What if you had an old-school newspaper newsroom where the digital producers were at the core of the operation, and the task of putting together the print newspaper was the side job?
The Washington Post’s Cory Haik, executive producer for digital news, says that’s “exactly what we are trying to do,” with the new iPad app the paper launched Monday as a step in that “one web” direction. (Disclosure: I freelance regularly for the Post.)
But the Post is also trying to find ways to bring along less digitally oriented readers. The new app includes a print replica edition — so you can still read the daily paper in its entirety from A1 to the back page — but with the display of each story still optimized for the tablet, rather than frozen in awkwardly static PDFs or in ungainly digital presentations. (The replica includes puzzles, comics, and Sunday magazine, plus a 14-day archive so you can dig back into recently published material.) Plenty of newspapers offer a replica edition for the iPad, but most are separate from their “traditional” iPad apps. (Can we say “traditional iPad app” yet?)
“The app features the new ‘Post Classic,’ which yes, is an entire replica of the broadsheet newspaper,” Haik told me in an email. “This was something users had been asking for since our first version of the iPad. They wanted the complete Washington Post. The mobile teams worked hard to create something that delivered across the board. It’s more than a PDF reader — we thought a lot about the UX and flow from the ‘Post Classic’ version into our iPad reading experience.”
(Coke Classic jokes are left as an exercise for the reader.)
The app also represents a move to Newsstand for the Post, which means Apple will get a 30 percent cut of any subscription revenue generated using in-app purchases. (The app is free in the Apple Store for now, but the newspaper is rolling out a paywall this summer.) The Post’s decision to go that route had less to do with money, though, and more to do with giving readers what they want. Haik explains: “It’s part of Apple and delivering on the platform. We have to meet our users where they are.”
Not everyone is thrilled about the move. Commenters in the Post’s announcement about the app have already expressed annoyance that Android users are being left out. Here’s Haik: “As for other native tablet apps, those are surely conversations that are active. It was just time for an upgrade to our iPad product and Newsstand was a natural step for us.”
The meet-the-audience-where-it-is mentality is also what prompted the Post to bring its moderated commenting system, The Forum, from its politics iPad app to the new flagship app. “Our goal was to create a ‘lean-back’ and synthesized view for an iPad audience looking to digest the conversation without all the noise,” Haik said. In other words, it’s a way to foster engagement without subjecting Twitter-averse readers to the firehose of that platform.
“When we think about building out social, it’s important to think about users who are not on social as well,” Haik said in a later online chat. “And [The Forum] can be customized, but we tried to do the heavy lifting for folks.”
Other notable aspects you’ll find on the app: live video and live chats, photo galleries, sports scores, and the ability to read offline.
“We have an entire producer crew that is dedicated to desktop and mobile platforms — 24/7,” Haik said. “Right now there is a big focus on making sure the app is ready at night and then throughout the day.”