6 steps to an awesome magazine iPad app

March 8, 2011

I had the pleasure this weekend of playing with National Geographic’s iPad app 50 Greatest Photographs (link goes to iTunes). Like the title suggests, the magazine team chose its 50 favourite photos and built an app around the concept, including behind-the-scenes stories and videos and a reader-driven “Your Shot” daily photo update. It’s engaging, on-brand and uses the platform well – exactly what a magazine iPad app should be. Granted, my first thought upon viewing it was to think wistfully of their budget and resources. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from what they’ve done. Here are a few things we can take away from this app success story.

1. Think beyond the page
The iPad platform isn’t just for digital editions. What can you do that moves beyond a replica of the magazine toward an interactive brand experience?

2. Focus
Don’t try to do everything in one app. It’s okay to focus on a single product that will serve readers well without being overly complex. It’s better to do one thing well than a lot of things badly.

3. The best things in life aren’t free
National Geographic’s app is high quality – and the magazine, as far as I know, has never been one to underprice itself. And they’re charging $4.99 for this app, which also contains a couple of ads from Canon. The lesson? If you think your app is high value, don’t be afraid to charge for it.

4. Use your archives
Remember that classic NG shot from 1984 of the Afghan refugee girl staring into the camera? It’s in here – after all, how could they leave it out? Just because it’s almost 30 years old doesn’t mean the story won’t still resonate with readers, especially younger readers who may not have seen it the first time around.

5. Do what you do best
Every magazine has a core competency that sets it apart, even if it’s not all it does. National Geographic has taken its strength in photography and run with it online in multiple ways. What does your magazine do well that could be extended to the iPad?

6. Involve your readers
One common complaint about iPad apps is that they’re siloed from the Internet. Not only has National Geographic built sharing capabilities into this app, but it includes a reader photo gallery (which, true to multiplatform publishing, is also used both on the website and in the magazine). Don’t miss any opportunity to let your readers engage with your brand and share content with their friends. Doing so builds a more engaged audience and also a bigger one.

Have you tried this app? What do you think? What other great things are magazines doing on the iPad?


One Response to “6 steps to an awesome magazine iPad app”

  1. Suzie Gardner Says:

    Haven’t tried this app yet, but I definitely will. I really like the idea of magazine apps that aren’t just digital editions of their magazine, and it’s something I’ve actually been mulling about myself for the magazine I work at (http://www.appliedartsmag.com/). Another example of a great mag app that isn’t simply a digital edition is Entertainment Weekly’s Must List app: http://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/id378367868?mt=8

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