Wash Post iPhone app is mediocre at best, but takes a stance in the media pay wall debate

Mar 8, 2010
Tech

The question of print’s viability in a digital world has been a hot topic during the past few years, as some media companies have embraced an online presence, while others have been slower to enter the digital landscape. Frankly, I don’t know if I can really blame these sluggish companies—it seems that publishers just can’t […]

The question of print’s viability in a digital world has been a hot topic during the past few years, as some media companies have embraced an online presence, while others have been slower to enter the digital landscape. Frankly, I don’t know if I can really blame these sluggish companies—it seems that publishers just can’t win when it comes to finding a balance between keeping their readers and making a profit. Nevertheless, I was happy to see that The Washington Post Company recently launched its Wash Post iPhone app ($1.99).

Overall, I found Wash Post to be on the underwhelming side; a so-so iPhone app that has plenty of room for improvement. The design isn’t anything that hasn’t been done before, but I did think the use of a horizontal scroll for popular newspaper sections was smart. Swiping across story headers displays sharing options such as email, Facebook and Twitter, as well as the “MyPost” function, which acts like a favorites list. Adding stories to MyPost ensures that they cache completely for offline reading, which is extremely useful when you’re out of 3G or Wi-Fi range.

Not all of The Washington Post’s blogs are easily found in the iPhone app, and I found that local news was considerably buried, which makes one wonder if the Post is putting more of its focus on its national audience. Content-wise, one of the best features is the Post’s “Day in Photos” found under the “Photos” tab. Scrolling through the images is made for the iPhone’s interface, and captions can be hidden if you like.

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What I find most interesting about Wash Post iPhone app is its subscription model. The iPhone app costs $1.99 per year. Cheaper than a regular subscription for sure, but when The New York Times and USA Today offer free iPhone apps, I can (sadly) see this move alienating some readers—especially those who do subscribe to the print edition of the Post. In addition to charging for the iPhone app, Wash Post is also ad-supported. I’m sure you’re thinking, “How dare they?”, but if it can help the Post avoid, say, newsroom cuts, is that really such a bad thing?

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