Smartening Up iPad News Apps

I keep four news(paper) apps on my iPad, and I rarely use any of them. In fact I mostly keep them on my iPad for when I am bored and to stay up to date on what these apps look like. Yesterday I downloaded #4 and that was the new Washington Post iPad app – a subpar news app to say the least. In looking through the Washington Post app it struck me what really annoys me about all these news apps: they still are not leveraging the power of digital, and are refusing to cater to short attention spans.

I am not talking about how they layout the news, or even how antiquated having to sign up for free accounts is, instead I am talking about what you see about the story on the front page. For instance on the Washington Posts front page you see this on the iPad:

Take a look at the most prominent story on that page, then start to read the blurb about it. Seems all normal right? Yep, except then you should remember that OS X has had built into it summarize services for quite some time. If the Washington Post really wanted to use technology to its best they could easily implement a summarization service for the story and show you that instead of the first few sentences.

What read: 1

An international backlash against the Federal Reserve’s move last week to pump billions of dollars into the U.S. economy is threatening to undercut the Obama administrations’s economic goals for this week’s G-20 meeting of world leaders.

Heading into the summit of the Group of 20 economic powers…

Would now read: 2

In a letter released shortly after he arrived in the South Korean capital for a Group of 20 summit meeting, Obama defended his administration’s actions to boost the U.S. economy and argued that strong growth and job creation would be the most important U.S. contribution to global economic recovery.

So I ask you: which is more helpful to you, the reader?

The Washington Post is not alone, most all of these apps do this 3 take a look at these screen shots, I have accompanied each screen shot with the summarized version of the most prominently displayed story.

Current:

The soaring price of gold reflects international unease about the strength of major developed economies that must be taken seriously by the G20 group of leading nations, according to Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank

New:

Speaking at a conference on infrastructure spending, Mr Zoellick said the price of gold, which this week surged past $1,400 a troy ounce, indicated that the world was heading towards a new monetary system in which the US dollar would be only one of a number of reserve currencies with flexible exchange rates.

Current:

SEOUL, South Korea — President Obama, marking the start of a summit meeting that has already tested the limits of international cooperation, implored other world leaders on Wednesday to shift global economic demand away from its historic reliance on American consumption and borrowing.

In a letter to other leaders of the Group of 20 economic powers, released shortly after he arrived here, Mr. Obama tried to calm the currency tensions that have roiled global

New:

President Obama said that the United States needed to stimulate demand in the short run but curb its addiction to borrowing in the long run; that China needs to reduce its reliance on exports and allow its consumers to buy more and save less; and that Germany needs to wean itself off the fixation on frugality and productivity that helped it through reunification in 1990 but that now poses a threat to the economic integration of Europe.

Current:

President Barack Obama responded to widespread criticism that the United States is deliberately weakening the dollar while trying to swing the G20 spotlight back onto global imbalances

New: 4

A draft statement echoed an earlier finance ministers’ pledge to move toward more market-determined currency rates and appeared to offer no new proposals on how to ease tensions between struggling rich nations and rising economic powers such as China and Brazil.

Again I ask, would it not be more helpful to have a summary of the story on the front page, instead of the industry standard ‘we put as much of the stories text that we can fit even though it provides no value’?

  1. Also of note is the this is the beginning text for only the iPad app, the website version of the same story read differently. Odd.
  2. This is three words longer, I am trying to keep them all about the same exact length.
  3. In fact I don’t know of any that don’t do this.
  4. This is as short as one can reasonably make this section, though it is longer that what would fit, Reuters should really look into the useless amount of space they give to this sub headings.
Originally posted for members on: November 11, 2010
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