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Guardian iPhone app – interview with Jonathon Moore

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 14th December 2009

The Guardian has today revealed it’s iPhone app. It’s a pretty slick user interface and is sure to be a hit amongst commuters as it comes complete with offline browsing.

I caught up with Jonathon Moore, Product Manager at (Twitter), to find out a bit more:

Why the iPhone?

The iPhone is dominating our mobile traffic right now so it seemed reasonable to open our emerging mobile app strategy on that platform. We have to start somewhere – and we have a great strategy of where we’d like to go next.

You’re a bit late to the game compared to other UK newspapers. Why the delay?

We are late to the game. But we feel that’s ok. It does change our approach, however. We’re not first to market – but we definitely want to be best to market.

Oh – and we’re touching 1m uniques via our mobile browser site (in just over six months from a standing start) which also makes us the UK’s number one digital newspaper on mobile. So being slightly late certainly hasn’t seemed to have done us any harm!

What were the key challenges? What were the key areas you wanted to get right?

We wanted to create an excellent content discovery experience, something that’s traditionally been massively difficult to achieve on mobile (remember the RAZR?).

I also – and this is just a personal comment – felt the experience within the News category needed a lift. Nothing really inspired me too much. We also wanted to create something that offered a full experience and – crucially – something that looked like it had been created with love. Believe me – this has. Our users are passionate about our content so I wanted them to be passionate about the product too.

You’ve decided to charge for the app. Why is this?

We think a small charge for increased functionality that is specific to a single device is a really small trade-off. But of course the app has to be great. No-one wants to pay for something below par – so the challenge was to make it both beautiful and useful.

If you were to ask me my favourite aspects – I’d say the ability to dip into quite niche content via the keyword pop-up, simple access to our great audio content and off course offline. I hope we’ve achieved something our guardian audience will like. We’ll find out. Initial reaction is really encouraging and positive.

There doesn’t seem to be any advertising on the app, will this change?

We haven’t ruled anything out but there are no current plans to add advertising.

I’m assuming this is the first iteration and there will be improvements in the future? What are you hoping to include at a later date?

Yes you’d be right. Well we know what’s missing: Twitter, video and commenting (ability to read and write) so while I’m not promising timescales – that gives you an indication of the things on our list.

But we also want to push things forward more. We’re really ambitious about this. This is our v1.0, others have been in the AppStore for months if not years. But even without that I think we’re ahead in many areas already.

Do you foresee a time when print newspapers won’t exist and apps like this will be the way we consume our news?

Ooooh big question. Not for me. I still love the feel of paper too. Ultimately the consumer will decide though – so it’s really about choice. We want to offer our superb content in every way possible – with the same level of excellence in mobile product design that goes into the journalism.

Danny Whatmough