In the last months the AppStore has welcomed number of iPad apps oriented to media consumption. Since Steve Jobs showcased Pulse for iPad, other takes on visual news have sprouted with different philosophies and results. The trend is clear: A multitouch device needs more than a classic RSS to focus on multimedia content. However, getting the user interface is tricky, and entering a market where every major print and online media outlet have their own application seems a big challenge to me.
Blancspot [iTunes Link] by Blancspot Media made its debut on the less than a month ago and gained much exposure after being featured on the US AppStore. With the tagline "The art of news", Blancspot aims to find its place in that visual app trend, presenting news stories as a slideshow with the latest reactions from social networks. Pictures illustrating the article with a descriptive headline will run through the screen animated with a Ken Burns effect like some sort of interactive iPhone wallpaper. The reel can be stopped at any time to find the full article including links for extra content and reactions from Twitter and friends on Facebook.
Unlike other news readers where you choose a media source, such as any RSS reader, Flipboard or Pulse, in Blancspot channels have been set up for you int different sections. You can add these to your channel to make customised slideshows containing business, politics and sports news for instance. I understand the news are provided by Blancspot, formatted in a way where the image and headline are appropriate for a slide show, and I might say, understand what's the story about in a second. This obviously limits the freedom to choose an specific news source you want to see, but it should prevent issues like Pulse vs. New York Times, where the app was pulled from the AppStore.
"You can save your favourite news items to read later but there is no evident workflow here. Blancspot is as simple as hit play, watch on full screen and relax."
The app has been released for iPhone but an iPad incarnation is on the way. I can't wait to see this on a big screen! While some other apps involve a lot of taping, I enjoyed most Blancspot not touching anything at all letting the headlines run. Seeing something like this on an iPad can really make the difference, as you could see the main stories of the day while you do something else. The app plays back background music for every news category, which I found very suitable, and you can check the author of the song and purchase on iTunes.
While I don't mind developers trying to make some extra money with the sale of songs, I find the iAds included in a paid app much more questionable. Whenever you hit the read button and the full article appears, an iAd will appear at the bottom of the screen. Perhaps the firm plans to fund the news editing service this way, but this is the sort of nasty surprises one never finds in top apps. I see a lot of potential and I hope this is just a matter of testing rather than a business model.