In the complex decisions between responsive HTML5 websites and native mobile applications, publishers shouldn’t take sides.
The insight of content management systems (going back decades ago to document processing systems and technologies like SGML) was to separate content from presentation.
Somewhere along the line many tools got confused and separated web content from web presentation details.
This is wrong.
Our systems need to make multi-platform publishing — whether it’s to a native iOS application with Newsstand integration, a weekly email newsletter, or whatever best serves the reader — as simple as publishing to the web.
Talk about a “tablet-native” journalism misses the point — of course tablets open up new possibilities in reading. Of course we should create beautiful experiences for the iPad. Of course we should curate our best content for our Newsstand app.
That doesn’t mean we should build brand new systems that do nothing but publish iPad apps.
We need to address new formats in a multiplicative way — not an additive way.
Each new platform — and there will always be new platforms — can not be a new $100,000 one-off project with new techniques, tools, training and staffing requirements.
We should not be creating a new custom solution for every new platform that launches.
Organizations need to plan and build for a multi-platform future because that is where the audiences will be in 2015 and 2025.
Chasing iPad readers, for example, misses how powerful something as simple as email newsletters still is. Responsive web sites help smartphone users, but aren’t the solution for Kindle and Nook users who are best served with an ebook.
Audiences on post-web platforms want different things than the click-hungry blog readers refreshing pages on their work desktop computers. Our tools need to adapt.
HTML5 Is Part of the Answer
Many people, ourselves included, have long held that HTML is and will be the best solution to these problems. But we’re finding again and again it’s not the whole solution.
While HTML in many ways is this lingua franca, enabling a reasonable presentation layer across devices, simple web pages built with HTML are not necessarily the best experience for all readers of a publication that is more than just a page.
Publications are about more than just articles — newspapers, magazines, books are packages of content.
Packages are more than just content: they are full experiences that include curated content, presentation, and navigation. They had a beginning, middle and end. These are present in the physical packages we use to transmit content. What parts of this experience can we translate into the digital?
Even in 2013, beautiful publications with responsive gesture controls, instantaneous page switches, smooth inertial scrolling are not always best delivered in an HTML page. Trust me, we’ve been trying.
This doesn’t mean we throw out HTML, or that it’s outdated, just that that it’s only part of the answer.
What we propose is to shift the focus up a level.
Publishing platforms that create these expertly crafted experiences beyond simple web pages — even when they vary by platform — are the next step in the evolution of content management systems. In the same way that our content management system adapted to create RSS feeds, now they must grow to create iPad applications, ePub files, and a myriad of other tools that make reading easier.
XOXCO is building a tool that will enable publishers to create these multi-channel, multi-platform digital experiences. We are now actively looking for forward thinking content producers and publishers to work with. Can we help you? Get in touch.