I learned recently that home subscribers to the Washington Post newspaper also receive the digital edition, so I added it to my wife’s iPad Mini. What follows is a description of my initial reactions as a reader.
Overall I am quite impressed with the digital edition. It’s very easy to read. Digital pages are displayed in a crisp style with ample whitespace. Text legibility, despite the small size of individual characters on the iPad Mini, is high. The lack of a “Retina” display on this iPad model is not at all an issue and I am accustomed to reading a lot via my iPhone 4S and via my Kindle devices and software.
Typographically, there’s just enough carryover in typeface and heading style to make this identifiable as the Washington Post. It’s very clear looking but still feels like the Post.
Navigation for the most part within the paper is straightforward. Access to sections and pages by a variety of unobtrusive menus is quick and responsive. Returning to an original page from a graph or video is a little less straightforward until you learn where the somewhat dim “return” button is. Such behaviors are pretty standard, at least to me, and are quickly accommodated.
This is a text heavy product yet it lacks the visual clutter and festooned links that make some online publications so unpleasant to experience. It looks “clean.” Reading it is a pleasant experience..
One very positive surprise is the handling of comic strips. I gave up comics reading in the daily print edition long ago but the display and navigation features here in the Post digital edition for comics are superb. Navigating within and across comic strips is simple and the display of individual daily strips is clean and clear.
Also available in the digital edition are black-and-white graphic images of individual printed pages, complete with ads. Zooming in and out is straightforward but reading the text is a bit of a chore compared with the digital edition. I would probably want to avoid these pages; after all, I already subscribe to the print edition!
Now to the only negative comment I have about the digital edition of the Washington Post: Where are the advertisements?
Yes, there are banner ads at the bottom of the page. Also, I can see via print edition page images that ads as displayed. Yet when I read the nicely displayed text of individual articles and columns in the digital edition, I don’t see any easy way to display ads that might have originally accompanied that text.
Given my personal aversion to being bombarded by unsolicited and irrelevant ads and commercials on TV and the Web I’m a bit surprised by my own reaction. Still, many newspaper ads are purchased by local businesses and do communicate potentially useful information about or for the target community.
I’m not talking here about the full-page political ads that appear often in the Post such as those purchased by national defense contractors to describe how national security is tied up with appropriations for an expensive fighter airplane. Nor am I referring to entire sections purchased by countries like Russia or China to promote their business interests. I am referring instead to ads for local stores, hotels, schools, or upcoming sporting, musical, or community events. These are part of what we go to the newspaper for and, surprisingly, I miss them.
I wonder if there is a way that advertisements could be displayed as a classified menu available on demand in a way that preserves the uncluttered and classy appearance of the digital edition?
Perhaps the model is the way comics are arranged and displayed, with ads being accessed via a variety of regularly updated indexes including ad type, advertiser, source section, and keyword or tag.
Anyway, I really like the Washington Post digital edition on the iPad. As far as I am concerned it’s a model for other publications to follow where the emphasis is on text, news, and information. Here’s hoping a way can be found to incorporate advertising in a way that doesn’t destroy the pleasant reading experience!
Copyright (c) 2013 by Dennis D. McDonald, a Washington DC area consultant specializing in project management, digital strategy, and technology adoption. His clients have included the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the US Environmental Protection Agency, Jive Software, the National Library of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering, Social Media Today and Oracle, and the World Bank Group. Contact Dennis via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 703-402-7382.