Friday Slide: iPhones in the News

If you’re a regular visitor to Slide to Play, you’ve probably noticed that while we’re good about publishing reviews and previews on a regular basis, there’s one component mostly missing from our coverage: news. In this week’s Friday Slide, we discuss what qualifies as “news” in the age of gaming blogs, and what traditional media like newspapers and cable TV consider to be iPhone news.

First of all, we should define news as opposed to press release reprinting. We try to practice good journalism here at Slide to Play–we conduct interviews, research our stories, and follow up on rumors instead of printing them as fact. Unfortunately, the obvious drawback is that this is a time-consuming process. It’d be much easier to just publish anything that comes our way in the form of a press release.

On a lot of blogs, press releases arrive directly in the editors’ inbox, and end up on the site within minutes, often without any alteration. Whether it’s new screenshots, video, the announcement of a new character or level, a release date, price point, or any of a hundred minor bits of information, these press releases are like the grease that oils the gears of many a website.

We think there’s a good reason why so many blogs thrive on press releases alone: They’re cheap and easy to post, PR firms are happy to get the free publicity and promote their games, and most importantly, people tend to read them. Information in this industry is leaked out bit by bit to generate maximum interest in the final product.

But we’re not here to serve the interests of PR companies–we’re here for you, the readers. We won’t relay just any press release that comes our way unless we think it’s of considerable interest to you. And whenever possible, we’re going to do the time-consuming, strenuous type of journalism that leads to more interesting, in-depth articles like our features on App Store Pricing and Women in Gaming.

Even when we do “quick hits” and report news from elsewhere on the web, we’ll make an effort to investigate. If you want to read about a new feature announced for a game, that’s fine, but we’ll always prefer to run an original quote from the developer instead of a line copied and pasted from the press release.

It can be hard to get a “scoop” in this industry since so much of the information is so tightly controlled, and that brings us to news exclusivity and embargoes, a frustrating topic for another column. But rest assured, as you start to see more news reporting on Slide to Play, we’re going to ensure that our news coverage is just as trustworthy, original and interesting as our reviews, previews and features.

Now, let’s take a look at some recent iPhone stories that have hit the mainstream news outlets. First up is a Wall Street Journal piece about standing out in the crowded App Store.

Besides the obvious points in the article that anyone reading this should probably already know (there are a lot of Apps on the App Store, bad games won’t remain popular for long), this article does contain one interesting nugget of information. It’s way down at the bottom, which is sometimes called “burying the lead”.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Digital Chocolate abbreviated the word “each” in their iTunes product description to “ea”, which let their games show up in a search for the company Electronics Arts. EA called this “barnacle marketing”, and Digital Chocolate has since changed their product descriptions. No comment on this yet from D. Choc CEO Trip Hawkins on his new blog.

Next up is CNN, who found the 10 dumbest iPhone apps. There is no possible way this can be the final word on stupid apps, because there are literally thousands of these terrible programs you can buy. If you made a stupid app and it showed up in this CNN list, consider yourself having won the lottery while simultaneously being struck by lightning. “Lucky” doesn’t even begin to describe the good fortune of having your awful app singled out from the thousands just like it.

Our favorites include the seizure-inducing Taxi sign, a “game” where you keep your thumb pressed on the screen for the longest (we’re dying to know–what’s the world record?) and a vibrating “weight loss” app that reminds us of the Rejuvenator from Mad Men.

Our third article is a basic human interest story. An 11-year-old in Hinsdale, Illinois, made an iPhone App that quizzes you on math problems. MathTime has sold very well for an educational app, and our hats are off to the young entrepreneur. Now, can we get an interview?

One last bit of iPhone news–our own Steve Palley was quoted in the prestigious NY Post. Congrats!

With traditional news media talking about Apple as a corporation, apps as novelties, and the iPhone’s cottage industry of smaller, competing companies and entrepreneurs, that leaves us a big opening: iPhone game news, with real investigations and depth, and none of the tacky PR that stalks the overall gaming industry.

Andrew Podolsky is the Managing Editor of Slide to Play.