Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Macworld gets own tablet edition inside of Apple's Newsstand; designers takes a mixed approach to design

The magazine for the Mac community, Macworld, has finally made its appearance inside Apple's Newsstand. While one might have thought that this title would have been one of the first to launch a tablet edition, it is nice to see the title in the Newsstand, nonetheless.
The creators at IDG of this new app, formerly called Macworld Digital Magazine, have used the Mag+ platform to create a kind of hybrid digital magazine: a replica edition when one reads the advertising pages, and a native design look for the editorial pages.

This approach allows the publisher to have all the print magazine's display ads appear including the modular ads – those ads that are less than a full page in size. Then the art director can reformat the editorial pages to adjust for font sizes, build scrolling text boxes, and use scrolling to expand the page size and to combine adjoining editorial pages.

The approach works perfectly and creates a tablet magazine that provides a good model of many other books, including B2B magazines that are trying to figure out in what direction to go in.

"Mag+ was the right blend of functionality, ease of use and price point for us to put together a digital edition that we thought worthy of the Macworld name," Thomas Alexander, Product Manager Mobile, IDG Consumer & SMB, wrote me this morning.

"I do know that we collectively decided to layout all of the pages for the iPad format to ensure the best user experience. Pinching and zooming on every page of a PDF replica was a No Go," Alexander wrote.

The only place where the lack of pinch-to-zoom is sorely missed is on the smaller ads and ont he product guide where I found it hard to correctly tap the right product number. But by using Mag+ to reformat the editorial text, the designers have made reading the digital magazine very easy and pleasant (as opposed to the standard replica edition).

One might have expected the digital edition of Macworld to be a bit more, well, techie. The tablet edition here is pretty much what you will see in print. The tablet edition does not take advantage of the iPad's ability to display video or play audio. There is also no animation here either.

On the bright side, the app edition, because it can only be read in portrait and has no large files embedded in it, weighs in at only a bit over 130 MB and is a quick download.

Print subscribers won't be happy to learn that they will have to pay for the new digital edition, and at the same price as print (actually at a higher price since there is a promotional rate for the print magazine currently available on the magazine's website).

The only option to subscribe is a $1.99 monthly subscription, no annual rate is available. But that is still the best option as the single issue rate is $6.99.

Let's hope the editors of Macworld begin to experiment with the tablet format. Any interactive material created for the tablet edition will be useful online, as well. The model here is probably The Verge, which produces beautiful videos, but has no tablet edition. In the old days you might see a publisher like IDG grab up a property like that in order to incorporate their approach into the established title. But the days of aggressive M&A like we saw in the late nineties appears to be over.

I should mention that this is actually the second app baring the Macworld name. The first was Macworld Daily Reader.

That app was not a version of the print magazine and I think the developers got tired of reading reviews that said so. As a result there is a reminder in the app description that if they want a digital version of Macworld they can go to Zinio's newsstand, and now the new iPad edition. That app is both free to download and gives the reader free access to the content as it is essentially reformatting the material found on the website.

Here is the obligatory video walk through of the new app. Sadly, because of the lack of embedded video or audio, I chose to do a voiceover – hopefully it won't be too painful to listen to. Muting might be an option.