It’s no mystery to me why news organizations feel they have to create “apps” to deliver their news. What I don’t understand is why we feel compelled to use them. The usual argument offered by the publishers is that an app allows them to enrich the reader’s experience in various ways, but that doesn’t wash any more. I don’t really want a snazzier interface or richer experience. I want news that I can get to quickly without getting bogged down in labyrinthine menus and promotional links.
Especially on my Android.
I’ve tried a lot of the leading news applications. At best, all they do is bog down my handset by using up memory. (I’m referring to apps produced and marketed by the news media themselves — not the third-party news apps like NewsRob and Google Reader, which use RSS feeds to deliver news. I don’t like those either, but that’s a different story.)
The real reason all these news organizations want their own apps is to track who’s reading what and to eventually sell you the app. I’m all in favor of creating revenue streams for our troubled media, but that’s not the way to do it. Humble HTML for years has provided a universal medium for presenting news. And if there was a gadget missing that we simply couldn’t live without, it’s available in HTML 5.
Best of all — from the standpoint of the poor user who’s just trying to get his news without crashing his smartphone — HTML allows me to get all my news without installing a bunch of programs and worrying about sloppily written code and viruses.
Publishers, of course, want me to use their apps so that they can lock me into their version of the news (usually for advertising reasons). But I don’t want to be locked in. I want to move freely from CNN to The New York Times to Huffington Post to Drudge to ABC to Mashable to NPR to Time to (name your favorites). And if I use all those publishers’ apps, I’m going to spend more time pulling my battery to reboot my smartphone than I am reading the news. (Trust me, I’ve tried.)
The publishers would be better advised to put their resources into better sites. My friend Wade Kwon today shared a link to an excellent story about how news sites can be designed to make it easier to get to the news we need. Bravo.