Thursday, December 15, 2011

Amazon's own newsstand may lag behind Apple in total numbers, but it beats it in organization

With the Apple Newsstand breaking through the 1,000 level (for iPad, iPhone is at a little under 700), it seemed like a good time to check out the competition at Amazon and at the Android Market.

The Android Market has no "newsstand", but it does have a News & Magazines category, but things remain a mess in that app store. The emphasis is on "Top Paid" and "Top Free", not organizing the apps to ease finding them.

Inside, smartphone and tablet owners have two areas to search: the Kindle Store and the Appstore for Android. Inside the Android store things are pretty wild, with the News & Weather category probably the place to start finding media app – there are 438 of them.

But inside the Kindle store you will find Amazon's own Kindle Newsstand. As of today there are 354 magazines listed. Most are Kindle Editions – generally designed for Amazon's earlier versions of the Kindle, not the newer Kindle Fire.

PEOPLE Magazine comes up first, however, and is an honest to goodness Android app. That's the good news; the bad news is that because it is an Android app – that is, developed for most Android devices, it does not work on the Kindle Fire. That, of course, has some readers more than a little confused – here it is in the Kindle store but it won't work on a Kindle Fire, huh?
Most other magazines are simple Kindle Editions. Amazon, though, does a good job of helping its buyers find the right product by creating subcategories for magazines: Arts & Entertainment, Business & Investing, Internet & Technology, Lifestyle & Culture, News, Politics & Opinion, Regional & Travel, Science, Sports.

If you add up all the magazines in the subcategories you get 474 magazines, why there is a discrepancy I don't know and was too lazy to find out (I assume some magazines are in multiple categories).

There are 159 newspapers to be found in Amazon's Kindle Newsstand, broken out by region. This is a helpful way to quickly find local papers, but it does show Amazon's continued lack of international reach – there are only 26 European papers and 11 Asian. Interestingly, Amazon breaks out the U.K. into a separate category, though those papers can be found inside Europe, as well.

Where is unique is in its Blog category, something that Apple has not provided a solution for, as of yet. There are over 13,000 blogs and news feeds in this category, including one for the NYT (as well as one for this site).

As time has gone on, one can see from the reviews that readers' expectations have increased to the point where simple Kindle Editions are not seen favorably. Few newspapers, for instance, get good marks for their Kindle Editions, but the complaints are usually the lack of graphics or limited content, something that would have been more acceptable a year or two ago.

Many Kindle Fire owners, having recently received their tablets, are dismayed that most magazines and newspapers available for the Kindle Fire are Plain Jane text versions. This will continue to present an issue for publishers: does one create multiple versions for multiple Kindles?

With over 1,000 different publications now inside Apple's Newsstand, the need for tools to help iOS device owners drill down to the right publication becomes more important. Already one can search for some magazines by both Newsstand and its category – for instance, one can find Black Enterprise both under the Business category and inside Newsstand.

If you are on your iPad, and you enter the Newsstand store you will find that there are subcategories just like the store – 21 in total, more than in the Kindle Newsstand.

But if you are in iTunes, the subcategories go away, for some reason. Adding those back in, and also breaking out the newspapers by region, would be a good step in the right direction, I believe.