Publishing giant Hearst has been vocal about putting its resources in tablets over paywalls. But today reporters got the first glimpse of just how much they are willing to invest in the new app economy. Hearst’s App Lab, up on the 41st floor of the Hearst Tower on 8th Avenue, isn’t just a “plush, windowless, gadget-filled” think tank for app development and advertising. It’s also staffed by 44 in-house developers, producers, editors and designers. What do they create? So far, 100 apps for the iPad and iPad, Google Android, the Nook, and Zinio’s Newsstand. The App Lab doesn’t just develop tablet editions of glossies. It’s also churning out spin-off apps like House Beautiful‘s paint colors app and Esquire‘s iPad puzzle app.Why should third-party developers have all the one-off fun?
The lab will function both as a incubator and a showroom to dazzle advertisers about the promise of digital. Hearst flaunts features like a social video wall that scrapes data from Facebook and Twitter to show advertisers what people are saying about their companies online.
Other old media stalwarts have inched their way toward the digital sphere, for example Condé Nast with its new Condé Nast Ideactive, but Hearst’s App Lab is the first dedicated permanent space. Incubating efforts in-house is one way to bring innovation to an industry at a crossroads. We wonder if this means acquisitions are on the horizon as well.