charging for online content, either in app or paywall form. What’s interesting is how the paper justifies the change in payment structure. The developers state “While we remain committed to offering our content for free on guardian.co.uk and our recently upgraded mobile website, it’s clear that in order to deliver the highest quality product for a single platform, considerable investment is required.” I’m no digital accountant, but I’m pretty sure an overhaul of a mobile site, and maintaining a national newspaper’s website would also require ‘significant investment’.
Such costs are doubtlessly factored into yearly budgeting as a matter of course nowadays, but what stopped a little extra for the iPhone app being thrown into the pot? Then there’s development of apps for other platforms, Android, Windows and the like, to consider. Perhaps 200,000 downloads a year was just not enough to justify internal investment by GMG. Which begs the question what would be?
Another question is where is the iPad app? The Guardian has the Eyewitness app for iPad, but as far as I know there’s no full blown news centric app (someone correct me if I’m wrong). Some people believe there’s a market for news on Apple’s tablet. Steve Jobs and Rupert Murdoch for two (although the first of this pairing isn’t exactly impartial) and Richard Branson for another. Not a list to everyone’s taste, but certainly not a list of people prone to poor business decisions.
Here are some of the key new features from the makers, judge for yourself if it’s worth the subscription cost:
• Faster, automatic updates for our live news and sport blogs – no need to refresh
• A new football scores service with free goal alerts by team and match for the main UK leagues and European competitions
• Our award-winning video content is included for the first time, and looks great whether you’re connected via 3G or Wi-Fi
• You’ll see reader comments below articles that are open to them; we’ll be adding in the ability to add comments via the app as soon as we can
• A brand new homepage design – look out for the multimedia carousel – and a new treatment for live blogs
• A new way to view the stories trending across guardian.co.uk and social media (otherwise known as Zeitgeist on our website)
• Use the app in portrait or landscape mode
• A brand new search facility, which we believe makes this one of the most comprehensive news apps.