Here we continue our interview with Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, who talks about the paper's new iPad edition, as well his thoughts on the future of technology and the media.
Aside from the Guardian app, do you have five favourite apps that you would recommend to people?
AR: Right! I use iTalk, just as a sort of brilliant recording device. I use Whiteboard as my main drawing app and in helping do presentations and so forth. i find Dropbox a brilliant way of shifting material between devices. I use Twitterlator, that's my default Twitter product. I use a thing called TuneIn Radio as a portable radio device. Is that five?
That is! Do you also own an iPhone, then, and an iPod?
AR: I did have an iPhone, and at some point I thought in order to teach myself as much about technology as possible, I [should get] an Android phone but I must admit it's irritating me slightly. It's a wonderful tiny portable computer, it's just not a very good phone.
I see. If you use Twitter, then...
AR: But apart from that, I've probably got about 20 pieces of Mac technology, I'm afraid I'm a serious Mac addict. Sorry, 'If you use Twitter...'
I was going to say, do you think that Twitter has changed the perception, or the policing... the idea of defamation? Do you think Twitter makes that impossible to police?
AR: One day there will be a gigantic defamation action, I'm sure, over Twitter. I'm sure it just will happen. At the moment my sense is that it would take a determined plaintiff to do it, particularly if it was obvious that the writer lived abroad. If there's someone who's identifiably based in Britain, it can only be a matter of time before somebody gets sued, and I guess it would just be like any other libel action. But I think it gets very complicated when it's anonymous and/or abroad.
Do you think that something like the Trafigura situation, or the situation in the Middle East, show that Twitter is a force for democratic change?
AR: Yes I do. All these things that enable individuals to become publishers - you can't overstate how radical this is, the way this is going to change the nature of information and how it's passed around the world. So I think it's causing huge changes and we're only in the foothills, really, just beginning to glimpse the ways in which it is changing.
Speaking about the internet more generally, do you think the left or the right wing of British politics is more strongly represented online?
AR: I don't know, actually. I suppose we all have our personal tastes of who we follow - I follow people from all wings of politics, and there are lots of enjoyable people from all sides - but I don't know mathematically or quality-wise whether one side is doing better than the other.
You mentioned in an email you sent before that there would be more Guardian apps in the future. Could you tell me a bit about your plans in that area?
AR: We'll get this toe in the water and see what the... obviously the critical thing from our point of view is the paid take-up. I think when I checked this morning there had been something like 175,000 downloads, so that's way exceeded our expectations two weeks in. But we want to get as much feedback as we can. For instance, one idea we had been playing with was the idea of a time-based app, one that would cover the weekend. But we want to wait and see what the research and the feedback is on the first one before we look forward to the next one.
You can imagine a world in which you can slice and dice newspaper content lots of ways, add different functionality at different levels. So there's quite a lot that we've deliberately not done with this first app, in order to judge how well it's been received. But response so far has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic, so I think we've judged that right.
How do you feel about the iOS 5 factor, if you will - do you regret making that a requirement, given the problems that people had with it?
AR: I did find it clunky because I had to do it myself.
AR: On the other hand, the fact is 175,000 people managed to do it. I don't know how many people got deterred and gave up, but it does suggest that an awful lot of people used the opportunity of getting the app to get it done anyway.
I know a couple of people in the office who upgraded so they could try the app.
AR: Yes. The Newsstand, especially the ability to download it in the middle of the night, is a significant advantage.
Do you plan to add more advertising to the app in the future?
AR: Well I hope so! I think the advertising industry has been quite conservative. They all know they've got to get into this digital game, but they've been quite conservative about making the leap.
I think there's a couple of things that the iPad does rather well. One is that you can interrupt viewing quite effectively by placing ads so that they're more disruptive, if that's the right word. So it's not just a banner ad at the top of the page, you actually sort of swipe and see the ad, which I think is good for advertisers.
I mean, everything looks good on an iPad, but you've got amazingly handsome and beautiful ads, and I think once the advertisers start being more inventive in how they use the ads once people have arrived on their page, in terms of embedding links or video or audio or animation or whatever... I really hope that advertisers do take the plunge and we have more of it.
You mentioned that you're a big fan of Mac technology. What do you think of the company - its effects on the world and on the media particularly?
AR: It's at such an astonishing stage at the moment. When I was in New York last week I went into a couple of Mac shops and it was quite astonishing, just the press to get into these shops and the buzz and the energy. They were absolutely packed in the evening. So there is something. They've created things that are incredibly functional and intuitive and desirable and well made. It's not an original observation to say, [but] is that all down to the inspiration of Jobs, and can it survive his passing on, or has he done enough to embed that brilliance in the company? It's a wonderfully interesting and innovative company.
But I think Google is too. And what interests me about Google is that they're much more open, and I'm very interested in open technology and open sources of information. And I think it's great to have at least two companies like... with slightly different philosophies.
Well, I was interested to ask about this, actually. Because the Guardian has recently made its newslists public, is that right?
And I was thinking about this, and about apps. And a lot of people think that apps are a way of ring-fencing readers, and they're a way of closing down areas of the internet. Do you think apps can transcend that? Can they bring together different parts?
AR: Well I think if that was all you did, then it would be closing down and walling off. But our ambition would be to have the browser as open as possible. And then for people to want to pay extra for the app because it's got a functionality that the browser doesn't. At the moment we don't know where advertisers are going to go. I would love a world in which hundreds of thousands of people bought the app, were paid subscribers, and that would let us be as open as possible in the browser.
Which songs do you play most often on your iPod?
AR: I haven't got one at the moment. It's all on my iPad. I would have to give you a rather serious answer, which is I'm writing a book at the moment, which is about playing one particular piece of piano music, which is the Chopin first ballade, and it's taken me 18 months to learn it so far. And I can't finish the book until I give a concert in which I play it. So I've got every available recording of this, and I listen to that piece rather obsessively.
I'm a pianist myself. I'm very poor indeed. But I love listening to Chopin.
AR: Well I'm pretty poor too. But I went on a piano course last year, and there was an amateur pianist who wasn't much better than me, who played that piece, and it's just such a difficult piece. And I set myself up and thought, if he can play it, I wonder what it would take for me to play it. So 18 months later I can almost play it.
Next page: Did Windows 8 influence the design of the Guardian app, and will the Guardian start charging for its website? >>