CNN took the wraps off its first application for the iPhone and iPod touch. The big question on many minds might be: What took so long?
CNN is the No. 1 mobile news provider according to Nielsen, and it actually had its first mobile site in 2000. In other words, it’s been no slouch when it comes to the mobile world.
So what’s the deal? To hear Vice President of CNN Mobile Louis Gump describe it, the timing is a combination of CNN’s evolution and Apple’s. “We basically wanted to develop an application that sets the standard for news applications,” and some of the latest functionality from Apple allows for that, says Gump, who left The Weather Channel earlier this year to join CNN Mobile.
The timing of the release did not have anything to do with Apple’s approval process or AT&T’s network, according to Gump. “We know that AT&T has been very focused on increasing bandwidth and throughput,” he says. CNN’s video works on both 3G and Wi-Fi.
The 3.0 release enabled the video section to do live streams from breaking new events, while the 3.1 release delivered improved video handling.
The new application does include some features that have long been talked about in the wireless industry, such as personalization.
The My CNN feature includes three major components. One is local news and information, including weather and traffic, and links to relevant articles. The second is the “follow” section, where users can follow stories on certain topics. A “save” section allows people to read the text of a story when they’re on a train or elsewhere; they don’t need to be connected.
Pretty much anybody with a cell phone camera can send an image to the user-generated iReport site, whether using e-mail or MMS. But this latest application is designed to make it easier. The iReport function is one of the most groundbreaking, he says. For years, “this has been ‘some day, maybe,'” and it’s happening now.
Out of the gate, the app will have advertisers Chevron and Lexus with logo placement and banner ads. For now, the $1.99 CNN iPhone app is available only in the United States. It’s also the only CNN app for the mass market; others, like for Android, are planned both domestically and internationally.
Gump says the overall thought has been it’s more important to build a great app than focus on the time to market. But regardless, it looks like CNN can easily use its network to make the most of it. “This is truly going to be a CNN event,” with quite a bit of marketing support behind it, he says.
Who knows? Maybe Larry King and Ashton Kutcher can take up the cause.