According to findings from reseach carried out in May by Digital Media Test Kitchen, "few mobile news apps have pushed the creativity envelope." The report stated that "compared to the innovation that's rampant in the non-news mobile app world, the news apps we reviewed seem behind the curve."
Six newspaper apps were reviewed, USA Today, the New York Times, Associated Press, The Guardian, Politico, and The Huffington Post. "Most of the news applications that have been created by single news brands do not do enough to encourage interactivity, customization, or creativity...there is an overall lack of interactivity compared to the news brands' regular Web sites." Regarding creativity, these apps generally stuck to the same pattern of pairing headlines with thumbnails photos. However, these thumbnail photos can usually not be enlarged when clicked on, "a disappointment when the image was too small to discern adequately."As for interactivity, while most of the apps permitted sharing on social networks, only the HuffPost app allowed users to comment.
Mobile devices are becoming a more popular means of accessing news, and the Test Kitchen report tips smartphone technologies as the new opportunity for news providers to redeem themselves. "Geo-location, augmented reality, voice-to-text, financial transactions, push reminders, social incentives, mobile-scannable 2-D codes, and more are ready to address news industry problems and open up new opportunities," the report declares.
Frédéric Filloux however, believes newspapers will not be able to sustain the app culture. If apps become readers' choice, he speculated on Monday Note, specialization is likely to come in: "launching an app with a specific coverage target, such as sports or politics events, will become part of the standard strategic editing arsenal."
This will not necessarily be a positive development, especially if the number of operating systems and platforms keep growing. He creates this scenario as an example: "within one year or two, any one-shot, news-related app dedicated to a major election or to Olympic Games will have to be present on at least three to four OS, two families of mobile devices (smartphones and tablets), and multiple flavors of screen sizes and resolutions. Not counting updates and bug fixes." Newspapers will not be able to keep up with this, he says. "Those of us who were reluctant to develop micro-sites on the web, are likely to give up developing apps for mobile."
However, for now, newspapers must continue make an effort to reach readers on their mobile devices. Like Deborah Potter of NewsLab puts it, "can news organizations afford to do all this? Maybe a better question is," she decides, is "can they afford not to?"