For online readers, we have new apps to try

Executive EditorFebruary 17, 2013 

Conversations I had Thursday with two News Tribune readers reflected the challenge we face in serving the news needs of a diverse audience.

In the morning, after declaring my ankle sprained but not broken (I am a clumsy hiker), my doctor told me how much he enjoyed the new design of our paper. He’d tried reading the TNT on a tablet, he said, and hated the experience. He was a print-paper man. Always would be. Please don’t stop printing it, he said.

In the afternoon, we hosted a group of local business leaders at our daily news meeting and answered their questions afterward. One woman held up her smartphone and said that’s where she gets her news. Aren’t the numbers of people getting the printed paper plummeting? she asked. How will the TNT satisfy her and all the other people turning to a phone or tablet as their source of information?

The answer is that we plan to deliver news created by TNT reporters and photographers in whatever form people will read it. And we intend to continually improve our products on both ends of the spectrum.

In November, we spiffed up the look of the printed paper for people who prefer their news in ink and paper.

Last week, we launched two products aimed at people who prefer their news in pixels and bytes.

The first is a new iPad app available at the Apple Store (search Tacoma News Tribune) and free for TNT subscribers. It presents up-to-the-minute news in a highly visual format with tiles for each photo and story. Separate sections for local news, sports, opinion and entertainment make it easy to scroll to the information that most interests you.

This becomes our third way iPad readers can consume TNT news. They can read from the traditional website, turn the virtual pages through a replica edition of the day’s paper or select this new format. We intend to keep improving these offerings and make them available for Android users soon.

Our other new product is an entirely new niche publication for people who want up-to-the-minute and deep information about Washington state government. Capital Update is a new app available for iPads and iPhones. (Go to or the Apple Store to download it.)

Capital Update includes a running feed of stories by our correspondents, many of which will appear in the next day’s paper. But app editor Melissa Santos also compiles stories breaking in other media and posts from our political and state worker blogs, providing a one-stop shop for state government news. The app also provides information not available in our paper or on our traditional website, including daily updating of bills to watch, a Legislator Lookup and committee hearing schedules. A live Twitter stream provides an immediate look at what decision-makers are talking about.

Capital Update is the only app of its kind in Olympia, and is the first statehouse app in the McClatchy chain of newspapers.

After a seven-day free trial, a Capital Update subscription costs $4.99 a month.

When it comes to apps, we are learning a lot and adjusting as we go. If readers take to them, we will look for other niche areas where TNT staff can provide unique, local content.

We cannot ignore readers using phones and tablets. More than a third of our online readership is now coming from those mobile devices, and the numbers are up 33 percent from last year.

But we don’t plan to pick one end of the readership spectrum or the other. My doctor will be happy to know we’re not abandoning print.

Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434

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