Many believe that apps are the future for news distribution and that the iPhone (and smartphones in general) and the iPad (as well as other tablets) have started a revolution. The launch of the long-awaited The Daily, the iPad-only Rupert Murdoch's newspaper, is another step in this progression.
"Apps are all the rage, with The Daily's taking center-stage this week. With tabletmania sweeping the country, you can almost hear the howls of publishers across the country, as they implore their IT chiefs: "Get me an app, pronto!"" wrote Ken Doctor, on Nieman Lab, in an article that analysed the "Newseconomics" of these technological changes.
Apps through iTunes have reached the incredible number of 10 billions downloads.
But if apps appear to be the popular phenomenon of 2011, "publishers' on-ramp to digital reader payment," then "HTML5 is the future, they'll say", Doctor said.
Some organizations, like the Center of Public Integrity has already developed HTML5 projects, which make reading long in-depth articles easy on any digital platform. Die Zeit used the platform to create an iPad-optimised version of its website, as well as an app.
"The impact of an app-like browser experience is a big, and multi-edged, one", said Doctor. On the tech level, he continued, it means a major re-training of staff in HTLM5, a process that began more than a year ago at The New York Times, as Times CTO for digital operations, Marc Frons said.
"On a business level, it creates a conundrum", Doctor continued. "Steve Jobs not only created an unexpected revolution with apps, he also proved that people would pay for them". And several news organizations are moving in the direction of a paid digital content, putting their websites behind paywalls and making app content available via subscription only.
"Yet if news technologists are right that browser-based HTML5-powered apps can deliver great experiences, then why do we need native apps? Some will tell you that apps are just a front, a way of productizing something that their new browsing experiences can deliver just as well. The power is in the code, not the app. But will readers pay for something they don't own? Maybe apps will just become shells for delivering HTML5," Doctor wonders.
"Publishers have to wonder: Is it the romance with discrete, ownable apps that consumers are willing to pay for, or is it the wider experience? We can see, in the makings of Apple's evolving publisher subscription policies, an understanding of this dilemma. That may be why Apple is forcing news publishers to restrict browser access to news if they want to retain their direct customer relationships with readers -- and continue to offer enabling apps through iTunes." Doctor added that for now, a twin development path is emerging, with development continuing for both apps and HTML5.
Sources: Nieman Lab