People Start Noticing That The Web Competes With iPad Apps

from the well,-there-you-go... dept

Back in February, when many in the media were insisting that iPad apps were going to save the media business, we wondered why all the stuff they were talking about sticking in their apps couldn’t work on the web as well. It appears that others are noticing that as well. Jason Fry at the Nieman Journalism Lab is noting that publications’ own websites may be the biggest competition to their iPad apps — and he was apparently a big believer in the concept of iPad apps originally. But after using the iPad for a while, he’s realizing that the web is pretty good again:

After about a week of using the iPad, I started deleting apps, because the websites themselves were perfectly adequate. This is the reverse experience of the iPhone. On the iPhone, the browser was used only in emergencies, and apps ruled. On the iPad, at least for now, the opposite is true — the browser is superb, and renders many apps superfluous.

That complicates things for news organizations. Many have already put too much faith in the idea that being able to charge for apps will reinvigorate their financial prospects. Now, they have to confront the reality that their apps may compete with their own websites — and right now the apps don’t win that competition.

Of course, I can see some in the media getting the wrong idea out of this, and using it as an excuse to put “exclusive” content only in the app… but, that will just leave them open to competition from publications who add more value to their website.

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Comments on “People Start Noticing That The Web Competes With iPad Apps”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Android ?

Root the Droid to install a 3rd party browser?? wow. have you ever used an Android phone??

TD renders fine on the native browser on my G1. And load times are acceptable even on EDGE. Alternatively, you can always add a TD feed to your iGoogle and read articles from there. Can’t read or add comments though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Android ?

there is no way around it. techdirt is poorly formated for smaller screens, plus it downloads way too many graphics and such for slowed connections. you would think that a guy doing a tech blog would have a mobile option, but i guess he is too busy reaming the riaa a new eyehole to get to it.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Android ?

there is no way around it. techdirt is poorly formated for smaller screens, plus it downloads way too many graphics and such for slowed connections. you would think that a guy doing a tech blog would have a mobile option

Since about 2004 we’ve had a mobile version:

It’s set to autorecognize most smartphones and take you directly there, so pretty much all of your statements above are false.

Please make sure you know the facts before posting. Thanks.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Android ?

sorry, i have visited this blog on 3 different smart phones, and at no time was i directed to a light version of the page. that includes an android phone, a windows mobile phone, and an apple appliance. further, there appears to be no direct link on the main page to get to the light version, no any indication on the main page that a light edition exists. so my statement may be false, but since the product is not readily available or promoted, it is essentially true for all of your visitors.

Freedom says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Android ?

>> The site displays just fine on my Android,

It eventually does on mine as well, but the full page takes a relatively long time to download.

I typically have a few minutes free here and there and having to wait a minute to just get the page, and then re-tweak it to fit so I can read it well and so on is just a hassle.

In my perfect world, the phone just syncs the articles and I can pull up within 5 seconds the text of the articles that is also already properly formatted for the size, etc. (i.e. an app).


Freedom says:

Re: Re: Android ?

Core issue is that it takes forever to download the full main techdirt page. Resizing (at least on mine) doesn’t work or isn’t available until the page is fully downloaded which can take 1 to 2 minutes on average.

Despite the rant about Apps being worthless here :), an App that would just perioidically download the articles and have the ability to comment would be nice.

I think maybe I’m looking for a RSS feed reader??? I’m just new to really using a phone for more than a phone and e-mail reader so I was curious as to what everyone else is doing.


Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Android ?

Sorry – this is a bit off topic, but what is the best way to read TechDirt on an Android? Doing so via the web browser stinks :(.

Interesting. We do have a mobile “lite” version, that many phones auto-recognize, but perhaps it’s not set to do that on android. I’ll have someone look into it.

Otherwise, you can do directly there:

Separately, though, I have looked at the full site on Android phones, and it worked fine for me, so if you could let us know what doesn’t look right, that might help us see if we can fix it.

Freedom says:

Re: Re: Android ?


I’m not a web programmer, but here are the some interesting parts of http headers that are sent to a test server from my HTC Hero/Android Phone when I connect to a website using the integrated browser. Might help to figure out why the automatic redirect to the lite code isn’t working???


user-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; U; Android 2.1-update2 (freshhh); en-us; A6277 Build/ERE27) AppleWebKit/530.17 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0 Mobile Safari/530.17 Sprint APA6277KT)

I’m totally confused about the Android phone using ‘Mobile Safari’ and ‘AppleWebKit’, but either way, that is what is being sent from the phone to the web server.

As you can see, I’m running a root’d firmware so I may just be a special case, but the full/non-lite version is pretty useless for me for whatever reason. I did try the lite version and that is working great – THANK YOU!

I’ll also try the iGoogle/Google readers as well. Appreciate all the help from everyone…


P.S. Maybe a FAQ section??? I think we all forget that even those in tech sometimes need help!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Android ?

you can apologize now, as it appears that other users also are unaware and not being linked to your ‘mobile’ version. why are there no links off the main page to the light version? it would seem to me to be a primary good idea for someone who claims to push tech so hard. this is the sort of bad design that you would be raking the old media over the coals for, you know ‘dinosaurs finally create a mobile version, and then hide it and make it only detect two types of phones that are no longer in production’. it sucks when the shoe is on the other foot, no?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Android ?

When your default method of communication becomes one of cordial discourse, I’m sure many things will become possible. Until then, you might not want to hold your breath.

And, Mike was still correct, you should have checked your facts before posting–which could have been accomplished by a simple polite question.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Android ?

i checked, there is no mention of a mobile version on the main page of the site. i have accessed this site with 3 different mobile devices and never gotten a ‘lite’ or ‘mobile’ page. the discourse comes with mike attitude on the situation, which is to call me a liar, rather than admit that his mobile page is one of the best kept secrets on techdirt. heck, even mobile devices dont know about it. all i am asking is for mike to turn down the arrogance for a minute, accept that his system doesnt work well, and perhaps consider adding a ‘mobile devices’ link in the header of the page to allow those people who have phones that dont get autodetected to be able to operate without so much junk coming down the line.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Android ?

i only jab back the man who stands superior to us all and pees down on us from on high. it would be nice for him to admit that there is at least some part of web marketing that he doesnt have a clue on, and that the only way to assure something works is testings, not just assuming. its all things he would rake others over the coals for, so its all fair.

taoareyou (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Android ?

Maybe you just need to adjust your perception? Mike’s just this guy, you know? He writes a blog. He writes his opinion about subjects that interest him. That’s it. All this “superior to us all” stuff just might be in your head. We all have opinions. Mike set up a place to talk about his. You can do the same. It’s nothing special, millions of people have done it. ๐Ÿ™‚

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Android ?

mike pees down on the world from on high, from a point of superiority that allows him to feel he can tell all sorts of industries how to do things better, that he is right. yet, here we are with a very simple issue, and he cant even get that one right. worse, when it is pointed out to him, he gets all defensive and pulls out excuses. you dont think that he would rake a newspaper or whatever over the coals for making a mobile version and then hiding it?

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Android ?

“when it is pointed out to him, he gets all defensive and pulls out excuses”

Like pointing out he had a mobile site in 2004?

or that he had an RSS feed for a long time?

Those aren’t excuses. Those are proof that your original accusation was wrong about the facts.

But I think you may be partly right, in spirit. And from the comments, it seems Mike is aware (partly through your initiative) “perhaps it’s not set to do that on android. I’ll have someone look into it.”

But, of course, he didn’t respond that way to you, because you come of like…well, a total dick.

You are right that more could be done, and more testing is in order. I don’t think Techdirt is perfect, and I’m pretty sure no one else does either. With unlimited time, and unrestricted resources, everything everywhere could be improved. Why would this site be an exception?

So Techdirt could be improved. More than one feature may be lacking. But staff at Techdirt are busy on other useful things. And unlike the RIAA, DRM, the USPTO, etc, at least this blog isn’t constantly doing work that @#$@s its community, lies for money, blocks competitors, reduces the richness of the world, or works against its own long-term interests.

ElijahBlue (profile) says:

Interesting. What makes the G1 (Google) phone worth more than a boat anchor are the unique apps – some goofy, others absolutely breathtaking, which have no particular value as Web-only applications. Such as, a program that identifies and visually describes the color of items. Right now, the program is iffy at best, but the potential for future applications is stunning.

Even though I swore at first my G1 was an expensive boat anchor, I’m really starting to appreciate the potential, led by user-created and submitted apps (the G1 programming language is open-source), something you can’t do with the IPAD or the IPHONE. I don’t need or want a closed-in wall.

ElijahBlue (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Eek! I’m far more literate than the above comment suggests. The G1 Google app I was describing verbally informs blind G1 users about the color of items in front of them. It’s completely experimental and totally buggy right now, but the fact that it exists at all amazes me.

This is the promise and untapped potential of the open-source Android programming language. Anyone can stake a claim, come up with a good programming idea and upload the finished product to the G1 marketplace.

Anonymous Coward says:

Long as we're looking for irrational solutions...

I suppose the news and magazine websites could always block connections according to the user-agent string in order to force ipad owners to get the app in order to view the content. Sure, that’s easy to get around and would really annoy readers, but solutions that don’t involve arbitrary restrictions are so hard.

Nate says:

Okay, here's the thing...

I’ve been using my iPad for a few weeks now, and I’ve yet to find the App Store nearly as compelling as my wife — with her iPhone — and the media had led me to believe. For one, the way the Store is laid out makes it exceedingly difficult to discover any new apps beyond the couple hundred that are showcased across the dozen or so categories at any time.

I find myself primarily using it for the thing I suspected I would: reading the news on my couch. There is only one newsstand application that I found worth the time (Zinio), but the titles are generally priced higher (hardcopy price) than I’m willing to pay for a magazine that I can only read on an electronic device, when my wife isn’t using it, and that I can’t give away when I’m done with it. The individual magazines (sold as applications) aren’t very compelling either. Yeah, I know there are some “gee-whiz” animations and value-adds built into them, but by and large, it’s the same story.

So what do I do? I read Google News. I don’t even like to go on forums or blogs with it, because the typing sucks. My wife plays solitaire on it, and my son likes the Toy Story app, so it’s not a bad thing.

The iPad can’t save magazine publishers from themselves. And that goes for almost all apps: I won’t pay more than $1.99, in general. Yes, I realize that a lot of work went into making them; but when you price over half of your prospective customers out of interest, you’re putting all that hard work to waste.

I’ve heard the argument made that, “You can’t just expect big magazines to slash their digital copy prices; they’ve got a lot of overhead!” And my response is that I don’t. But you can’t just expect me to buy it, either.

Matthew Krum (profile) says:

There's an app for that...

The default browser for Android is a stripped down version of Chrome which is based off webkit. That’s why some sites detect it as Safari or Apple webkit. If you save the link that Mike provided above as a bookmark then it should take you to the lite page everytime. Another option is the Opera mobile browser which is free for all devices. It redirects my Nexus to the Lite version everytime but you can’t comment on the Lite version but it renders wicked quick and is easier to read. Hope this helps! ๐Ÿ™‚

Anonymous Coward says:


Given that browsers are starting to borrow each other’s code for tasks which improve performance, some browsers are bound to (as above) be detected as other browsers because they contain certain scripting engines. I think a good way around the problems that readers are having might be to load based on platform rather than browser, such that all mobile platforms will load the light version by default and then have a link allowing for the full version of the site in the event that their particular browser has the muscle for it.

The reason I think that way is better than inverting it (full version with a link to light) is that the light version loads faster. If readers are having to wait for the full page to load before following the link to the light version it’s a bit inefficient and frustrating. But if they load the light and then decide to chance the full, that will allow them to take more control of the experience and to do so more quickly.

Also, I think Mike’s handled this pretty graciously, considering this isn’t a support article, the technical subject has taken over the topic, and there’s a genuine interest in solving the problem rather than dismissing it.

Freedom says:

Android TechDirt App???

Hey Mike,

Sadly, I was thinking about this issue this morning, and I came to the conclusion that an Android App for TechDirt would rock!

Here are my reasons why:

1. An Android TechDirt (TD) App can download the articles on a set interval. Many benefits – reading offline on a plane, quickly viewing when in spotty coverage areas, etc. that just aren’t available via a web interface model.

2. An Android TD App can allow for comments, logons, etc. Maybe even a little social networking – here is everyone within a 1/4 miles that is reading TD or reads it?

3. An Android TD App can be setup for push notifications – for instance I get notified at the start of my local baseball team’s game and every 3 innings. Not sure how that directly relates to TechDirt, but it is a neat tool/opportunity…

3. An Android TD App can be another revenue source – either via Ads or paying for it. Money is goooooood.

4. You love to experiment with different business models, and an Android TD App is a different business model.

5. In general, phones (Android, iPhone, or otherwise) just aren’t great platforms for standard webpages. As most folks have seen, the iPad does well with webpages and the need for apps isn’t as great as initially thought, but a phone’s screen size, and interface constraints, and potential spotty data coverage mean that an App can be tailored to mask the shortcomings of phone/smaller devices.

6. By making an Android TD App excluse to the Android platform, you can in a small way help to grow a platform that most closely matches you’ll core ideals.

I know that you tend to highlight how old-media thinks that Apps are their savor, but that doesn’t mean that Apps don’t have a place for new-media (and old-media) though.


Kunaal says:

Apps are worth it ..

I’d much rather pay for the app without ads than go to a website. Also, I personally enjoy the app experience better with integrated rich content like pics and videos, better layout, faster updates etc. E.g. Read a magazine like Times or National Geographic on the iPad magazine apps and see if that experience is the same as the browser.

I happen to disagree and think the iPad is the future of content delivery and information aggregation.

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