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Columbia Missourian

DEAR READER: Papa's got a brand new Vox (app)

By Tom Warhover
December 9, 2011 | 5:52 p.m. CST

 Dear Reader,

In the category of better late than never: The Missourian has created a mobile site for easier reading on your smartphone.


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And in the not-so-late category: Vox 5, a slick new iPad app with original content about things to do each weekend.

Keeping up with developing platforms has never been as frustrating, challenging and exciting.

This fall, Missourian reporter and journalism school graduate student Alexandria Baca reviewed 178 Missouri newspapers. She found that 39 percent had some sort of e-edition, online site optimized for mobile reading or mobile app.

That's astounding when you consider that many of these papers are small weeklies or dailies with newsroom staffs you can count on one hand.

Baca doesn't have historical data, but I'd bet that few of the state's papers offered platforms besides a website two or three years ago.

The movement reflects the mandate from us, the readers, who increasingly say we want to be able to read, watch and listen when, and in whatever form, we want it. Now, I'm not saying we all want to read our news from something you have to charge in the wall. I enjoyed Friday's print edition, right from the comfort of my favorite coffee shop. But I still want the choice.

So off we go on new adventures.

Missourian mobile: Call up on your smartphone and it will ask whether you want to view a "mobile-friendly site." It works, or should work, just as well on any iPhone or Android-based device. You get a series of headlines that hyperlink to the stories.

It's supposed to be simple and plain — and easier on the eye when you're looking at those tiny screens.

Vox 5: The concept is simple: Here are five things you might want to check out this weekend. Or, as the first issue calls it,  "your five tickets to fun in mid-Missouri."

The execution, though, is both elegant and complex.

My Vox 5 suggests for this weekend a new movie, "The Sitter." I get a synopsis of the film and a link to the promo (aka the trailer) from the studio. From the same page, I can also get to the Vox restaurant guide and other calendar listings. One page, then, takes me to this world of other stuff to help me make a decision.

I decided to skip the movie, by the way. The music page, on the other hand, sounds more promising. MoonRunner, a local roots rock band, will be playing Saturday night. I haven't heard the group before, but I really enjoyed the audio clip linked to the page.

Or I might take in "A Christmas Carol," eat at the new restaurant Crazy Noodle or see comedian Kathy Griffin at Jesse Auditorium.

In the works: Another Vox iPad app will feature work from the print edition of the weekly magazine. Look for it early next year. I'm not sure what direction a Missourian iPad app will take. It might be general, like the website and print, or it might focus on just one piece, such as the Missourian's photojournalism. Or both.

I also want to put online a PDF version of the print edition. The popularity of print replicas surprised me because they're not very Web-friendly. It might suggest the power of the printed news page.

Speaking of print, new design editor Nathan Estep is reviewing the daily and coming up with ideas for improvements. As always, your ideas are welcome.

Missourian general manager Dan Potter is involved in all the discussions. His questions: How can the paper make money from these new offerings? How do they add value to advertisers?

For the news industry, answers are still very much in flux. The only option off the table is standing still.