The New York Times today announced a new web app to read news, optimized for Apple’s iPad and written using common HTML5 web technologies. The paper cautiously deems the app “an experiment” of sorts, though it looks and feels superb. The web-based software reminds us a lot of the Fortune 500+ and Financial Times web apps.
There’s no denying these have effectively set the stage for what a decent web-based magazine / newspaper experience should be like. NYT’s web app requires a subscription to NYTimes.com with tablet access and is available free of charge to home delivery subscribers who link their account for digital access…
The web app, available by visiting App.NYTimes.com via Safari on the iPad is swipe-friendly navigation and supports portrait and landscape orientation.
According to a media release, the web app features four different ways of reading news stories:
- Trending: The Trending section lists the top 25 trending Times articles on Twitter from the past hour. This section functions in conjunction with Cascade, a proprietary data visualization tool developed by The Times Company’s Research & Development group, which monitors the sharing of content on Twitter.
- Times Wire: A continuous, reverse chronological feed of the latest articles, videos and slide shows published on NYTimes.com.
- Today’s Paper: In this reading format, users can browse the app like they would the newspaper, with sections organized under print topic headings.
- All Sections: The full breadth of Times coverage, from breaking news, to video and photography.
For quick access, you are advised to create a home screen shortcut by hitting the Share button in Safari and choosing Add To Home Screen.
Web apps written in HTML5/CSS usually are not on par with their native iOS counterparts. As for news reader apps, I’m increasingly inclined to think that HTML5 is the way to go to provide uniform reading experience across platforms.
No wonder Financial Times’s web app is more popular than the native version.
The NYT web app bypasses Apple’s 70:30 revenue sharing for subscriptions as it forwards users to buy a subscription on the publisher’s web site, later providing their subscriber credentials to gain access to full content.
The paper’s corporate communications manager Linda Zebian tells The Verge it wasn’t the paper’s intention to dodges Apple’s in-app subscription fees.
We developed the app as part of our NYT Everywhere Strategy—which is to be where New York Times readers are—to expand our reach to all strong and promising mobile platforms and technologies. It is not an attempt to avoid Apple’s purchase fee and we have no plans to eradicate our native iOS apps, it’s just another way our subscribers can access Times content.
We wanted to test the Web App among an engaged audience of NYT subscribers, which made the iPad a natural choice. This is the first step, but the HTML5 format does allow us to explore the idea of launching Web-based apps other platforms in the future.
I wish every publication out there went down the HTML5 route.