Here’s another installment in this weekend’s on-going conversation with TPM Readers about how you use mobile devices (iPhones, Blackberrys, Palm Pres, etc.) and how you’d most like to read TPM on those gizmos. We’ve now gotten around 600 responses and counting. So please keep them coming. So far I’ve read every one. (To find out what we’re discussing and why we want your feedback, please see this post from Friday evening and this summary of initial responses from Saturday.)Demand remains heavily in favor of iPhone-optimized versions of the site or a full-fledged iPhone app. But I wanted to clear up some confusion about my last update.
A number of you have pointed out that despite the iPhone’s huge popularity, there are a number of other devices coming out over the next 6 to 18 months which seem likely to significantly change the market for mobile devices. Significantly, a lot of these new entrants are going to be based on non-proprietary operating systems like Google’s new ‘Android’ mobile computing platform. And, of course, even now tons of you use Blackberrys and other smart phones.
There’s an interesting and complicated business and tech discussion about whether people are going to flock toward these new ‘open’ systems or stick to the closed but tightly and generally well-managed iPhone universe. But however that turns out, a few readers got the impression that we had or were going to decide that the iPhone would be the mobile device we’re going to develop for. But that’s not the case.
We have not made any final decisions yet. But I suspect what we’re going to do will be something like this. At the moment, you can access TPM on any mobile device. But we only have an optimized version of the site for the iPhone. And even on that version, it’s really only the front page that’s really optimized. When you go through to the articles you read the web versions which can be a little hard to navigate on a small device. What I suspect we’ll do is to create a full mobile version of the site that works efficiently and elegantly on most of the most widely-used mobile devices, at least as many as we can manage. Then I think we’ll also likely create a TPM iPhone app. Why iPhone? Basically because a lot of our readers have iPhones and at the moment that’s the most well-developed system (technically and in terms of distribution) for creating applications. For Blackberry and the new Android-based devices I think we’ll probably see how the platforms develop.
One sort of random point, we’ve got a lot of readers who are very into their Palm Pre mobile devices. I confess I hadn’t even heard of it. From what I can tell, a site version optimized for the iPhone should work nicely on the Pre too. So we’ll be coming to your local Pre soon.
Next, I mentioned in the earlier posts that we were considering a few membership or subscription option for TPM or the possibility of charging a very small monthly fee if we develop a really high-end iPhone app. So let me explain a little more clearly what I meant by that. First off, to be emphatically clear, TPM is never going to put any pay-walls on the web site. It’s completely antithetical to both our editorial and our business model. So if you have any concern about that, you needn’t. That’s not going to happen.
What we are considering is a membership or subscription plan aimed at our core readership. What it would offer would be a series of extra services and tools geared specifically to this audience. The details are still very much on the drawing board. But some potential examples include several weekly web-based live teleconferences in which members/subscribers could ask questions and discuss the news of the day with our reporters and editors. Maybe three or four of these a week, for example, each time with a different member of our editorial team — me, a member of our DC reporting team, a member of our Muckraker reporting team, etc. Access to customized mobile versions of TPM for different mobile devices, perhaps a high-end iPhone app (for reasons I discussed here, we’re up in the air about whether we’d fold these into a membership plan). A system of mobile alerts for breaking news, key stories on particular topics of interest to you, a quick heads up on polls of races you’re following, etc., possibly as part of an iPhone app. Again, don’t see this as an offer. And trust me we’ll try not to go in for anything as corny special discounts on TPM action figures. This is still in the planning stages. But we’re talking about a suite of special services for members of our core community of readers — for a pretty small monthly fee, about the cost of an overpriced cup of coffee. If a monthly membership or subscription like that, which gives you more from TPM and also allows you to support what we do, is something that might interest you, let me know.
Now, back to mobile devices. Please keep the emails coming. Read the questions we’re most interested in hearing your answers to and then shoot us an email.