Turning every article that a newspaper churns out into a standalone app on your smartphone strikes me as impossible due to the sheer number of apps, but if journalists were to “appify” individual articles, why would they do it and what would the app look like?
Apps usually come to us as a two-pronged tool. They help us find, manipulate and share information. They also present information. Given that, a deeper question occurs about the article, one that would likely not come upon us were an article only living on a print page: What exactly is it that people do with articles? How are they a tool for living?
I don’t mean “articles,” such as a top-ten restaurant list, already structured with the idea of aiding decision-making. I’m referring to something trying to function like a story. I know it has a social purpose; it prompts conversations; it contributes to the development of a body of knowledge (that could later influence decision-making); it allows people to be in the know, saving them potential social embarrassment; it distracts them from something they don’t want to be doing. It’s like ammo you use in a near-infinite number of social contexts separated by an unknown duration.
Given that, an article app’s main purpose would be: to help me remember the information; to remind me when the information is useful; to facilitate using the information socially (sharing, manipulating, re-presenting); to allow me to connect the information into a larger body of knowledge.
That’s a start, at least.