This is way too busy. What is that story list doing on the right? That’s a mistake. Another problem: Today’s leder jumps to nine pages (nineteen if you’re in large-text mode), in no small part because of the story sidebar (which is on every jump page). That’s way too many for a fairly run-of-the-mill story. The story sidebar constricts the page layout and thus the ad space. That’s why the Journal here uses one of those irritating Web ad tactics, the pop-up, which when you turn to a jump page flashes for a couple of seconds before retreating to a tiny spot in the bottom left corner:
And it takes too long to swipe through jump pages.
But contrast the presentation on the iPad with how it looks “above the fold” on my laptop:
There’s tons of promise here on the iPad app. Click the photograph and a seven-photo slideshow appears instantly. The pictures look gorgeous on the iPad screen—as good as or better than the glossiest magazine paper.
Video is embedded on pages and it looks great. Click it and it runs right there on the page. The iPad’s built-in speaker is strong and clear. Click a button and turn the iPad sideways and the video fills the screen, with only moderate pixelation:
You browse through a section’s contents by swiping your finger right to left, which works great, and opens up opportunities for full-page ads like this one in Personal Journal, which seems about right: Non-intrusive, even awesome since you can click the video button to watch the Iron Man 2 trailer.
Alas, when I clicked the “click here for video… and more” area, it opened up an Oracle Web site in iPad’s Safari browser. Since there’s no multitasking on the iPad (besides music), which is a blessing if you ask me, I had to exit Safari and restart the WSJ app. That’s not good. The Journal will need to have internal browser capabilities for ads like this. The Times already does.
Some of the inside pages are way too cluttered:
And the WSJ is charging a whopping $18 a month for it—even if you’re already a print and/or online subscriber. I suspect that’s too much, at least while you can get a WSJ.com sub and the print paper delivered to your door for $11.66 a week.
As a WSJ.com subscriber, the app let me in for free for two days before locking me out, but the paper is good to emulate the successful hybrid paid/free formula the Journal has developed with WSJ.com. Most stories are free. The more valuable ones require a subscription.
But the Journal fails to take advantage of the iPad’s interactivity for market data, and that’s a perplexing miss. Whereas Bloomberg and Reuters (but particularly Bloomberg), have gorgeous full-featured data components…
… the WSJ, which is asking you to pay, does not.
(The Times doesn’t either, but it’s not a full app yet, and anyway it didn’t invent the concept like the Journal’s forebears did.)
That’s got to change quickly. The Journal long ago ceded the lucrative financial-data space online to Yahoo and Google. It can’t do that on the iPad.
Again, this is very, very early, and developers didn’t have long to work. Hopefully, the kinks will be worked out shortly. And there are features nobody has yet dreamed up that you just know are coming.
Speaking of, I have an idea for the WSJ and others: You ought to be able to trade stocks and bonds from within the Journal app. Embed Fidelity and E*TRADE and the like into the app and take a cut off every trade. Seems like it has the potential to be a decent revenue source.
I’ll look at some of the other biz-press apps in a subsequent post. This one’s getting way too long for the innertubes.
But the early verdict on NYT vs. WSJ on the iPad: NYT by a mile on design. WSJ by a mile on content.
UPDATE: For some thoughts on how both papers are taking steps backwards in openness and usability, see this post.