Friday, June 1, 2012

Lowe's uses a replica edition maker to create its tablet edition with less than impressive results

I certainly hope this isn't the last post of the week, as it would be a drag to end the week on such a down note. Let's hope something positive pops up to write about before the day ends!

The home and garden retailer Lowe's has launched a tablet edition of one of its branded magazines usually available only at store locations. The concept of using Apple's Newsstand as a way to expand the reach of these custom publishing projects is a great marketing concept – even if the end result seen here is probably a bad idea.
Lowe's Creative Ideas Magazine is a free app that will grant Lowe's retail customers gain free access to the issues inside. So far, so good.

But rather than building a native application that would allow for shoppers to gain more information on the products and services seen inside, Lowe's has taken the unfortunate route of working through a replica maker, in this case PixelMags, to create a somewhat enhanced digital version of the print edition. It doesn't work well.

For one thing, PixelMags makes bad apps. Sorry, they just do. This digital edition offers stuttering navigation, slow downloads and bugs.

But the real problem here is that the solution is just plain wrong. Every time the retailer wants to link to more product information one is taken outside the app to the website. The mechanism is not too awful in that one can easily close the window, but since the website was not designed for the iPad it simply is mixing two mediums – print and web – that were not designed for the tablet.

Replica makers are working very hard to hide the fact that their digital publishing solution is based on print. Digital editions can include hot links, embedded video and animation, and the like. But the foundation is print. The fact that some publishers still don't get the absurdity of the solution is only a reminder that so few print publisher get digital.

If the replica solution were moved to television imagine what would be on your screen: tiny text displayed on your flatscreen with the occasional audio or video. It would be seen as crazy. But for some reason, this is an acceptable solution for the tablet.

Left: the library pages where readers can download their issues for free; Middle: a page that appears to have an embedded video – I could not at first get it to work, but eventually it took me to YouTube; Right: a replica print page with links that take you out of the app to the Lowe's website.