Lame

I don’t have an iPad, so I haven’t experienced The Daily, the iPad-only digital newspaper by Jobs and Murdoch that launched Wednesday. So I asked my father, who has an iPad, and was looking forward to The Daily, to offer his take on the future of journalism, so far. Take it away, Dad:

The Daily — first impressions.
Really bad. Because it isn’t designed for 3G, within 2 minutes it bombed out 3 times, no way can I download 20MB (or whatever) every morning with 3G (of course we’re talking AT&T). First issue is the orientation, switching back and forth is not good. I want “landscape” orientation, period. No need to mimic a vertically oriented newspaper, this is not a newspaper, no paper involved. Second issue is “nothing there” … on the contents page NEWS has 2 stories that looked like news, everything else looked like LOOK magazine pictorials … I find more NEWS on ANY opening page on ANY website, including the AOL homepage. I’m really disappointed. And finally I must admit that this is an abbreviated ten minute review, ten minutes because with 3G and AT&T that’s about as long as I could handle, for I’m of the Steve Jobs’ school of “if it isn’t intuitive, fast, and glitch free, then forget it”.

Maybe one more observation: do away with the contents carousel (photo above). It’s like switching from landscape to portrait. It simply isn’t needed. Pretty is nice, but it isn’t news.Β I’m still waiting for someone to get it right. I’m a believer in “form follows function” — so the first problem a designer must overcome with delivering news is the form (tablet/phone/screen) is already there, so the designer must reverse course and make “function follow form” which is why no one is really getting it right, except for maybe Kindle. With Kindle the designer had the function (books) and designed the machine around this function. So form followed function and most Kindle users are happy, yet they don’t quite know why. Which is how it should be.

So back to the iPad and a couple of folks who’ve managed to almost fit (and make work) their news on the iPad platform.

NY Times (for iPad)
They got it right with orientation, landscape, or as we called it in the old days, horizontal. Everything is left to right. Just like reading, left to right. Swipe your finger and move from story to story, just enough of the story (with photo) so that you know if you want to “read” further. Also loads faster with 3G. Touch the story and a nice pop up window with the story in “full read mode” — nice readable typeface in columns just the right width. You read and forget the iPad, which is what newspapers were so good about, you read and story came to life, or it didn’t.

Huff Post NewsGlide – Beta (for iPad)
Almost as if they took the NY Times model and kicked it up a notch. So far I like Huff Post the best. Again, landscape orientation, with a narrow contents column on the left. Then four stacked rows of news content, top row is “Top Stories” and a row of photos, each story one photo with a tiny headline. Again, swiping and the row moves to the left exposing more stories, very smooth and intuitive. Find the story, tap it, then like the NY Times the full story pops up taking a little more than half the right side of the screen. The pop up story then scrolls up and down, the column and type size seem just right for reading news. What I like about Huff Post and the NY Time is that upon launching, the stories are right there, over a dozen showing on the screen, and with a swipe of the finger more stories come into view. No muss, no fuss. Just clean and simple delivery of news stories.

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