Opinions about Michael Arrington, CrunchFund, and the various associations notwithstanding, TechCrunch is one of the most influential biz-tech sites on the web. Since 2005, the site has been reporting on (and sometimes determining the fate of), just about everything to do with the technology sector, particularly start-ups. Last week the site launched an iPad magazine-style app called TechCrunch - The Inside Story On Innovation distributed, of course, by AOL.
It’s a free app that aggregates the top stories from the web site, along with related tweets and trends. Not coincidentally, it is also fully integrated with CrunchBase, the wiki database of investors, entrepreneurs and tech companies.
The design is typical of a news aggregator, albeit a cluttered one, with headlines on the left, or top if you prefer portrait orientation, and a list of trending articles and hot tweets in a right sidebar or at the bottom. Tapping an article toggles a reading pane and access to CrunchBase facts in little squares with still more tweets and trends filling in the remaining screen real estate. Articles can be shared on the major social networks and that’s about it.
I’m really not sure what the folks at either TechCrunch or AOL are going for here. If they are aiming for the magazine format, they might want to look at what TNW Magazine from The Next Web or Distro from Engadget have done with their Newsstand offerings. But, I don’t think that’s what they are after.
If the goal, rather, is to integrate the CrunchFund information right into TechCruch articles, which makes more sense, the app would be best served by losing a lot of the social media clutter. The option to share from the app is logical, but all the rest just blurs the focus.
For many, TechCrunch is a must-read and a dedicated iPad app is welcome. But the magazine concept is a non-starter, unless AOL wants to borrow from The Daily’s model of constant updates, which seems like a lot of trouble. For the target audience, I think a streamlined interface, with Readability, Pocket and Instapaper integration, push notifications on topics of interest, and easier navigation is the way to go.