The Associated Press, US wire service and supplier of stories to most online news sites, has launched its own mobile site.
AP seems to making a serious effort to compete with mobile news market leaders like Yahoo, BBC, CNN, The New York Times and Google, most of which are also AP customers.
The portal's design is similar to other mobile news sites, a front page of about a dozen headlines grouped under section headers like U.S. News, World News, Local News... The unique feature of the site is its local coverage. The AP is a cooperative of over 1700 local newspapers which should make it a good source of local news. You can customize the mobile site's front page to display local news headlines for one or multiple US zipcodes. You choices are saved with a cookie, there's no need (and no way) to log on.
Mobile News Network comes in a regular mobile version and a special iPhone one. Browser detection is used to deliver the iPhone edition only to iPhones, which is too bad as there are other mobile browsers like Opera and WebKit that could easily display the iPhone site's content except for the videos. The regular site has a very plain appearance with a minimum of formatting and no photos on the front page. More effort seems to have gone into the iPhone variant which has typical iPhone chrome and a thumbnail image for each headline. iPhone users also get videos in full 480x320 iPhone resolution and the ability to customize the homepage by hiding sections. Other than the videos, the news content seems to be identical in both versions.
Mobile News Network works well as a general news portal although Google and Yahoo's mobile news sites offer stories from a variety of sources including but not limited to the AP. What AP does have is extensive local coverage from it's member newspapers. John Kullman at MobileCrunch notes that only 107 local papers are currently participating in the Mobile News Network and questions whether that's enough to effectively cover the country. I think he's right, local news seems to be delivered at the state level. No matter what zip code I entered in California I got the same news, with the source listed as "CA State Wire". On the other hand there doesn't seem to be an alternative for users wanting a portal that combines general news with local coverage. At one time Yahoo let you add local news by zipcode to their mobile and PC portals, but this feature seems to have disappeared from Y! and isn't offered by CNN, MSN, or AOL either. I suspect that newspapers, faced with declining print revenues, are looking online for their survival and are no longer eager to share their exclusive content to competitors like Yahoo. Why should they give up exclusivity for a percentage of revenues when they can earn more from their own web and mobile news sites. One could always create their own custom news portal using RSS and something like iGoogle or NetVibes. But AP's simple option to add news by entering a zip code is a lot easier, particularly for non-technical users who don't know about RSS and may not even have an iGoogle account.
Mobile Link: apnews.com
Ratings: Content: Usability:
Related: WapReview Mobile Directory - News