Thursday, November 4, 2010

A nice start for self-published Touch Gaming magazine; newspaper app update points to iPad storage issues

I could see it coming a mile away: the launch of the iPad would encourage self-publishers to take advantage of the new tablet and iTunes App Store the way garage bands take advantage of iTunes music downloads.
The very first self-published magazine created for the iPad that I looked at here was a modest little effort called Letter to Jane which came out in early May. But this photo magazine appears to have been a dead end as Issue number two never has appeared in iTunes.

On Monday another self-published title was launched in the iTunes App Store and it will be interesting to see if the publisher can keep this one going.

Touch Gaming Magazine is a paid app (only 99 cents) that is sharply focused on gaming apps for Apple iOS devices. Edited by Patrick Rijnders, who has worked in the publishing business in the Netherlands for about 15 years. Based on his Linkedin profile, I believe he has been editing and translating for a Dutch publishers these past seven years before striking out on his own to create this first iPad magazine. (His website for the magazine is here.)
Alfred Rijnders is listed as the app programmer, so this is definitely a small publishing effort, but I think however modest this app may appear there is no doubting that it works and can be duplicated.

The app contains no special animation or embedded video. Instead, Touch Gaming is simply a collection of interviews and app reviews. The typography leaves a bit to be desired, but so what. The app simply works, which is more than can be said for some other efforts (compare this one to the app for Ars Technica from Condé Nast).
This app utilizes pinch to zoom, swiping and pull down menus to create a good user experience. And instead of embedding video, this one uses a menu option that takes you outside the app to visit the game developer's website or YouTube demo video. Taking you outside the app to see video is not a great solution but it works for now. Once Apple updates the iPad's OS later this month to bring multitasking to the tablet, developers will be able to come up with better solutions that this one.

I should also add that layouts are in both portrait and landscape. Additionally, the app weighs in at 17.1MB due to not having embedded video -- another good reason to have the video housed outside of the app.

Well done.

Two weeks ago I wrote about the launch of an iPad app for The Oklahoman, a pretty good first effort from the newspaper that was created along the lines of the New York Times and Financial Times model.

Yesterday the paper updated its iPad app and I found it interesting what the description in iTunes had to say:
Edition updates: If we publish an update to an edition, a refresh button next to that edition will allow you to download it again
> * Warns you if you don't have enough space on your device to download an edition
> * Fixed a bug where the app would try to download multiple editions simultaneously
> * Improved graphics
> * Various performance improvements and bug fixes
The fixing of bugs in an update is pretty normal, but the other enhancements grabbed my attention -- especially the part about warning the user about space.

This "space" issue is becoming more important as time goes on. When I ordered my own iPad back in March I decided to spend $100 more and buy the 32 gig model thinking that I might need the extra 16 gigs for movies and games. It turns out that I needed the space for books, magazines and newspaper. Who would have guessed?

The huge size of iPad publications is not only causing users to run out of storage (and therefore in need of a storage warning) but is also causing distress whenever users plug their iPads into their computers. iTunes automatically opens and begins to back-up the iPad when plugged into a computer. The more new publications you've downloaded the slower the back-up. A lot of iPad owners have thought there was something wrong with their tablets until told that subscribing to newspapers and magazines will slow down their back-ups.

Ultimately, this may be the factor that forces publishers to avoid creating these massive editions. To avoid this, publishers may decide to keep video content off their apps, and on their own servers. Not a great solution if you want readers to have full access to content when offline, however.