The Globe unveils a new app for tablets and smartphones

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 9.39.13 AM
The Globe‘s new iPad app. Click on image for larger view.

Thursday update: Significant second-day glitches. Shortly after 7 a.m., the most recent edition I could get was Wednesday’s. Then the app started telling me I needed an Internet connection, even though WiFi was working fine. Finally, a few minutes before 9, the problems seemed to be fixed.


Change isn’t always a disaster for The Boston Globe. This morning I clicked on the Globe‘s iPad app, which is based on a replica of the print edition. And the app was automatically overwritten by an entirely new version that looks much more like the ePaper available on BostonGlobe.com. It also seems to be a welcome improvement.

With the new app you can download the entire day’s paper (the only option with the previous version) or read it online. You can share articles on Twitter, Facebook, or other social networks, which represents a substantial upgrade. Tap on a story and it loads in a computer-friendly reading format. One refinement I’d like to see: when you click to make the type bigger, it should stay that way so that you don’t have to do it with each story.

The improvements aren’t dramatic, but overall the app feels more solid and complete.

The new version is also available for iPhone and, I suppose, those Android things as well. The previous version carried the miLibris brand; the new one is unbranded, though I see the company is still touting its relationship with the Globe. So maybe this is an improved miLibris product. (Or not; see update.)

The replica edition is not my favorite way of reading a newspaper. But BostonGlobe.com loads slowly on my iPad, and every so often I like to see what the paper looks like in print. Given the Globe‘s ongoing problems with home delivery, if you like print and have an iPad, you might want to give the new app a try.

Update: Former Globe digital guy Damon Kiesow reports that the new vendor is PageSuite:

Why newspaper apps still matter

IMG_0026
The Washington Post’s new iOS app.

Remember when the iPad was going to save the news business? How did that work out? But if the redemptive qualities of tablets turned out to be overblown, they are nevertheless a compelling platform for consuming all kinds of text and multimedia material, including news.

This morning I spent way too much time with The Washington Post’s new iOS app, which is detailed at the Nieman Journalism lab by Shan Wang. It is beautiful, with large pictures and highly readable type. I was already a fan of what the Post is now calling “Washington Post Classic.” But this is better.

So do I have a complaint? Of course. The Classic app is more complete; it includes local news (no, I have no connection to the Washington area, but it’s nice to be able to look in on occasion), whereas the new app is aimed at “national, international audiences.”

And both apps rely more on viral content than the print edition, a sluggish version of which is included in Classic.

Quibbles aside, this is a great step forward, and evidence of the breakthroughs that are possible with technology billionaire Jeff Bezos in charge. In fact, the new app is a version of one that was released last fall for the Amazon Fire. So it’s also heartening to see that Bezos isn’t leveraging his ownership of the Post entirely to Amazon’s advantage.

IMG_0024
The Boston Globe’s new app.

Another paper with a billionaire owner has taken a different approach. Several months ago John Henry’s Boston Globe mothballed its iOS replica edition — that is, an edition based on images of the print paper — and replaced it with an app that is still print-centric but faster and easier to use. It was developed by miLibris, a French company.

The first few iterations were buggy, but it’s gotten better. In general, I’m not a fan of looking at the print edition on a screen. But I find that the Globe’s website is slow enough on my aging iPad that I often turn to the app just so I can zoom through the paper more quickly, even if I’m missing out on video and other Web extras.

One big bug that still needs to be squashed: When you try to tweet a story, the app generates a link that goes not to the story but, rather, to the Apple Store so that you can download the app. Which, of course, you already have.

IMG_0025
The Boston Herald’s app.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the Boston Herald has a pretty nice iOS app, developed by DoApp of Minneapolis. It’s based on tiles, so it’s fast and simple to use. It’s so superior to the Herald’s creaky website that I wish there were a Web version.

Do apps for individual news organizations even matter? We are, after all, entering the age of Apple News and Facebook Instant Articles.

My provisional answer is that the news organizations should both experiment with and push back against the drive toward distributed content. It’s fine for news executives to cut deals with the likes of Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg. But it would be a huge mistake if, in the process, they let their own platforms wither.

Also published at WGBH News.