Monday, October 11, 2010

American Express Publishing releases first iPad app for Food & Wine; users complain about download speeds

Those who have been able to get it to download seem to love the new iPad edition of American Express Publishing's Food & Wine. The problem is getting it to download.
The huge file, creating using tools from WoodWing, has iPad owners pretty split on this new magazine app. While there are quite a number of positive reviews in iTunes, over 70 percent of reviewers give the app only one star -- the minimum number possible -- thanks to the incredibly long time it takes readers to access the issue (about 20 minutes).

The good news is that you can make yourself lunch while waiting for the app to download. The bad news is that readers might miss their flight trying to download this monster while at the airport.

← Following the cover page is a scrolling page
that explains the features of the tablet edition.

I won't talk about this new app as a magazine -- there is an excellent review of the app by Chicago Tribune writer Steve Cavendish here -- but will instead talk about the philosophy of the app and some of the decisions the publishing team made.

First, of course, is the choice to offer this first app as a single-sponsor tablet edition. This is becoming common as magazines that are used to having set ratebases are put in the position of figuring out how to monetize an initial tablet edition. This issue was solely sponsored by Canadian Tourism Commission.

This initial app is free of charge, but Dana Cowin, editor of Food & Wine states that subsequent apps will cost the reader $3.99 -- which is a 20 percent discount from the print cover price.

But the tablet edition is not a straight conversion of a print edition. In fact, the cover used for this states that this is "Issue 1, 2010". That should tell you the attitude that went into creating this app.

"I didn't want a PDF version with essentially a couple of extra pictures," Cowin is quoted by the Tribune as stating.

Left: the magazine beautifully takes advantage of the iPads display; Middle: embedded video is used throughout the tablet edition; Right: a video, which also can be viewed full screen in landscape mode.

The app when downloaded in iTunes is only a shell, weighing in at about 2 MB. But the fully downloaded edition is huge, with tons of pictures, video, layers account for the size. But since the user does not know the size of the download users are expressing frustration with the slowness of the issue download. My guess is that this version of Food & Wine must be absolutely enormous.

But this tablet edition has a lot of content to consume and this brings me to a question I've had in my mind for a while: since building a really good tablet magazine is a lot of work, can a publisher really commit to producing something this intense on a monthly basis? Well, Food & Wine may be providing an answer by committing to about six issues a year, rather than a tight monthly publishing schedule -- and I definitely applaud this.

I may circle back to this app in another post as there is a lot to see here. Suffice it to say that this is a superior effort which those iPad owners who have the patience enough to complete the issue download will be enjoying for weeks to come.

The WoodWing site lists Aysling Digital Media Solutions is the publishing partner for Food & Wine. Aysling is a company based in Ann Arbor, Michigan and was formerly WoodWing Solutions. Patrick Becker is President and Director of Sales at Aysling and the company has business development team members for newspaper, magazine and book publishing clients.

Becker wrote a comment on another site which I found very interesting:
This is an exciting time for publishers and the media / entertainment industry. In Q1 2010 the forecast for our industry was only slightly better than 2009, and we all remember 2009!

The release of the iPad and WoodWing's production system changed everything. These tools can get a traditional publisher to any “tablet” for under $40K or they can outsource production for under $10K per issue.

I can't wait to see what's next.