iPad the news today, oh boy

Back in January, I wrote this:

I also have a £702/year newspaper habit. Imagine if I could come downstairs in the morning, grab the iPad, and use it as a newspaper. It’s big enough so there’s still the serendipity of seeing articles you might otherwise miss, and it’s digital enough that I can get my news for free (or nearly free, depending on what the Guardian, Sunday Times etc do about online content).

Now that I’ve spent several weeks sitting on a sofa with only an iPad for company, is it a worthy replacement for print?

Not yet.

NYT Editors’ Choice: Nifty but short

I’ve found newspapers on the iPad a curiously annoying affair. They’re nice enough in the browser but irritating to use – endlessly having to return to the back button is, literally, a pain – and I’m spending much more time in Instapaper than I am on the websites on which the articles are actually published.

RSS isn’t working for me so far either. While apps such as the sublime RSS reader Reeder are good at what they do, the feeds themselves can be irritating as the same story follows you across multiple sections. The Guardian is particularly bad for this, with stories appearing in, say, the Media, G2 and Main News feeds over the course of the day.

Other newspapers don’t even try with RSS: they have headline-only feeds that are pretty much pointless. Such feeds are slower and more annoying than just visiting the website in the first place.

Mind you, they’re not as bad as the tech sites that publish a headline in their feed which takes you to… the headline! Click here to read more! Here’s the headline again, with a link to the actual site it came from this time! Sites that do this, or publications such as Wired whose iPad apps don’t render text – text! – legibly hate you. It’s that simple.

But I digress.

Flipboard: Meh. Maybe I follow the wrong people

There are a few interesting apps out there, but there are a few disappointing ones too. Flipboard is ok if you like the idea of a paper made only from the links your acquaintances are posting on Facebook and Twitter (I don’t). The much hyped Pulse newsreader excelled at showing the stories I didn’t want to read and hiding the ones I did. The (London) Times app is ten quid a month for a paper I don’t particularly like in its daily incarnation. And The Guardian iPhone app hasn’t made its way across to the iPad yet. Reuters News Pro is quite nice, if a bit newswire-y, BBC News is a bit TV-y and the Huffington Post is too Huffington Post-y.

So far my favourite is the New York Times Editors Choice app. It’s very short (it’s free) but it delivers a lovely reading experience and the serendipity of a good old fashioned bit of newsprint. I could do without the interrupting ads, mind you.

Times for iPad: lots of potential. It isn’t the Times newspaper.

The one app I’m crossing my fingers about isn’t any of the ones I’ve already mentioned, though. It’s Times, the iPad version of a popular OS X RSS reader. The iPad version has a lovely interface, but unfortunately a wee bug affecting many of the feeds I want to use means I haven’t been able to use it for protracted periods yet. I’ll get back to you on that one.

Anyone else exploring print alternatives on the iPad? I’d love to know what you’ve found.

2 thoughts on “iPad the news today, oh boy

  1. G24 says:

    I’m engaging in ever more iPad-based reading, but so far it’s mostly RSS newsfeeds, although I can imagine more newspaper, magazine book reading will creep in as time allows.

    My reader app of choice is Reeder which is brilliant for sifting through large quantities of feed; it’s fast, efficient and functional with only one or two minor UI niggles.

    What I’m starting to do now though, is step back from the conventional ‘preferred reader app’ scenario and use different apps for particular sources and different types of reading: Reeder for burning through the long lists of busy feeds (like work oriented research), Pulse for more casual and relaxed reading and maybe even Early Edition for some occasional feeds, despite its rather crass newspaper-style layout which presents a few selected stories and places arbitrary importance on them with its choice of layout and type size. Different apps, different reading.

    Where this starts to get really interesting is with Flipboard, which is truly fantastic. Set up some special twitter lists to slot into a few of your Flipboard sections: rather than look at what everyone you normally follow are churning out, find and group together selected people with the specific purpose of feeding their tweets through Flipboard. So what you are doing is selectively recruiting groups of people to act as content sourcing agents, then using Flipboard to do all the collation and presentation work. It’s a bit like the iTunes genius, but you choose real people to find the interesting content for you. The results can be pretty good – much more readable, focused and interesting than your typical jarring jumble of twitter drivel.

    Flipboard might just be a peek at the future of twitter.

  2. Gary says:

    > What I’m starting to do now though, is step back from the conventional ‘preferred reader app’ scenario and use different apps for particular sources and different types of reading

    I’m finding a bit of that too. Reeder’s there for the stacks and stacks of feeds, a kind of “here’s what you need to know today” thing in the morning. The various other apps are more for when I’m sitting back on the sofa in the evening.

    > So what you are doing is selectively recruiting groups of people to act as content sourcing agents, then using Flipboard to do all the collation and presentation work.

    That’s really interesting and I can see how it would work – but doesn’t that mean you’re effectively becoming an editor? Seems like a lot of effort.

    I think the problem for me is that the links shared on Twitter are shared by *loads* of people, so what I get on Flipboard is a bit like a bad newspaper written by teenagers with no long-term memory. Facebook’s even worse. I think to make it work I’d need to register a second Twitter account and use it only for content.

    One of the other Flipboard irritants for me was its inability to give you an entire article. That annoyed me very quickly.

    > It’s a bit like the iTunes genius

    Oh, don’t say that. I hate Genius :)

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