Creative Review iPad app

I’ve noted my disappointment in magazines on the iPad before, so I was interested to read how Creative Review have approached their move to the iPad. Quick disclosure: while I’ve used the CR website, and did have a subscription to their print magazine, I haven’t actually used their app.

In a detailed blog post to launch the app, CR explain that they’ve decided not to publish a digital version of the magazine. Their research found the vast majority of their print subscribers wanted to read the magazine in print and not on screen.

Instead they’ve decided to provide content “that exploits the iPad’s strengths” which is hi-res images and video along with in-depth features. Although you pay by the month they are updating the content regularly. This means it fits nicely between their monthly magazine and their website with latest news and discussion.

The blog post deals frankly with their decision to charge a standalone price/subscription and not bundle it with the print subscription. In short they blame Apple’s pricing rules and cost of the additional development it would take.

Throughout my year subscribing to the print magazine they promised the iPad app was about to launch. The reason it took so long is also explained in the blog post. Basically Apple kept changing their rules. Ultimately CR made some decisions because they couldn’t risk Apple changing their policy.

The Guardian on iPad decided to reproduce their daily paper after giving a lot of thought to what would be most useful to their readers. Here CR have done the same kind of thinking. It shouldn’t just be a case of take what you do now and put it on to the iPad. It is about what the iPad brings to what you do.

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Google Currents

Shortlist magazine give up half a page of this week’s issue to their “new tablet edition” which is available across iOS and Android. But they haven’t produced apps, they’ve partnered with Google Currents.

Google Currents has been available in America for a while and is part of a glut of apps which let you read content from multiple sources. Flipboard is probably the most successful example and I noted AOL’s Editions a while back.

I’m pleasantly surprised by Google Currents. There are a lot of similarities to Flipboard but a few ways in which it is better. Within a feed/publication there are content sections. This means you can subscribe to The Guardian and then chose which sections you want to read. It also lets you subscribe to rss feeds so you can add anything (unlike Flipboard’s walled garden).

Most useful for me is saving content for offline reading. I use Byline to save content from Google Reader when I have a long tube commute ahead. It is OK but lacks the nice UX you get in Currents.

Google Reader is one of the last surviving RSS readers and the whole concept of subscribing to RSS feeds never reached the mainstream audience. I’m sure Google would happily kill Google Reader if there was somewhere else it could send its users. Some people say Twitter (or maybe Google+) is the replacement for RSS readers. I’m thinking it is something like Google Currents.

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V&A and ASOS using Mag+

A few brands are producing iPad apps that are versions of their promotional magazines.  They use the Mag+ publishing platform and the result is a bit mixed.

Mag+ is OK as a platform. The big problem is getting started. You have to download an issue before you can see anything and, sadly, this process isn’t very intuitive. The result is a splash page with big arrows pointing to the button at the top you need to press to get going.

This is the source of the fundamental problem with the V&A’s app. It is called V&A Calendar so when you open it you expect to get a custom app with a calendar which you can explore. But what you get is a digital magazine which you swipe horizontally and vertically to move around. I quickly found myself on a page showing all the days of a month and tried to click on a date but nothing happened as this was just a magazine page. All very confusing.

ASOS have two Mag+ apps. By simply calling them ‘ASOS Magazine’ and ‘ASOS Men’s Magazine’ they’ve avoided the V&A’s problems. So, when I downloaded the Men’s Mag I knew what to expect. And therefore I enjoyed what I got (especially as it said a few of the things I wear are on-trend for this year).

The V&A problem can be easily fixed with correct labelling. They should also remember if you have to start with a help screen, explaining how to navigate an app, there’s something wrong with your navigation.