It’s no secret – the newspaper industry is facing some pretty tough times. Print subscription volumes have been slowly declining year over year, and with it follow print advertising revenues. While many of them have made the transition to online versions and subscription models, they’re still finding difficulty making the it work. Moreover, the online experience has a number of shortcomings compared to its print sibling; desktop news sites have far too many banner ads for my taste (or stuck behind the much accursed pay walls), while mobile versions tend to strip away the photos and graphics that make news reading easy to digest. Even more annoying is the ultra-focused nature of a web experience, driving visitors to read only editor-curated stories rather than allowing readers to browse and discover the stories that matter to them most. With these web deficiencies in mind, PressReader bridges the gap between traditional print and digital newspapers, and does it with the style and flare that you would expect in an iOS app.
In case it’s not obvious, PressReader is a news reader app on the iPad and iPhone (as well as Android devices, Blackberry Playbook and Windows Phone and Windows 7 devices) from PressDisplay.com. In such a saturated space already dominated by the likes of Rupert Murdoch’s The Daily as well as dedicated apps from local news sources like the CBC, National Post and The Globe and Mail, PressReader stands out by simply going back to basics. Unlike all the other apps I’ve already mentioned, PressReader doesn’t try to adapt a print medium for a tablet and fill it with rich media and scrolling newstickers, it simply puts the print version on the tablet. Verbatim and formatted exactly like the print version you would get at the newsstands. Including the full page print ads and classifieds. You can flip through each page either in single-page, or double-page views in full colour, as well as pinch and zoom if you want to read something in greater detail. It’s a bold move and one that I appreciate.
Reading in the traditional newsprint layout format not your cup of tea though? PressReader fully embraces the modern digital reader with a slew of features for everyone. There’s the Smart Flow UI that is akin to Flipboard that allows you to flip through articles one at a time, allowing you to expand to read the full story. There’s also a Listen feature that reads the article back to you in a synthesized voice. Want a wide range of perspectives on an issue? Not a problem. The app features a search function that lets users look up various topics and keywords across selected newspapers, or across their entire library. Lastly, the app comes with the usual retinue of social media sharing options (Twitter, Facebook, email, as well as a Reddit-like voting mechanism) as well as AirPrint and Copy-Paste support, making it a very modern iOS app.
What really stood out for me was their vast selection of newspapers from around the world. PressReader boasts over 280 newspapers from Canada alone, including the national prints such as National Post, The Globe and Mail (including regional editions), as well as local papers like The Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Vancouver Sun, Le Soleil, 24 Hours (all the regional editions) and the Toronto Star. Internationally, they have over 300 US papers, over 150 UK papers, as well as regional papers from China, Japan, Slovenia, Russia, Paraguay and even Haiti. Because of its unique way of presenting the news, the app can display newspapers written in its native tongue. While not all the features are available for all languages (Smart Flow and Listen are for English papers at the moment) and not all papers are represented (New York Times and Wall Street Journal are missing), the depth of international content still makes PressReader a truly world class app.
Such richness in features shouldn’t be free, but PressReader isn’t an expensive service either. They offer two plans – one for the casual reader at $0.99 per issue, and another for the serious news junkie at $29.95 per month. The monthly subscription allows for an unlimited number of downloads per month, and is a no-brainer for individuals who subscribe to multiple papers or lack access to international content. Users can set up subscriptions and notifications are sent to the iPad whenever new editions are available. One thing that I’d like to see is the edition being downloaded automatically overnight a la WhisperSync, but I’m sure this is already in the works.
It’s apparent that the folks at PressDisplay have really thought through the news reading experience and have created an app that caters to a wide variety of individuals without making compromises. PressReader will definitely appeal to those who are always on the go, love to catch up on the news, but isn’t always connected (say on the subway here in Toronto). Sounds like most iPad users I know…
I know I loved PressReader, but we’d love to hear what you think. Let us know in the comments below.
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