FryPaper: an interview with the man behind Stephen Fry’s iPad app

Stephen Fry FryPaper App

Following my post about using the iPad recently, I’ve spent some time using more of the content-focused apps. As I mentioned before, the iPad has turned out to be a great device for consuming, reading and just experiencing media. This has obvious benefits for video, and many of the examples I’ve seen have made use of multi-media and show off the screen. But I tend to read a lot. I tend to read news from content publishers (BBC, Guardian, Gizmodo) and blogs.

One of the first apps I downloaded was Stephen Fry’s “FryPaper” app. It’s basically Stephen Fry’s blog manifested as an iPad app, and it’s one of the most exciting things I’ve seen. This isn’t because it’s swish, flash, or gimmicky. Indeed, it is none of those things. It simply provides the content from Stephen’s blog in a format that is very, very easy to read on the iPad. It seems to focus on simple design, and that’s it. It’s got a very limited set of features, all of which I’ve used—like using the sharing feature to tweet or email links to individual articles.

So, why is this so exciting?

Because it’s a glimpse of the future of well-published stories. It’s a snapshot of a time when anyone can buy/download an app for a single blog, and get all this content beautifully laid out.

So, I contacted Stephen’s FryPaper person, Andrew Sampson of SamFry about building FryPaper.

Here is that quick interview:

Zach: Why make an app for a blog? What does the iPad bring to the table that a browser doesn’t?

Andrew: Stephenfry.com’s blog is a very popular website in its own right. We wanted to offer that content in a newspaper format, for free on the iPad. We wanted to show how you could strip back other contend and concentrate on what was popular. Less is more, was our rule. It was a good first stepping stone for our company to develop an iPad App on our own.

Zach: What did you have to consider in designing it?

Andrew: We considered that the iPad is a new device and that whilst newspapers and magazines are glamouring for it, many would argue that a user interface is yet to be defined. We went for the most elegant and simple user interface we could develop. We also wanted to make sharing it easy. I might add that I don’t see how magazines and papers will be able to sustain the large multimedia elements of their initial iPad offerings. It’s brilliant that they did but it cost them a fortune to produce the content, let alone the app itself.

Zach: Any major challenges or hurdles?

Andrew: Cost. We were very lucky to find a Canadian firm that presented their credentials and production pipeline from the beginning. We’ve had many false starts on app development in the last year, primarily because of cost. Marco Tabini and his team became SamFry’s partners for FryPaper.

We were also lucky to secure the sponsorship of G-Technology by Hitachi. This was the first time we’ve ever had another company believe in what we were doing. They showed extraordinary faith and trust in us, even to the degree of letting us design the sponsorship placements within the app. It only adds up to two ads but boy, it’s allowed us to fund the FryPaper for iPhone, which is due out in the next few weeks.

Zach: From your experience, is there any advice you’d give to someone wanting to build a similar content-focused app?

Andrew: Be confident in the depth of your content. Stephen, Nicole, our graphic designer and I, have a strong focus on design. We think content and the user interface synergy is the single most important aspect in delivering electronic content. It harks back to our traditional theatrical beginnings.

Zach: Thank you Andrew!

Image taken from stephenfry.com.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.