Tuesday, October 13, 2009...9:30 am

Political debate? There's an App for that

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Picture 2A while ago, I posted on the possibility that journalism might have to move towards software development. The Atlantic this month flags up an iPhone App that offers policy points for (US) conservatives to use when they’re arguing about Obama’s healthcare bill.
The Conservative Talking Points app will set you back £1.12 from the iTunes store – though it’s probably of limited use for UK readers, no matter their politics.
It’s not the only political-type App available. On the other side of the fence is the iSinglePayer App that lets US liberals call their Congressman direct to lobby them direct over the thorny healthcare issue. And if you’re not quite sure where you stand, there’s something called the Political GPS that claims to let you know where on the political spectrum you really are.
It’s important to understand the difference between these and the slew of news and media Apps available. There are endless Apps that let you listen to political podcasts, or give you a feed from online news sites, from Sky News to the highly targeted SpaceGeek NASA feed.
But the interesting thing about all this is that it underlines the way that devising content that people will want to use really does require moving away from the traditional news model.
Would I pay for an iPhone App that gives me the latest news headlines? Well, not really. But would I fork out my quid or so for an App that gives me useful arguing points in debate? Maybe.
It’s all to do with utility. If something is useful to me, I’ll pay money for it. If it isn’t, I won’t.
It’s certainly a challenge for the media. Not only do we have to come up with ways of packaging what we do so that it offers users this utility, but the pricing model changes too.
Yes, people may pay their £1 for their App – but that’s it. It’s a one-time payment, but the App will need to keep being useful. It can’t be tomorrow’s fish and chip wrapping any more, as we’ve become accustomed to.

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