Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lagardère Active Digital dumps 15 replica editions into the App Store; universal apps show distain for the platform

The French publishing giant Lagardère Group, or rather one of their publishing arms Lagardère Active, has launched 15 new magazine apps into the App Store and straight into the Newsstand.
Lagardère Group is the giant of French publishing, its foundation going back almost two centuries to the bookstore business bought by Louis Hachette. Lagardère Active is a huge player in magazine publishing, as well as radio and television broadcasting. All of the new apps appear under the Lagardère Active Digital name in the App Store.

One can see why these apps were dumped into the App Store all at the same time: each app is universal and represents an unimaginative take on tablet publishing – a true, this is coming from an old media company approach.

The fact that these apps are universal is the first sign that bad things are coming. Universal apps are great if you are Netflix or a broadcaster, but a magazine company that releases a universal app is basically saying they are killing two birds with one stone.

It is really hard to look at apps such as these and say much good about the future of the industry. Maybe because I found them after crawling out of bed this morning, but the sight of these made me want to crawl right back into the bed and cover my head with my pillow.

Although I would not encourage you to subscribe to these tablet or mobile editions, here are the titles: Le Journal de la Maison, France DIMANCHE Mag, Parents Mag, ICI PARIS Mag, Maison & Travaux Mag, Psychologies Mag, Campaigne Décoration Mag, Infobébés Mag, Première Mag, ELLE Décoration Mag, ELLE à table Mag, Mon Jardin Ma Maison Mag, Le Journal de Mickey Mag, Télé 7 Jours Mag and Art & Decoration. You have to be pretty impressed that I typed in all those titles and embedded the links, right?

Left: a typical problem faced by replicas, reading in landscape, with the two pages shrunk, spread across the display; Right: these apps may have just been released, by they don't appear to be taking into account the new iPad's higher resolution display (you'll need to click the photo to see what I mean).

In case you didn't notice, magazine apps like these really annoy me, especially when they come from a major publisher. The reason is simple: imagine that you were hiring for a magazine editor and you asked the question "do you like magazines?" and their answer was "no" – would you hire that person? Whoever approved these apps hates tablets, so what's the point?

Hey, old white guys (see the Lagardère corporate management team here), leave the mobile and tablet platforms to those who actually like this stuff, OK?

Interestingly, another app that has been in the App Store for a while was updated today. PARIS MATCH is a natively designed app that specifically was designed for the iPad alone for the French weekly of the same name. Today's update moves the magazine into Newsstand.

The app has gotten mixed reviews inside the US App Store for a lack of issues appearing (the app description mentions that the app is a "preview). Weeklies present publishers a problem if they have not staffed up to create the tablet editions. It is odd that Lagardère Active would have attempted a native designed tablet edition for a weekly but not for a monthly. But the feedback inside the French App Store should have given the publisher some encouragement. Although there are a lot of negative comments and ratings, they all concern the slow download times (they remain slow on the new apps, as well). But otherwise readers were very impressed.

Maybe there is a bright side here: Lagardère Active clearly needs a new digital team, maybe there will be a major hiring initiative. Care to move to Paris?