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Q&A with Tyson Fandrick about the Powell River Peak’s new app

April 6, 2011

This blog doesn’t practise journalism much, but when it does, it does so in the easiest way possible: the ol’ question and answer.

Last week, I noted that the Powell River Peak had launched an app, in the process becoming the first community paper to do so. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the paper also is one of the only with a new media/IT specialist, in the form of Tyson Fandrick. Last week I sent Tyson a bunch of questions, and he was kind enough to reply.

Thus are the origins of the following Q & A:

Q: Thanks for doing this. The first obvious questions are: who was involved in the development of the app and how long did it take?

Tyson: The development was pretty much entirely on my own, as time permitted over 5 months or so. The process started back in the fall of 2010, exploring and researching the options. Peak to Go was available in the App Store by the beginning of March.

Q: How difficult is it to design an app? Did you have to start from scratch, or was there a template available to work from?

Without the proper developer experience and education I’d say it is a rather daunting task to build from scratch. Originally I started in that direction. But being mostly self-taught in the industry and not being able to commit my full time to it, I ran into limitations. With some perseverance I sourced some template tools to take care most of the coding framework.

Q: Was there much of a learning curve on your part (assuming you were involved in its development)?

Yes for sure. Though it didn’t end up being built from scratch I learned a lot regarding going that route. Then there was still plenty to figure working with the template tools. Using them helped to launch an app covering basic functionality and key features: news, sports, editorials, letters, obituaries, blogs, video, photo galleries and even support ads. So we are proud of the start but are excited to continue to improve on it with future updates. Also hope to deliver it to other mobile platforms, such as Android.

Q: How difficult/easy is it to get stories and photos into an app-ready format?

Very easy once it was setup. The app content is based on direct feeds from our website. So any new articles or videos posted to the site will automatically push to the app.

Q: Why was the decision made to develop an app now? I’m not aware of any other community newspapers taking that step yet.

There’s no better time than now. The Peak has always focused on trying to stay on top of the tech wave. Only one way to get started, and if it doesn’t work the first time, keep trying. So that’s what we did.

Q: How is the parent company involved in this? Are there any plans to use the Peak’s design as a template for other Glacier newspaper apps?

There was very little input from the parent company. Near the end of development I did get to show off a test build and received positive feedback. There are beginning talks of implementing the app system for other papers. I’m eager to see where we could take it working with them.

Q: Why was it released for free?

The potential profit by charging, say 99¢, for our market size just wasn’t worth it. We wanted to put our media in as many hands as possible, so free was the way to go.

Q: What’s the response been like from readers?

We’re only a few weeks in but the response has been great. A few hundred downloads from eight countries. It’s cool to see Peak to Go being used in Thailand and Japan, or the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Q: Does this mean everyone at the Peak is getting an iPhone?

Yes, absolutely. My publisher is reading this, right?

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