Saturday, March 9, 2013

Arment updates 'The Magazine' app: stripped down design masks a native app interior

The often lauded, occasionally criticized tablet magazine from developer Marco Arment, The Magazine, has been updated. The app update adds a new "Write Letter to Editor" feature in the actions menu.

This app has gotten a lot of attention because some in the tech community have pointed to it as "the future of magazines." While some magazine pros have told me that they really don't like the very idea of the digital magazine, some claiming that it is not really magazine-like, and feels more like a website or blog.

But my answer has always been the same: just watch, over time the app will add new features and the digital magazine itself will slowly evolve as Arment begins to play with the platform. Each update seems to confirm this.

But all this talk really hides one simple fact: by building a digital magazine using a native app solution, rather than creating a replica of a print magazine, Arment's digital magazine has the same genes as the digital edition of Wired or any other digital magazine that had "all the bells and whistles." If Arment wants to go in another direction he certainly can, by building The Magazine the way he has he has increased his options, even while appearing to trim them back.

The lesson of The Magazine is not that some digital magazines have gone too far with superfluous animation and the like (they have, and many readers have said so), or that readers want a more text heavy, lightly designed digital magazine (read the reviews inside the App Store, they are not universally positive). The lesson is that by building a digital edition using a digital publishing solution that gives you options, rather than a single-option solution based on a PDF or other image file, a publisher gives themselves options.