The Mario Blog
Ottawa Citizen for iPad: Precisely what a tablet edition should be

The Ottawa Citizen is the first of the Postmedia's Canadian titles to go through the launch of a totally new concept. Its evening tablet edition is just what the rest of the industry needs to see.

This is the weekend edition of TheMarioBlog and will be updated as needed. Monday is Memorial Day; the next blog post is Tuesday, May 27

Screenshots from recent editions of the Ottawa Citizen for iPad

Our case study of the four-platform Ottawa Citizen / Postmedia project is available here.

It took about 17 months, but the Postmedia rethink project has launched, one in which the storytelling potential of the four platforms of the media quartet is wholly embraced.

And how!

While the project, starting with the Ottawa Citizen and expanding to 7 other titles in the months ahead, is about presenting information across the print, responsive web, mobile and tablet, this blog post is only about the tablet edition, Ottawa Citizen for iPad.

This tablet edition is the first I've seen in recent months that resonates with me as what tablet editions should be.

Inspired by good storytelling, it has no pretense of being adapted from print. Nor is it just the Citizen's website reformatted! The Citizen for iPad is an evening edition, appearing once a day at 6 p.m. It is a local news magazine put together by a dedicated team, including editor Andrew Potter, Senior Producers Carl Neustaedter and Jordan Timm, Production Editor Becky Garceau and Design Director Adam MartinGayle Grin and Kendra Schumacher were critical in developing the tablet app concept.

The Citizen for iPad salutes print with one hand, while taking the user with a steady hand towards what true multimedia storytelling should be. All I could think of–as I swiped screens and let my senses take in the video and audio for so many interesting stories–is that this is what I envisioned when I wrote my tablet digital book, iPad Design Lab: Storytelling in the Age of the Tablet.

What this talented team has achieved is more than just an evening tablet edition for the Ottawa Citizen. They have provided the industry with a textbook case study of how to create a tablet edition that does not duplicate content, but extends it, magnifies it and presents in such a way that many stories that may be ignored in your phone, online and print edition, will gain new and vibrant life here.

What tablet users want

As I have said repeatedly, users who read news in tablet editions have always wanted a bit of radio/TV and even a documentary film. But they also want the very lean-forward latest news. Both are included here. 

This app provides the answer to two interesting questions:

–Are tablet editions obsolete?
Not if you can publish them the way the Ottawa Citizen has!

–Can we mix lean-forward and lean-back experiences in one edition?

Absolutely. Here, the majority of elements are lean-back features, but updated news briefs from appear periodically as a perfect counterpoint.

The Citizen's tablet edition editors present raw meat and a perfectly grilled sirloin at the same time.

Not easy, as they may have found out, but possible, as I see in their first week's editions. Bravo.

Why the Citizen tablet edition is special

Other items of interest:

The Citizen's edition inspires relaxation, with a sense of completion. It doesn't overwhelm the reader, but still surprises with the variety of stories offered. I wonder about whether the amount of content will be fully sustainable, but that is another issue for another day.

The Citizen's “table of contents” navigator, Get Started, is an easy romp through what is in store. I like the short and long of it: see a caption, read a full story. I tend to think that readers will first go through this, then decide how they will come back to read the rest.

Multi-sensory: I like that I may start engaging with a local city story, as in yoga enthusiasts in the park, listening to music and hearing a narration. Next, I move on to a more “traditional” mode of storytelling with a photo/text story (a tablet edition needs to have this tool available, too). In one edition, the editors have appealed to almost all my senses and moods.

Look & Feel: This tablet edition feels young, vibrant, sophisticated, and not once do we think “print newspaper,” “ink on the fingers” or “ghosts of the past.” But the storytelling is as robust as anything the Citizen has offered since its inception.

History is a subtle hint here, a reassuring one. But the future of how we will consume information is more evident. The fun we have with this tablet edition is a reason to subscribe, to feel that we can have the best of the two worlds: what journalistic history and credibility offer, alongisde the more animated and engaging storytelling tools of today.

Our art director Reed Reibstein and I congratulate Carl, Jordan, and the entire team. All of their efforts have paid off greatly. Congrats to Andrew Potter, an editor with a vision of what this could be like (I will never forget our first meeting and how he was so receptive to this idea). And to that talented designer Adam Martin, who has been able to transform a concept and a philosophy of storytelling for the age of the tablet into something that is uniquely pleasing to the eyes.

I am honored that we at Garcia Media were involved, and we hope to continue to do so in the future.

What others are saying

And if you think that I am the only one so excited about the Citizen's tablet edition, think again.

Andrew Coyne, a columnist for Toronto's National Post, has written:

Seriously, I’ve never seen a better iPad app, anywhere. Completely reinvents the form.

And those folks at Apple who have seen their share of tablet editions the past four years were quite enthusiastic, too:

‘Intuitive and a delight to read.’
‘Absolutely everything an iPad magazine should strive to be.’

For now, the industry globally has a great example of how a tablet edition can inform, surprise and engage us.

I think it is important that an industry that is beginning to not pay much attention to tablets, realizes that the tablet is very much alive, but its potential not much explored.

The Ottawa Citizen for iPad team shows us differently.

Download The Citizen for iPad here

Of related interest

Postmedia redesigns and reimagines Ottawa Citizen

Postmedia Network learns the hard lesson of tablet editions: being on the cutting edge means learning to duck

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