globe and mail

Canadian Newspapers on the iPad

With the media writing course I'm taking this semester, I've been reading more newspapers, instead of just relying on Google News to present me with stories of interest. When I realized that a number of newspapers have iPad apps, I thought I would see how they compare. In this review, I will be primarily covering the aesthetics, ease of use, and availability of the online content when compared to the print content. I will not be evaluating the content of the newspaper itself. The national papers for Canada are the National Post, The Globe and Mail, and The Star. Of these three, the National Post is perhaps the cleanest in terms of style and ease of use. The available articles are presented in a vertical list, with headings for the different sections. To see all of the articles, you just scroll downwards. Selecting an article will switch screens to a full screen view of the article, as expected. The amount of content available is severely limited. I assume the National Post likes to direct readers to their full website. This is somewhat disappointing, as there is more content available on the website that isn't hidden behind a paywall.

The Globe and Mail is close behind the National Post in terms of use. While the sections are listed vertically, the Globe made the bizarre decision to require you to scroll the sections horizontally to list the articles. I've seen some other apps that do this as well, and it doesn't really seem to work very well. You have to think about the app in two dimensions, and it just seems bizarre.

What is even more strange is the app for The Star. I can only conclude that it was submitted to the App Store without anyone actually testing it. The application layout appears incomplete, with a sizeable gap at the bottom which is not used for displaying content. While there are toolbars above and below the app, they don't appear to accept input. I can sometimes click on one of the articles headlines to view the article, but the transition is awkward. Essentially, The Star is completely unusable, from my perspective.

The true gems of the Canadian newspapers are the regional papers. The Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen, Windsor Star, Regina Leader-Post, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Edmonton Journal, Calgary Herald, Victoria Times Colonist, Vancouver Sun, and the Vancouver Province are all owned by Postmedia Network, the parent company of the National Post. They are in all cases, the same application, with only the actual content changing to reflect that of each individual paper. I'm really impressed by these apps. They are presented in a format which actually resembles a traditional newspaper, with large images, headlines and lead paragraphs from the different stories in each section. Selecting any story will bring you to the full article. Horizontal swipes will go to the next page of an article, or to the next page of the section view. When swiping to the end of a section, a full screen advertisement is displayed. This isn't really that much of an inconvenience, as the applications appear to be providing most - if not all - of the newspaper content. Postmedia Network has done a fantastic job in building these apps, and it really makes their National Post app look useless for its general lack of content.

According to an article in the National Post, Postmedia Networks took control of these papers in July 2010, with a plan to "transform a collection of newspaper and online assets" by engaging in a "digital first" business model. From the look at these applications, they are succeeding.

The main disadvantage these regional papers have is just that: they're regional papers. They do not attempt to provide the national perspective, or as much international news as the three national papers do.