Thursday, April 21, 2011

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: newly launched iPad app offers a different take on the replica editions model

Let's be clear, when it comes to 'replica editions' I am not dogmatic. If I were I would dismiss this new newspaper app from the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine out of hand, and that would be a shame in this case.

My biggest issue concerning replica editions is that presumes that a media product that is designed for one medium works automatically on another – with modifications. And that is the key for replica makers, they often deny that their products are 'replicas' because they have embedded links, or text versions of stories, or video, or ...
But a product starts with an exact copy of the print edition, then that is my definition of a replica, even if the end result is something far different than what is found in print – and that is why there are good replica editions, like this one, or really, really bad ones, like those for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group and others produced by the same flipbook vendor.

F.A.Z. Zeitung is the recently released iPad app for the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The app name is a bit strange, if you think about it, because if you were to say the name in full it would be Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Zeitung.

The newspaper is an amazing throw back to the earlier days of newspaper design. The blackletter font that is used for the flag used to be used for headlines, and no photographs were traditionally seen on the front page. The use of photographs have slowly become more common, and the headlines now appear in regular font. But this is a very traditional looking newspaper, so for it to launch a tablet edition you would think it would keep its traditional look.
It is probably for this reason that this new iPad starts with a replica of the print edition. From there things get more interesting. A tap of a story brings up a new page that displays a text version of the story with a new layout. In landscape mode a left hand column appears that lists other stories.

The new story page also contains font size controls and a display brightness control. I love having the display brightness control here. If the app is going to approximate a Kindle edition in styling and be so text oriented, brightness controls are absolutely necessary.

The app also lets you save article and do searches for topics. Social media sharing is not a feature in this very conservative (not in the political sense) app.

So does this work? I think regular readers of the newspaper are probably in a better position to judge than me. I certainly would never recommend starting with a replica of the print edition. But the way this app is built, the replica serves pretty much as a 'table of content' more than the actually reading product. But you can read the replica thanks to pinch to zoom, you just probably wouldn't want to.

(Inside the German App Store the majority of reviewers have been positive but there are also a number one-star reviews that accuse the app of being simply a PDF version of the newspaper. "Das ist lächerlich. Es ist einfach nur ein pdf der Printausgabe, mit irgendwelchen unnützen und auch unverständlichen navigationselementen." Google translation: This is ridiculous. It's just a pdf of the print edition, with some useless and incomprehensible navigation elements.)

F.A.Z. Zeitung is free to download and users get free access to all editions of the newspaper for the first 14 days. After that the cost of each issue is a rather steep 1.59 €.

Keeping to the theme: has released an update to its Kindle app for iOS devices. The update makes the app available for German customers purchasing content from the Kindle Store.

The update also adds a dictionary for German-language books using the Duden Deutsches Universalwörterbuch.