Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Condé Nast releases a head-scratcher of a tablet edition for 'Details'; do sloppy job launching Teen Vogue app

Is Condé Nast losing interest in its tablet editions inside the Apple's Newsstand? Is the emphasis shifting to Next Issue Media and digital newsstands? The release today of two god-awful new tablet editions certainly has to make you think something is up.

The new iPad edition for Details immediately had me wondering about the fate of the print title – are things really that bad over there? Details Magazine, you see, is an unreadable replica edition of the print magazine, not the hybrid edition I might have expected. Still using the Adobe DPS, the designers released a tablet edition without even the obligatory embedded links on the TOC. One might think that the publishers thinks its average reader of the title is an old man without much tech skills, but I doubt the reps are selling the magazine that way. If ever there was a disconnect between an app and its print readership, this is it. So what's going on?

I immediately did a web search to see if there were rumors of the titles demise, or a possible sale. A story came up about falling ad pages early in 2012, but a look at the year-end 2012 PIB report shows ad pages were flat in 2012.

The new app opens to the store where it offers a free issue, February – it should do a lot to discourage subscriptions. Individual issues sell for $4.99, while monthly subscriptions only cost $1.99 per month, and an annual subscription is priced at $14.99. The publisher needs to pray for impulse sales.

As is typical of Condé Nast books, subscribers to the print edition will be able to log into the app to access issues – this will cut down the number of irate reader reviews.

Things are not much better with the new app released for Teen Vogue. Again, the app is a replica edition without any real effort expended in its creation. In fact, the effort was so sloppy that the screenshots were messed up in the app description, leading to two dead links. One certainly knows when you are on the outs with management (or at least the digital team) when you see this kind of work.

Teen Vogue works better as a replica than does Details, though, because of its specs. I remember the magazine as smaller than usual, something I could not confirm because the magazine's page for the media kit is down (is Condé Nast rebelling against digital media?). Because of this, the fonts appear large enough to read without a magnifying glass, and pinch-to-zoom (what I like to call the 'gesture of last resort') is often unnecessary.

But once again the effort is so weak here that no links were embedded in the digital magazine, not even on the TOC page.

Left: The replica edition for Details is not helped by a lack of embedded links; Middle: two-page ad spreads are broken up into two display pages with a black stripe down the middle when seen in portrait; Right: fonts are reduced in size to the point of being pretty funny. We'll see if readers get the joke.

Condé Nast has had some trouble recently with its iOS tablet editions thanks to Apple releasing iOS 6.1 and the bug that was introduced into Adobe DPS apps. Publishers have had to scramble to update their apps and otherwise good digital editions have been savaged by readers until a new update has been issued. Maybe Condé Nast is mad at Apple and has decided to give up on native tablet editions until Apple and Adobe can fix things? Maybe the publisher is putting their eggs in the Next Issue Media basket and will deemphasize the Apple Newsstand? We'll learn more as new apps and app updates are released this year.

Up until now we have been seeing fairly consistent apps coming out of the big magazine publishers, most often hybrid editions where the print ads are left as seen in print but where the editorial pages are reformatted for more pleasurable and easier reading on a tablet. As bad as these apps look on a regular sized iPad, they will look even worse on an iPad mini. It is most definitely a head-scratcher.