Last night I asked for your input about how interested you are in reading TPM on various mobile devices. So I wanted to check back in with you with what we’ve heard from readers so far.
First off, we’ve gotten a ton of emails. But obviously this is anecdotal information, which is why we’re also going to do a more comprehensive survey. Still, hearing at length from individual readers is very valuable. And gives us detail that more statistical data can’t.
So what’d we find? Just a short time ago we heard from one reader who can’t wait to get TPM on her Kindle. But she doesn’t seem representative of our audience. There are many fewer Kindles out there than iPhones, let alone Blackberries. But even among Kindle users, demand didn’t seem too great. A lot of you said that you love it for books. But it’s just not made for rapidly changing information, our more iterative style of writing and reporting. And it’s also not great visually for anything but pure text. Another way of saying this is that it’s designed for books, which of course it is. Just speaking for myself, and as someone who’s become an avid user of my Kindle for books, I think I agree. I’d love to be able (and I and you soon will be) to access a high-end iPhone app for all the stuff that’s available at TPM. But I can’t say the idea of reading TPM on my Kindle gets me too excited.
Which brings us to the iPhone. Not surprisingly, there’s a great deal of demand for a high-end iPhone application. And by ‘high-end’ I mean one that really customizes the content for the medium, rather than just pours the RSS feed into a template. In fact, a lot of readers said they’d pay a small fee to be able to get it.
That actually gets into another issue. TPM would never put up any sort of pay-wall in front of our content. It’s completely antithetical to both our editorial and our business model. But we are actively considering a membership program in which people who are really into TPM could pay a few bucks a month — say the cost of a coffee at Starbucks — for a series of extra services and tools — for instance, several times a week video-based live teleconferences with TPM reporters and editors in which you’d be able to ask follow-up questions to stories, ask about the reporting process on certain issues we’re covering, whatever. That’s just one example. But the key would be these would be things that we don’t think there’d necessarily ever be a mass audience for but which would still take a decent investment of staff time and in some cases tech-time to do. So a membership framework, with a small monthly fee, makes sense. I bring that up because we’ve discussed having access to customized versions of TPM for particular mobile devices be a benefit of becoming a member of the site. But we’re still considering whether that’s a direction we’d want to go — mainly because I think some of these mobile platforms may eventually become dominant ways to read the site, perhaps even rivaling the number of people who read TPM on the web. It would provide resources for building these different applications and customized versions, which isn’t cheap.
Anyway, back to mobile applications. We haven’t tended to think a lot about applications for Blackberrys because the app systems for them are much less developed than they are for iPhones. But clearly there are tons of people out there who use Blackberrys and a lot of people who just aren’t willing to move over to AT&T, with all its problems. And there’s a lot of demand for a customized version of the site there too. Probably a bit more than I realized. So I think we’re probably going to give a bit more priority there than I’d thought.
And yes, we’ve also heard from a decent number of people using Android-based mobile devices (that’s Google’s new mobile software platform). So we’re not forgetting that, though it’s something we still need to learn a lot more about.
So that’s a very general overview of what we’ve heard so far. And let me mention one other thing. One feature we’re planning on adding — and which a number of readers asked about in their emails — is a system in which you’d be notified on your mobile device when we had a particularly important or breaking bit of news we’d just added to the site. So for instance, rather than needing to check in on the site, you could opt to have your iPhone or Blackberry ping you whenever we had some particularly important piece of breaking news on a topic that interests you. Obviously, how that would be implemented would depend on the device.
So that’s where we are so far. Please keep the emails coming. And I’m eager to get your responses and input on the various points I’ve raised in this new post as well. Finally, there are a lot of emails. I’m responding to some. But it’s not possible to respond to them all. But please know I’m personally reading every one that comes in. So your input is really valued. And it helps us a great deal.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.