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NPR and Wall Street Journal Preparing to Launch iPad-Optimized Sites

MediaMemo reports that National Public Radio and The Wall Street Journal are preparing to roll out iPad-optimized versions of their websites as the device launches in the U.S. on April 3rd. Similar to sites formatted specifically for the iPhone or other mobile devices, users visiting the publications' sites using an iPad will be automatically redirected to the iPad-optimized version.

While the iPhone and other mobile devices with small screens relative to traditional computers can benefit from streamlined and reformatted versions of many sites' content, Apple intends for the iPad's larger display to be used for a much richer browsing experience. The iPad's lack of support for Adobe's Flash technology, however, means that many sites will not display as they would on a traditional computer supporting Flash. Consequently, publications such as NPR and The Wall Street Journal have turned to Flash-free versions of their sites to varying degrees.

So if all goes as planned, iPad users who want to listen to NPR programming will have a couple choices next month. They can:

- Download a free iPad-optimized version of the broadcaster's popular (two million downloads) iPhone app. Or
- Use the iPad's browser to visit NPR.org, which will detect that it's being viewed with Apple's device and serve up a custom-built site. This means no trace of Adobe's (ADBE) Flash, which is used to power graphics and media on the site.

I've heard about a handful of other big publishers who are altering some but not all of their Web sites to create iPad-optimized versions.

That's what The Wall Street Journal - like this Web site, the Journal is owned by News Corp. (NWS) - is doing, for instance: Visitors to the newspaper's front page will see an iPad-specific, Flash-free page. But those who click deeper into the site will eventually find pages that haven't been converted.

According to Kinsey Wilson, NPR's head of digital media, the publication recently rebuilt its entire site to separate content from design, allowing it to easily tweak the visual presentation for certain platforms. Another aspect in NPR's favor is its limited advertising, reducing the hurdles imposed by the need to work with that Flash-dependent industry.

So while developing Flash-free versions of websites may be reasonable for certain publications with the structure and resources to accomplish the feat, it is by no means an easy solution for the many sites out there currently relying on Flash to display their standard Web content. During a visit to New York City to promote the iPad to publishers, Apple CEO Steve Jobs reportedly argued against the need for Flash, pushing publications toward adoption of other technologies such as H.264 video and JavaScript that are more iPad-friendly.