Video ballyhoos promising iPad app for the Washington Post, stars Bob Woodward, Ben Bradlee & friends

The Washington Post’s iPad app is finally out.

No, The Product isn’t quite the equal of the rival New York Time app unveiled in the spring and refined since then. But the Post’s video promo leaves the Times’s marketing in the dust.

I test-drove the iPad app today and suspect that Ben Bradlee, Bob Woodward and other Post stars shown will really be using it.

Available on YouTube, the video not only pushes the app, it also explains how to get around within it. Can’t beat that—and the free advertising the video will stir up in the blogosphere. Mea culpa.

Gawker isn’t so gung ho and thinks that the self-deprecating promo shows how out of touch the old foggies at the Post are. But then the Gawker fans probably are not the marketers’ real targets anyway.

image Wait. Gawkerites might enjoy the ability to follow news-inspired Tweets and share links—as well as the other social media features.

Downside is that while the navigation scheme is logical—conspicuously based on sections like top news, national, business, sports and so on—I don’t enjoy the required vertical scrolling, a problem the New York Times app doesn’t inflict on me. It’s too easy to forget to keep scrolling. So you might miss some stories.

Like some other reviewers, I’d also cherish the ability to download the entire Post in one swoop, not just individual stories, and read it offline. And why the devil can’t I follow comments made within the paper itself? Or am I missing something?  Also, I find the screen a bit too cluttered, even though advertising is far less obtrusive than within the horrid Web version of the Post (click on the images for better views).

In addition, the app can’t display all Post videos due to the Adobe-Apple war over Flash (I’d side with Steve Jobs, given the performance problems Flash creates). The Post reportedly intends to fix that, presumably through the use of Flashless videos.

image Despite these shortcomings, the app is worth the $3.99 monthly fee that the Post will start charging in mid February (99 cents for print subscribers). Of course, the Post needs to offer free archive access at no extra fee. Archives don’t just offer more advertising opportunities. They also build reader loyalty.

The hyperlocal angles: Earlier I suggested that the Washington Post could trot out its legends like Woodward to stir up grassroots interest in writing for the Post’s hyperlocal edition and otherwise participating. The video certainly shows the show-biz possibilities here. I’ll be curious to see how the app handles hyperlocal editions of the Post when, if all goes as expected, they start appearing  in late spring. Some big-time interactivity, please!

Other takes: Mediagazer round-up, as well as a slightly upbeat review of the app by Rob Pegoraro, the Post’s intrepid Faster Forward columnist, who, like me, hated the Post’s iPhone app but sees a definite improvement here despite the flaws.

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David Rothman

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