Monday, December 17, 2012

The Canadian Newsstand: small differences and additions make all the difference for both readers and publishers

As angry as American developers may be over the changes Apple have made to the App Store – centered on the loss of a way to search for the newest released apps – Canadian app developers have reasons to feel lucky, especially media app developers.

At first glance, there appears to be virtually no difference between the U.S. and Canadian App Stores. Each has a carousel promotion at the top of the Newsstand as seen in the desktop version of iTunes. Both have a "New and Noteworthy" section that does not, in fact, feature new apps at all, just apps Apple wants to promote.

Yet another area is devoted to either more apps or, in the case of the Canadian App Store, a button that will lead you to an area where Canadian magazines are gathered in one place. In all, 43 magazines can be found in this space, but the order in which the reader sees the titles is determined by Apple as there is no ability to sort the titles by either release date or alphabetically.

Below the buttons comes "What's Hot", yet another area where Apple promotes apps.

Below that is another special area called Magazines en fran├žais. This section contains 29 French language titles, but unlike the section devoted to Canadian magazines, in general, this section can be sorted by Name, Release Date and Featured.

It all seems so random – why can one sort the magazines and newspapers found in one area, but not the other?

Below the area devoted to French language magazines is yet another row of app buttons (as opposed to icons) where again Apple is promoting apps.

Then finally there is the last section: "All Newsstand Apps" – the section that has been eliminated from the U.S. App Store.
In all, Canadian publishers can see seven different places where a reader could find their titles. There is also, of course, the Top Paid Apps, Top Free Apps and Top Grossing lists of apps that can be found along the right side of the store. That makes ten places.

In the U.S. store, there is a Happy Holidays section as well as a 2012 in Review section, but one row of buttons is missing, and most importantly of all, the "All Newsstand Apps" is gone.

What is shocking about the U.S. design – again, as seen in the desktop version of the iTunes App Store – is the enormous amount of wasted space. In fact, more than 50 percent of the available space Apple has to promote or list apps is left unused. Said another way, the redesigned Apple App Store is white space.

To make matters worse, using Apple's own system for sorting, if one were to use the subcategories to find apps, then pressed "New" one would find that the apps that come up can be sorted by either name or featured, but not date. In other words, "New" has lost all meaning.

For now, at least, Canadian publishers still have a way their new apps can be found by a shopper browsing to find something new to read. In the U.S. store, new apps are lost somewhere in the system. Let's hope that Apple chooses to fix the U.S. store so that it looks more like what Canadians see when they are in their own App Store.