News this morning that the Irish Times will shortly be launching an iPhone app. Surprised it has taken so long to be honest. It will see the newspaper catch up with their main rival, The Irish Independent, which has an app available for some time now. As the article points out, with Vodafone offering the iPhone in the Irish market from next week there’s going to be a lot more eyeballs to catch.
The first line in the article in the paper says :
As more newspapers launch apps, they are trying to avoid eating into their core business
The big challenge the Irish Times and other newspapers face is that when you offer an app for a few euro that has all the articles from the print edition, there is no need to visit the newsagent. This ability is already available of course. All a person needs to do is add the Irish Times RSS feeds to their news reader and bobs your uncle.
That’s not the whole story though. When I consume news on a mobile device (in my case the iPhone), I skim through articles and find the ones that interest me. Same way with the printed newspaper. There’s a lot in there I’m not interested in but I have to buy the whole newspaper anyway. I don’t want an app that dumps every page of the print edition into my hand. I’d like a more intelligent app. One that knows what I’d like to read. Something with the intelligence of my6sense.
my6sense is an iPhone app that I’ve been use for quite a while now. Over time, it learns what type of articles and news I like and presents those relevant articles to me. I can still see all the news items from my feeds if I wish, but the app does such a good job I don’t feel as if I’m missing anything. This description from another my6sense user says it all:
“… I have been using a tool to filter hundreds of feeds, thousands of posts! The results are so tailored and specific to my needs, they are as if handpicked by a mighty army of mind reading Oompa Loompas bent on making me the most informed man on earth.”
What I’d like to see the Irish Times do with their app is make it intelligent by offering a premium version. A premium version with a monthly sub that would offer the following:
Newstand account on the Irish Times website along the lines of Shelfari. It would allow me to flag articles of interest and store them on a “shelf”. When I get home in the evening, I can read the articles full screen at my leisure.
Like Shelfari, the Irish Times could offer a community feature on the site where I can see who else is reading the same articles as me and allow me to connect and discuss issues if I so wished.
Daily/Weekly/Monthly digests. I would love a properly formatted version of the articles I’ve found interesting compiled into a downloadable file that I can view on my ebook reader, iPhone or iPad (when it arrives).
Print on demand. If I want a printed version, I should be able to go into my local newsagent and get a personalised copy of the Irish Times printed while I wait.
Bottom line is that newspapers should think beyond dumping everything from the print edition into another format. They ought to be offering a way to shape the news and tailor it to fit the individual. Maybe then they can start to make some money from their online efforts. Until then, I’ll stick with my6sense and an instapaper account. It allows me to create a truly personal newspaper that I can read on multiple devices.