New apps: Quartz and The Local
Quartz, from The Atlantic, takes a unique approach to presenting the introducing the app, its features, and content to readers, while The Local uses the new mobile app solution from the digital publishing platform Mag+
The mobile news app will be eight years old this fall, one of the oldest app forms out there, and also one of the more homogeneous. For the most part, most news apps are similar, with only the bells and whistles differentiating one app from the other.
This is probably what was in the back of the minds of the developers working with The Atlantic for their new app for Quartz. Quartz has always been proudly natively digital, describing themselves as “a nerdy bunch, embracing the opportunity to create a newsroom that is wholly focused on digital storytelling.”
The best part of the app is the way it opens. Developers of apps always have to deal with the fact that they may have things to explain – navigation, push notifications, subscriptions – but most do it the same way everyone else does. The biggest mistake is immediately asking users if they want to activate push notifications – most react as always and say “No.”
Quartz opens by having a dialogue with the user, one in which the user must respond to move on. This is brilliant, as it allows the user to slow and think about their responses. I bet more people say “Yes” to push notifications on this app than most other new ones.
“The app, exclusive to iPhone, is a whole new way to experience Quartz,” the website stated in announcing the new app. “We put aside existing notions about news apps and imagined what our journalism would be if it lived natively on your iPhone. It wouldn’t be a facsimile of our website. It would be something entirely different, with original writing, new features, and a fresh interface.”
I would certainly agree that it is something different – something some may find excitingly new, while others might find the approach more than a little annoying.
“It’s an ongoing conversation about the news, sort of like texting: We’ll send you messages, photos, GIFs, and links, and you can tap to respond when you’re interested in learning more about a topic. Each session lasts just a few minutes, so it’s perfect for the train, elevator, grocery store line, or wherever you have a spare moment to catch up on the news,” the website said.
I think there is a lot of like here, even if I already know I won’t ever use the app. There are good ideas, original ones, but I don’t need a news app like this. Then again, I don’t find myself often reading Quartz. My bet is that those that do may find this app really good, as well as a bit entertaining. But its actual presentation of the news is not very original – the app basically functions as a creative way to get the reader to the brand’s mobile website. In this regard, the app functions as a traffic driver.
The Local is the English-language digital news network, with online editions for Sweden, Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Austria and Italy. The media company has it has more than four million readers every month.
The Local’s founders, Paul Rapacioli and James Savage are originally from the UK, but moved to Sweden (James Pearn, another founder, moved from the UK to Germany), so it is probably not surprising that when the time came for The Local to launch its news app it would use a solution from a company based in Sweden, Mag+.
The app, appropriately called The Local, uses Mag+’s new Semble mobile app development solution. Semble, which Mag+ says is still in pre-launch, is a Mac-based DIY app tool, one that does not require InDesign (unlike its original solution for digital magazines, which has now been renamed as Mag+ Designd).
“We’ve been working hard the past year and a half to create this new tool,” Mag+ CEO Staffan Ekholm told TNM late last year.
“Our new customers come from the non-media sectors, just regular enterprises doing apps for everything like reports, sales materials product guides, everything,” Ekholm said in explaining why the company came up with an app solution that didn’t require an InDesign license.
The Local’s new news app is a more tradition approach, built using RSS-feeds sourced from The Local’s nine regional news websites.
“We have always told the story of Europe from the perspective of our different country editions, but wanted to create a place to bring these stories together,” said Savage. “When it comes to reaching the users where they are – on their mobile devices – and creating engagement and loyalty among them, we’re convinced this app is the way to go.”