Wednesday, September 14, 2011

German news weekly Die Zeit releases new tablet edition for the iPad; native design proves to be reader friendly

In my previous post I mentioned the joy of looking at foreign language media apps because the language barrier often makes it easier to look strictly at design and navigation, rather than the content itself.
A good example of this is the excellent new iPad app for the German news weekly DIE ZEIT (U.S. App Store link). Die Zeit is one of Germany's leading weeklies, with a circulation of 488,036. Established just after the war, the paper is considered pretty centrist, though my German is such that it could be talking about Lady Gaga for all I would know.

But the app is simple, and simple here really works. The free app opens to the library where readers can download their issues. Being a brand new app, the publisher is offering the first issue for free, so curious publishers should check this out.

After that, however, the cost for accessing Die Zeit issues will not be cheap: 3,99 € per issue, or a subscription for 44,99 € for three months, 79.99€ for six months or 149,99 € for a year.

Today there are only two issues available, which is to be expected, this week's issue and last week's. If there is a serious criticism of the app I could make it would definitely be download times. This is one of those 'click download and walk away' type apps. No question, the downloads need to be speeded up.

But what the reader gets is not just a replica edition, this one was designed for readability with both portrait and landscape modes. The emphasis here is on text, not bells and whistles, and I find that a good model for any publication that is as deadly serious as this one. That is not to say that the app doesn't contain multimedia – it does – but it is not the center of attention here.

DIE ZEIT is one of those applications that makes you wish that Apple's iOS had a good built-in translation mechanism. In fact, here is where Google's Android platform could really differentiate itself from Apple. Any translation mechanism would have to be built right into the the OS, rather than as a separate application. This is why I continue to use Chrome, though Safari is always also open on my desktop. (I have two displays, which also helps with posting.)

DIE ZEIT is the fourth iPad app from this publisher. ZEIT Online plus is a universal app designed to present its website natively for the iPad and iPhone. Then there is ZEITmagazin Quiz and ZEIT Sudoku HD, obviously experiments with the platform.

Although this app was just released and I could not find any user reviews inside any of the App Stores, German users have given this app mostly five stars so far. Any complaints will probably center on the slow download times, and the sluggish performance of the app that readers might experience on an original iPad, versus the iPad 2.

Left: the internal newsstand; Right: an ad for BMW in landscape.