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By Thomas Baekdal - February 2013

Unique Features in iPad Apps is Like The Web in 2004

Every morning, I start my day catching up on the latest news from the media industry. And every single morning I end up feeling frustrated about the traditional media's attempts to go digital. Most attempts are like watching old people mimicking the web in 2004.

This morning, for instance, I read that a new newspaper app could do this: "The app for iPad and iPhone offers some more unique features. The 'live blog' section for instance has the possibility to receive updates without refreshing the page."

Wow... that's an amazing unique feature that... you know... we have been using on the web since 2004 (and it was invented in 1999).

Not only was this a big thing in 2004 on the web, but we also found that it doesn't really help... and it kind of distracts the reader. So most websites have since dropped that functionality... except for live streaming events (where it is essential).

Here is another example. In the year 2001 (12 years ago), One of the most annoying things websites did was to create animated splash pages. People absolutely hated it. It confused them. It caused people to abandon sites, and was generally considered a bad idea.

Before 2001, most websites had a splash page. After 2001, almost all websites had dropped it in favor of bringing their readers directly into the content.

But if we look at the newspaper iPad apps, what is the hottest trend at the moment? Yep, it's animated covers... like this one from Newsweek, from just last month.


So not only is the next new thing for newspaper apps twelve years out of date, it's also often a case of 'Been there. Done that. Didn't Work'.

This doesn't mean that there aren't interesting elements every now and then, but what I don't understand is this: We have 20 years of experience finding the most efficient, the most engaging, and the most profitable way to publish content digitally on the web. But then when many newspapers have to go digital, they seem to discard all that knowledge, and instead opting to create an iPad app with an animated cover, which reminds you more about the old days of interactive CDs.

Not only that, but the media industry also seem to go through all the same stages that we have already gone through with the web.

The next new thing for newspaper apps, used to be the next new thing for websites ten years ago, including all the fancy features that we played around with on the web in the past.

Back in 2010, I wrote the article 'Print vs iPad vs Web', in which I detailed the problem with apps being far behind the web. Today, three years later, we still haven't moved forward.


In the developing world we see this amazing mobile revolution simply because they are skipping the desktop. They are going directly from nothing to mobile, which makes them come out in front.

The newspaper industry needs to do the same. We already know how to publish digitally. We have refined how to do that online for 20 years. You don't have to repeat all those steps. Just jump ahead to 2013 and start from there!

(BTW: I'm exploring this is more detail in my upcoming report about the perfect media app)

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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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