Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Global Golf Post launches a replica edition, not of a print magazine but of an online one, but issues are the same

It would be totally unfair to point at print publishers as the only media folk out there that have a difficult time adapting to some of the new digital platforms. In fact, my biggest arguments have often been not with print media executives that think launching tablet or mobile editions are a waste of their time, but with online publishers and their advocates who sometime act as if thinking about any digital platform other than the web is like cheating on their wives. 'Digital First,' after all, isn't really digital first, its web-only.

I guess brings us to this new tablet edition from online magazine Global Golf Post. The online publication is built around its online flipbook – a digital-only product made to replicate the look and feel of print, but with embedded multimedia.

The problem with flipbooks is that readers hate them, or at least that is what they tell researchers who study these things. Of all the platforms out there – print, online, tablets, eReaders, mobile – reading an online publication in flipbook format comes in last (and, yes, print is still the most preferred, though tablets and eReaders are catching up).

So why built a flipbook? Well, they don't cost a fortune, and every Tom, Dick and Harry is out there selling 'em. Global Golf Post's flipbook is probably a little better than some, at least on a big monitor, though I don't know how one would be able to read it. On the iPad it is pretty much the same: OK, but things are a bit small.

Now comes the iPad app, Global Golf Post, and it is exactly the same as the online flipbook, with nothing altered other than some of the navigation tools. In other words, the same small type is still small. Even the pages are not quite sized right, being just a tad too short.

How does this happen? Why would a supposedly digitally savvy company launch such a bad tablet edition? I think it is caused by the first question asked. If that question is "how do we get our publication onto the iPad?" the trouble will inevitably begin. If, instead, the question "what kind of publication do we launch for the iPad?" the answer inevitably is "one designed for the iPad."

There are more problems for this new tablet edition other than its design: on my "new iPad" the performance is horribly sticky. It is a good lesson to learn: keep those old iPads around the office and test your new apps on those before launching your app. There are now four generations of iPads, five if you count the mini, so you know not everyone is using the latest tablet.

Another issue is the app icon as seen in the Newsstand. Until an issue launches it looks funky. But the icon changes to the cover of the latest issue once that issue is downloaded. The cover is in landscape, something that doesn't look quite right for a magazine in the Newsstand, but is not atypical of landscape designed digital magazines.

The good news is that the app and its magazine inside are free of charge – so I wouldn't expect readers to express you many complaints.