Yes, newspapers are screwed. But that isn’t stopping some of them from coming up with some really interesting digital projects. So far we’ve seen the New York Times release a slew of cool gizmos and gadgets. But the Wall Street Journal’s Mobile Reader is easily our favourite to date.
The software, available today, is one of those tools that makes instant sense the first time you get your hands on it: It delivers all of the Journal’s content, updated constantly, in whatever form makes the most sense to you.
If you want to just scan headlines, you can do that. Click once and you’ll instantly get a one-paragraph summary; click again and it will download the entire article, which takes about 10 seconds, max. The reader also passes our subway/aeroplane test with flying colours — it lets you save stories you’ve downloaded so you can read them when you’re underground or in the air.
We’d go on and on about this thing, because there are plenty of other useful features (you can customise it to receive non-WSJ newsfeeds, like other newspapers and blogs, for instance). But it’s easy enough to see for yourself, provided you have a latish-model BlackBerry: Click here for a free download. The Journal has also wisely made the service free for now — as in, you can get the Wall Street Journal, delivered to your Berry in real time, at no cost — but it’s definitely worth paying for.
- Where’s the iPhone version? We don’t know. But it makes plenty of sense for the Journal to roll this out for the BlackBerry (RIMM) first, anyway — its readers and the Berry’s installed base match up perfectly.
- What’s with the WSJ ad that takes up the third of the screen? The one that we keep clicking accidentally, even when we try hard to avoid it? We don’t know, but it’s got to go. We’re all for ad-supported content, but not when the ads are an impediment.
- Isn’t this really just a souped-up version of the BlackBerry reader made by mobile software deveoper FreeRange? Yes, it is. Good for the WSJ for adapting an off-the-shelf program instead of reinventing the wheel.
Normally this is the part where we say that even the coolest apps won’t save the newspaper industry. But we have to admit, this one’s pretty encouraging: It doesn’t replace the experience of reading the paper in print or online, but it definitely augments it. And eventually, it should provide the paper with another income stream. That can’t hurt, right?
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