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Finally, a Talking Points Memo mobile app — but it might not be what you’re expecting

TPM’s publisher says mobile apps must add value, and can’t just replicate the desktop or laptop experience.

Talking Points Memo launched a new version of its Polltracker vertical this morning. It’s accessible from its own domain, Polltracker.com, which is the first step toward giving it its own identity, separate from the TPM mothership.

The timing seems appropriate, given the political season, and it’s a step forward in TPM’s larger mission, which aims to diversify content across platforms and create more new, distinct brands under the TPM umbrella.

But perhaps most interesting is that, later this month, TPM will launch a Polltracker iPhone native app. There’s no general TPM app — their first foray into appdom is in a niche.

“My basic sense is that a lot of news apps only do things that you can do with a web optimized site,” TPM Editor and Publisher Josh Marshall told me. “Because of that, that’s made us sort of app-averse for lack of a better word — sort of app-skeptics, not that we’re against it.”

Yesterday, we wrote about ReadWriteWeb’s decommissioning of its native iPhone app in favor of a responsive-design-driven solution. “We have a simple rule: if we can do it in a browser, we use a browser,” SAY Media’s Alex Schleifer said, arguing that native apps should be reserved for things that require native apps’ capabilities.

The Polltracker app falls into that category: It’ll send configurable push notifications for the polls that users are interested in. A new poll in the Nevada Senate race? If you want it, Polltracker will buzz your phone to let you know the minute it’s up. For a certain class of political junkie, that’s catnip — and it’s something straight HTML can’t (yet) do.

“If you’re really hardcore into politics, and you finding out the next morning that a big poll came out in the presidential race in Ohio is not soon enough, you need to know now,” Marshall said. “You need to know five minutes after it’s released.”

Marshall says he expects a basic TPM mobile app will “eventually” come along; nothing is in production as of now, he says. TPM has seen a rapid shift to mobile in its audience. Getting Polltracker off the desktop and into user’s pockets has long been the goal. ProPublica’s Al Shaw, who built Polltracker when he was a developer at TPM, said as much in a tweet on Tuesday.

Marshall couldn’t give an exact date for the Polltracker app’s debut but you can sign up here to be notified when the app’s available for download. In the meantime, he’s trying to push awareness of Polltracker generally.

“Basically we’ve done a new iteration of Polltracker each cycle going back to 2006,” he said. “We have completely rebuilt from scratch the whole application for the 2012 cycle, and a lot of that we’ve rolled out incrementally…All the pieces are finally in place.”

But Polltracker will change again soon. For now, its still housed on the TPM site, and branded with the company’s maroon and white logo. “We are building it out into its own separate subsidiary,” Marshall said. “It’s going to have its own domain, its own logo, its own branding. Everything about it, it’s a distinct operation. We think it really is a great accompaniment for anybody who is watching this eleciton unfold, regardless of their political viewpoint. Everybody’s got an opinion, and in the editors’ blog I have lots of opinions, but this is a service where we’re putting forward the facts that opinions can be built around.”

                                   
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Joseph Lichterman    April 21, 2014
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