As the battle between native and web apps rages on, newspapers and magazines wanting to expand to digital publishing have to make some tough decisions. Fortune seems to have faith in web apps, as the magazine launches today, May 5th, its web app Fortune500+, AdAge reported. At first, the app will run on computers only but will soon work on tablet browsers as well.
The appeal of web apps is easy to understand: unlike native apps, built for a single platform, web apps work cross-platform as they run inside the web browser. Opting for a web app, thus, makes it possible to reach the maximum number of readers with only one version of the app.
AdAge's article notes that the list of web apps is growing, albeit slowly. Although many magazines have chosen to publish exclusively for the iPad, few have so far developed web apps. "I think you'll see that more and more apps will go this way," said Daniel Roth, managing editor at Fortune.com. Despite the slow pace, HTML5 powered web publishing seems to be gathering momentum, the people behind OnSwipe, for example, being very strongly in favour of web apps.
Fortune is also planning on releasing "native" versions of Fortune500+, expected by the end of the year. The magazine decided to start by focusing on the web app rather than developing apps for different systems at once, as it allows the app to reach the widest possible audience simultaneously. There is also one obvious benefit of not publishing for the iPad: Fortune now avoids dealing with Apple's App Store and giving Apple a cut of any sales. Lately, Apple's treatment of app developers has been a couse of discontent for some publishers.
The free version of Fortune500+ is described as a Fortune 500 dashboard and toolkit that will provide company descriptions and ranks, details on financials and management, customizable stock charts and live related headlines. A premium version, priced at $9,99 a year, offers further features.
Some warn that although developing an app that works on all of the tablets in the market is a compelling possibility, there are drawbacks. "The problem is it doesn't take full advantage of each individual platform. You end up with a mediocre product across all platforms as opposed to a superior product on individual platforms," warned Raven Zachary, president of Small Society, an app developer for iOS devices. He estimated that it would take years for web apps to catch up with dedicated ones.
The results of the ongoing struggle between native and web apps will have a profound impact on the future digital media landscape, and the outcome is hard to predict. In February, Nieman Journalism Lab reported one technologist saying that the picture of the direction of digital publishing should be clearer in one years time. But as experience is everything, the option of starting to build up expertise as soon as possible seems also reasonable.