'The Economist' Launches Tablet-Agnostic, Tablet-Only Web App
As the number of tablet devices swarming the market escalates during this week of CES, publishers and their advertisers will face a much more fragmented landscape of 7-inch and 1-inch touchscreens in the coming year. More than any other development in the market, expect this hard reality to move more content providers to HTML5 solutions that look and feel like apps in a Web browser. The Economist yesterday launched a nifty little number at Electionism.com. This site contains the latest election coverage from both The Economist and CQ Roll Call. The Web app aggregates links its journalists like and a roll-up of relevant Twitter feeds from both the candidates and related media.
The Economist optimized the destination for tablets, and calls the release one of the first tablet-only apps from a major publisher. Not sure whether the pub's strategists were paying close enough attention on that score -- to The Daily, Cosmo for Guys, and scores of apps from magazine and newspaper publishers that do not merely extend Web or print brands. But never mind.
They are quite serious that Electionism.com is accessible only from mobile browsers. Try linking to it even in an HTML5-capable desktop browser and it tells you the device is unsupported. Interestingly, you can access the URL from a smartphone, where the content is formatted into elegant gray rectangles of headlines and content.
The attempt to make the Web app truly tablet-agnostic doesn’t work out quite as planned. On the iPad the experience is smooth. The splash page fills the screen with large images and tappable navigation into the Web app’s four sections. A top-level drop-down menu opens an appealing swipe-able marquee for cross-navigation. The app-like tools include font sizing and easy story sharing to Twitter, Facebook and email.
Trying it on the Amazon Kindle (it also runs on the Samsung Galaxy Tab) was another matter. Part of the image interface (including the Electionism logo) was broken, and the icons for the font sizing were gray blank blocks rather than letters.
Still, good try. The company says that support for the BlackBerry Playbook is forthcoming. Nook Tablet users, however, are apparently not expected to be in the target demo. Like so many destinations on the Nook Color and Nook Tablet browser, the site sniffs them out as an Android smartphone and instead serves the mobile version.