Assignment: Analyze an iPad News App

As part of the Meadows School of the Arts’ iPad Pilot Program, every Fall 2010 Digital Journalism student will evaluate an iPad news app this semester over a span of at least four days.

The Meadows iPad Pilot Program provides SMU Digital Journalism students with a cutting-edge opportunity to critically and comparatively assess how news apps on the iPad are faring with what we call “four pillars” of online news — immediacy/urgency, non-linear presentation, interactivity and multimedia content.

Here’s your assignment:

  • Choose a legacy media outlet with an iPad app — there are more than 600 news apps to choose from, including Sports Illustrated, Wired, Fortune, People, ESPN, ABC News, USA Today, NPR and the New York Times.
  • Buy a copy of the legacy media product covering the four-day period during which you have the iPad. If it’s a newspaper, get a copy of each day’s paper. If it’s a magazine, get a copy of that week’s magazine. If it’s a news program, be sure to watch the program when you have the iPad.
  • Over a four-day span, you will constantly compare the legacy news product — newspaper, magazine, TV program, radio show or regular ol’ website — with that same news organization’s iPad app. Is the iPad delivering on its promise to create a more compelling news experience for users? Does it provide extra value that is worth the user’s time, money and attention? Or is it merely “shovelware” for the legacy product?
  • You will write a review of 250 to 300 words, due within 24 hours of returning your iPad to me. First, provide a brief introductory summary describing your overall assessment of the iPad app. Then, rate the app on a scale of one to five stars, assessing how well the app fulfills the four pillars of Web news: immediacy/urgency, non-linear presentation, interactivity, and multimedia content. Give a rating of 1 to 5 in each of these four areas.
  • Post your review as a blog item on the Tech Blog on This will count as your beat blog entry for the week. Be frank and honest in your review. This is not an Apple-sponsored pilot, so feel absolutely free to speak your mind!
  • To get an idea of the format and tone for these reviews, visit the Daily Mustang Tech Blog to peruse some of your classmates’ reviews.

    By the end of the semester, this assignment will provide a rare collection of candid student reviews of the iPad’s performance as a news source. Have fun playing around with the iPad!

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