A long overdue overhaul to an earlier Huffington Post for iPad launches today in the iTune App Store. Not a second too soon. Not to whine, but this dedicated HuffPo reader started resorting to the Web site on my iPad browser a while ago, as the former app had broken news updates and unreliable slideshows among many other hiccups and breakdowns.
The new version is thoroughly re-engineered for a touchscreen universe. Stories are large illustrated tiles that carry the number of comments each story has attracted. The new interface allows for easier bookmarking, personalization for favorite sections and immediate access to story commenting and sharing.
Slideshows and video are now much more fluidly integrated with the experience. And the live streaming video programming from HuffPost Live is also available here. A more robust stand-alone app for the digital video channel is available separately.
According to Janet Balis, publisher, The Huffington Post, the previous app for AOL’s news and information hub had seen about 1.5 million downloads and a dedicated following. “We think this represents an opportunity to present content in a much more visually arresting way,” she says. The social experience around news has been surfaced. But she tells Mobile Marketing Daily that “the number one thing [users] wanted was to surface the most important of their passions and interests. The user can set her favorites and then lateral swipe across the customized news categories." Comment counts on the story tiles indicate how much buzz is around each story.
She says the new app also offers advertisers a broader range of marketing opportunities. The app will support all the major mobile display and emerging rich media formats. AOL will sell ads into the app both as a part of cross-platform executions and tablet-specific campaigns if that fits the marketer strategy.
She says Huffington Post users are moving across multiple screens in accessing the content throughout the day, although the desktop is retaining more of a robust share of visits than many sites that are seeing a wholesale migration of eyeballs to devices. The iPad seems to be especially popular in the mornings, traffic patterns show. “We see peaks on the iPad as people are getting ready for work and during the commute. And then we see people transition to the desktop during work hours.”
In addition to the registered users the company can track easily as they log in to different screens, she says that AOL is also working on advanced cross-platform measurement. “It is not fully dependent on Huffington Post having logged in users. AOL is pioneering cross-platform and cross-device measurement that uses multiple touchpoints to triangulate data sets to understand how a user is transitioning from screen to screen.”
The iPad revision will be followed by updates to the iPhone and Android iterations as well. Balis says that the brand is eager to be wherever readers want it to be. HuffPo launched a partnership with tablet aggregation app Flipboard earlier this year that has exceeded expectations, attracting over 1.2 million users via that app in just over a month’s time.
Huffington Post is such a monstrous pile of content now that it almost makes the last generations of “portals” seem demure in their ambitions. It presents an interesting test case in personalization of content in the age of apps. Arguably, the app structure makes it easier to apply customization features, if only because the interfaces are cleaner and the user is more readily recognized even without a log in. It is curious that HuffPo is not leveraging some of the personalization algorithms that another AOL division developed for its “Edition” App. HuffPo would seem the ideal news portal on which to apply learning algorithms of the sort Flipboard and Zite apply to aggregation.