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The Guardian may have moved toward sustainable smartphone revenue with its new subscription iPhone app, but its public strategy for iPhone’s larger iOS sibling is still under consideration.
Despite its website having been a flagship fixture in Apple’s marketing since iPad’s launch last May, The Guardian has stood quietly back as other publishers have eagerly posted apps in anticipation of post-print, post-web salvation.
But, behind the scenes, the paper is planning some kind of news app, Guardian.co.uk editor Janine Gibson explains to paidContent:UK: “It’s in the early stages of development…
“The original iPhone app was quite groundbreaking at the time. You want to do something that feels appropriate to the device… we’re not a fan of PDFs with the sound of a page turning.
“We try to be quite design-led because, that way, you come up with more interesting products. We’re focusing on designing a product we think is true to The Guardian, true to iPad, and is brilliant. Then we’ll figure out how to produce it without having 25 people working a night shift (to update it), make it scaleable.”
In the eight months since iPad launched, The Times, Financial Times, Telegraph and others have each launched app editions that, in many cases, have been fine products but which have required future iterations – for example, on charging strategy, bug fixes and so on. Digital lets operators make tweaks long in to the future. “If you make your plans too far ahead, everything changes,” Gibson says.
Writes Guardian mobile product manager Jonathan Moore: “We’re in the middle of our iPad development right now and it’s looking very exciting indeed.”
But The Guardian‘s iPad development has not gone hand-in-hand with the upgrades to its iPhone app. “That’s a very different process,” Gibson says. “We’re using completely different people and designers and having a very different approach to that. They’re very different devices.”
Says Moore: “We’re discussing iPad models now. It’s a tough conversation. But you won’t be seeing a direct port for certain!”
The starting point appears to be asking: what should a Guardian iPad edition be for?
“What (content) is appropriate to what (device)?,” Gibson asks. “Is an app more of a closed, finite reading experience, and is web browsing more of an infinite, take-you-anywhere experience. iPad seems to be a laying-down-on-your-sofa experience, judging from the research.”
The answer would seem to determine whether features like Guardian.co.uk’s liveblogs, live soccer scores and interactives make the iPad cut and whether an app should, like The Times and FT, conjure the paper experience but in tablet form, or – as is likely – a mixture of both. But the questions make The Guardian‘s iPad strategy look delayed.
The free Guardian.co.uk website likely enjoys high popularity amongst iPad web browsers already. But, drawing a parallel, Gibson says the paid iPhone app hasn’t hurt take-up of the free m.guardian.co.uk and: “I’m not sure (the free website is) a barrier to charging. It just forces you to think of the right product…
“If you can hit it right, people will pay to have something delivered in the perfect way for their medium. People said we couldn’t charge for the free app – except that we could, and we did.”
Disclosure: Our publisher ContentNext is a wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian News & Media.