Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Engadget's own tablet-only magazine, Distro, hits Apple's App Store; iPad app brings in articles from the website

Web-only media properties produce a lot of content – some sort form, but occasionally long form, as well. Not surprisingly, some web publishers (like TNM) have considered launching tablet editions that feature their best online material, packaged like a magazine, but strictly digital.
Today Endgadget's magazine app, Distro, hit the App Store. The free app creates a library where the reader can download individual issues – also free. Right now the library contains five issues that can be downloaded.

The latest issue of Distro (it is strange calling it that since the app has just launched) features Steve Jobs on the "cover", which really should now be called the splash page to be consistent with app terminology.

This is a very simply app, Engadget is not going nuts with the platform. But I also think this is really, really well done (for what it is trying to accomplish).

The app only offers portrait mode, which is a bit surprising since this had the backing of AOL. But for other web properties this is a logical decision to make to save time and reduce the file sizes (the issue download very quickly).

But even though Distro uses portrait it is not based off the traditional magazine size, it was designed using the tablet template. Because of this Distro is much easier to read than replica editions where pinch-to-zoom needs to be used.

The navigation uses the same principals proposed by that almost two year old video by Bonnier for its Mag+ concept. As an example, readers swipe to go to the next article, but scroll down to reach the next page within the article.

One thing that is shockingly missing is a subscription mechanism. By adding this, and pricing the issues at zero, Distro would be able to be in Newsstand. Maybe they plan a quick update, we'll see soon.

Left: the article layouts are simple in design, but easy to read and navigate; Middle: the in-app library; Right: An honest to goodness ad! Yeah!

Update: I guess someone gave Engadget some bad information because Engadget is just wrote on its website about Distro's absence from Newsstand:
If you're wondering why Distro is not in Newsstand, during development we were told that you can't include free downloads in there, and we definitely want this to be free! It seems like that may be changing, so we'll look to add support there when we can.
Well, if the folks at Engadget had been reading TNM they would have known better. Oh well.