Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hearst Magazines releases a strange and poorly conceived tablet edition for its title Marie Claire, native app is a replica edition with the occasionally reformatted page

It's hard to figure out what the digital publishing strategy Hearst Magazines is employing with the release of the new tablet edition for Marie Claire. The new app delivers a large file for its October issue, but upon opening delivers what looks like a replica edition, but really isn't.
Hearst has a bit of a problem in the App Store with this title anyways. Prior to the release of Marie Claire iPad Edition, there were already several apps with the brand name Marie Claire already in the App Store, as well as inside the Apple Newsstand.

The Marie Claire name alone is currently being taken by the India edition of the magazine, while another magazine app is named Marie Claire Magazine North America. That app is purely a replica edition, priced at $7.99 per issue and, as you'd expect, is not making readers very happy. Even stranger, the app, despite its name, comes from the UK publisher of the magazine (IPC Media).

This app probably won't make them happy either.

The app, like all Hearst Magazine apps, requires readers pay for a digital subscription even if they are existing print subscribers. It is the main reason Hearst magazine apps receive such poor reviews inside the App Store.

(Disclosure: I am a former Hearst employee, though with the newspaper division, not Hearst Magazines.)
Here, at least, the prices are more reasonable: $3.99 for single copies, $1.99 for a monthly subscription, $19.99 for an annual subscription.

What one gets for those prices is the odd part: a strangely designed and conceived digital magazine that is 90 percent replica edition with some random pages reformatted for the tablet.

Many of the digital pages continue to have their bottom page folios still on them showing that the pages were straight conversions from print, while others have them taken off and text boxes added to the page. But the surrounding copy generally remains sized for print – in other words, barely readable.

The advertising, too, is replica. Since the app edition must be read in portrait, page upon page of two-page ad spreads pass by. Only in these cases is there a compromise as the reader is given the option to turn to landscape to see the full two-page spread.

But because the ads are taken straight from print, one can assume that the new tablet edition is not generating any new ad revenue. Combined with its subscription policies, Hearst is one strike away from being out.

Hearst Magazines is in desperate need of a new direction with its digital media strategy. These tablet editions are not cutting it and make the old NYC media company look like... an old NYC media company.

Left: The October issue is a large and very slow download; Middle: some pages are somewhat reformatted for the iPad edition, but most are not; Right: photography look fantastic on the new iPad, though two-pages ad spreads make little sense unless the tablet is turned to landscape, then they are unreadable.