Talking tech since 2003

The Washington Post recently revamped its iOS app, combining the always-be-updating, news-doesn’t-sleep pace of the Web with its traditional print edition in a way that truly impresses. In my mind, it has set the standard for how newspapers should deliver their content in an increasingly tabletized world.

wapo-digital-frontWhen you first open the app, you’re greeted by a digital front page. It’s designed to somewhat emulate the look of a newspaper with story blocks and big headlines, but the red time stamps tell you something very different is going on here. The content on this page is updated regularly, so it isn’t like the inked front page you might find on your doorstep. This one is alive and transforming throughout the day as older stories fade out and newer stories take their place.

Tapping on an article opens it up in all its full-screen glory. You can swipe back and forth across the screen to change pages, which I actually prefer over scrolling on a Web page. It’s just easier to find the place you left off if you come back to an article later. And you can do that thanks to the “MyPost” feature, which allows you to save articles in a digital cubbyhole, of sorts.

Each article you find in the Post app is also linked to a story on the Web. Tapping the “Share” button reveals options to send a story via email, or post a link to it on social networks like Twitter and Facebook. When someone clicks the link you’ve shared with them, they’re able to open the story on the Washington Post’s website.

wapo-tweetAdmittedly, there are a lot of newspaper apps that offer similar functionality. But the Post realized that not everything in its print edition translates well into article form. You might enjoy reading the “Markets” section just as you see it in print, for instance. Or maybe you just want to read the news as it was painstakingly assembled earlier in the morning. For that, the Post has offered a “Print Edition” feature that lets you download the entire print version of the newspaper and flick through every single page, ads included.

You can read the newspaper the old fashioned way — by reading the beginning of a story and jumping over to page A7 to finish — or you can simply tap on an article to display the entire thing. And just as you can navigate sections of the app’s digital newspaper, you can do the same with the print edition it houses.  And just in case you want to look at a paper from a few days ago, you can tap the date in the top-right corner and select a different date.

Being digital has its benefits, and the Post built a very helpful menu into the bottom of its app that you can reveal by dragging up a tab. Once the menu is showing, you’ll see options for MyPost, Blogs, Comics, the Post’s Forum and Weather. The names pretty accurately describe what you’ll find in each, with the exception of Forum, which is actually a collection of topical Twitter accounts for sports and politics.

All in all, I’m pretty pleased with the experience the Washington Post has brought to its tablet app and I haven’t been able to find a whole lot wrong with it. If there is one single, small knock, it’s that there is no way for readers to comment on articles without taking those thoughts to their respective social networks. A tie-in with the commenting system on the Post’s website would have been nice, but as someone who has read his fair share of news site comments, perhaps their exclusion from the app isn’t the worst thing in the world.

You can download the Washington Post app from the App Store today. For the time being, access to the newspaper — including the print editions inside the app — is free.


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