Thursday, September 1, 2011

The New Republic launches its first tablet edition, a hybrid app that combines the print magazine with a news app

It's September 1st, a couple of days before the Labor Day holiday – not necessarily a good time to launch a new magazine app if you want to get people's attention, but maybe a good time to launch if you want to introduce an app and have time to work out its bugs.
Today The New Republic launched its first iPad app – it has an iPhone app that a few users have described as buggy. This app, too, has a major issue with it, but we'll get to that in a second.

The app takes a hybrid approach: it is a tablet news app, combined with access to the print magazine issues. I think this is an excellent approach for a lot of magazines, especially those media outlets that have bloggers, lots of news, politics, etc.

The app itself, The New Republic for iPad, is free to download and currently gives readers access to the content for 14 days. After that the publisher is offering monthly subscriptions for $3.99 per month, or an annual subscription for $39.99 per year. Current subscribers can also log into their accounts to gain access.
To be fair to this app, which really does look good, I will want to return to it after the Labor Day holiday. The reason for this is that the app's news app approach looks interesting, but the magazine part is a problem.

One accesses the magazines through the navigation located on the bottom-left of the app. That pulls up options for different section which include Politics & World, Books & Arts, Blogs, Slideshows & Video, Magazine, and Editor's Choice.

The problem is that the first magazine listed simply can't be downloaded. I think the issue is that it doesn't actually exist on their servers right now so it gives you a spinning wheel that simply never results in an actual issue.

But if you go on to older issues you see what The New Republic's approach is going to be. This app doesn't present the reader with a replica edition (yeah) but instead goes for a more eReader approach with adjustable fonts in lieu of pinch-to-zoom. Unfortunately, pressing the A+ button to increase the font size resulted in a blank screen. I then went back and tried a different story and found that the font size had changed. Pressing the button again, however, again resulted in a blank screen.

Unfortunately, that means the developer will need to be working this weekend to start fixing the bugs in this app. That developer is, the Paul Murphy led company.

As I wrote above, this app takes a nice approach and when the bugs are worked out, may end up being an excellent app. My first look was rather cursory, but I encountered enough problems that one hopes an update comes very quickly.

Last thought: this is another of those ad-free apps that will have to rely on enough reader enthusiasm to make it successful in any sort of business sense, so publishers who have ad-dependent publications won't find any new ideas here about how to incorporate advertising into their natively designed tablet publications.