Editors and developers from the New York Times work together to create unique interactive features and packaging for mobile application subscribers.
As a frenzied U.S. election night moved toward the eventual victory of incumbent President Barack Obama, subscribers to The New York Times mobile app service were privy to what may become the new standard for mobile news applications.The NYT’s most recent election application, available to both iPhone and Android users, provides subscribers with a variety of features, including interactive maps, graphic depictions of voter results, videos and slideshows, reporter commentary, and even traditional newsfeeds and chat functions. In short, the standard for mobile news applications is rising, as Fiona Spruill, editor of the NYT’s emerging platforms team explains, “We want [our applications] to feel less like a feed of articles and have the same dynamic nature we’ve created with NYTimes.com.”
According to developers and members of the emerging platforms team, news stories similar to the U.S. presidential election and the 2012 London Olympics provide a unique opportunity to test new mobile offerings and to shape existing content. The NYT’s Hurricane Sandy mobile app also provided a possible glimpse of future developments, as subscribers were supplied with live updates and damage reports throughout the storm, including interactive features such as hurricane trackers, live footage, and even public briefings delivered by New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Similar to NYTimes.com, developers strive to integrate a robust package of interactive elements into applications.
The ultimate goal, according to Spruill, is to maintain the closed feeling of a Web application, while opening the format in a manner more conducive to live coverage. Unfortunately the ability to create new and innovative story packages and application offerings is a challenge, and developers must avoid deluding the application experience by simply recreating the Web experience.As the New York Times continues to experiment with new platforms, including the use of HTML5, developers must maintain a high level of interactive news content while also developing new strategies to unify their content across all operating systems. According to Spruill, the use of HTML coding is key in producing live content and commentary across six unique mobile platforms.