Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hearst updates its iPad app, Esquire Magazine, to attempt to program out bugs; new technology forces launch of a stand-alone archive app for back issues of the magazine

If Hearst didn't have good brands it would be hard to see how they could enjoy much success in Apple's App Store. The company really tests the the loyalty of its readers with digital magazine apps that are buggy and a subscription policy that forces current print readers to double down to access digital. As a result, Hearst apps consistently gets some of the lowest ratings from users of any major publisher.

But those brands, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, Redbook and others continue to popular with readers. I'm sure somewhere at Hearst there is some executive that inherited these titles pretending they have something to do with their success today.

One of those buggy apps, Esquire Magazine, was updated last night to try and fix some of its problems. To be honest with you, I've never encountered too many problems with the apps, but readers have been complaining, and the new update doesn't seem to have solved all their problems.
The digital edition found inside is a hybrid app, one where the print ads are as seen in print, while the editorial is reformatted for the iPad. The approach works for readers, though I'm not so sure it is the right approach for advertisers. Certainly wise agencies and advertisers would want to swap out those print ads for new interactive ads designed specifically for tablets. The problem here, of course, is that many of those agencies that are buying print are not pushing tablet ads. Both advertisers and publishers are hurt by this – and I think readers, as well.

(I should add this, though: there are now two page spreads in the digital edition. That means that the ads were, in fact, swapped out for single page ads, or else all the spreads were deleted. I'd have to have a print copy of the magazine to tell, and since my local newsstand closed down this is currently impossible – another reason to go digital.)

Because Esquire has updated the technology used for its current digital editions, the app, when launched, wipes out any back issues. This certainly couldn't have been very popular with readers, but those back issues can be downloaded within the new app. But Hearst has gone a step further. In addition to the tablet edition found inside the Newsstand, Hearst also recently launched an app to house the magazine's archives: Esquire Archives: Oct 2010 - Oct 2012.

The stand-alone app will current digital subscribers to download the back issues from the time of the first iPad editions, but also allows new readers access, as well.

But back to the new issue, November 2012. I think readers will find the digital issue easy to read and navigate, with page layouts designed specifically for the iPad's display. There is enough audio, video and animation here to satisfy readers craving the bells and whistles, but not so much as be superfluous.