Posts Tagged ‘New Yorker’

On creating a great iPad reading experience

August 1, 2011

From an article from the New York Times:

The New Yorker, a magazine that has always been heavy on text, took a different tack from its peers. Instead of loading its iPad app with interactive features, the magazine focused on presenting its articles in a clean, readable format.

“That was really important to us: to create an app all about reading,” said Pamela Maffei McCarthy, the magazine’s deputy editor. “There are some bells and whistles, but we’re very careful about that. We think about whether or not they add any value. And if they don’t, out the window they go.”

When good journalism isn’t enough

January 10, 2011

I’ve been meaning to write a post about the iPad for ages, and about my reading experience with various publications and apps. Khoi Vinh (former design director of beat me to it months ago with a great piece on his “iPad Magazine Stand”.

Vinh’s overall verdict on the majority of magazine apps?

They’re bloated, user-unfriendly and map to a tired pattern of mass media brands trying vainly to establish beachheads on new platforms without really understanding the platforms at all.

His point—which I fully agree with—is that publishers have been trying to hard to recreate the print experience, but with high! tech! extras! that are really gimmicks, without making use of the platform’s… comparative advantage isn’t quite the right term, but it’s close. I’m a bit of a Luddite, for a web person, and while making things because they’re cool is a fun experiment, for most publishers, it’s a waste of resources. In fact, I have two rules on content and technology (in addition to the biggest rule, which is “don’t annoy your readers”):

1. Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean you should do it.
2. If the interface needs instructions, it’s bad user experience.

Vinh writes of the New Yorker app that while the journalism is superb (it always is), the reading experience is terrible, from the interface to the price to the gigantic file size. (This is my problem with the Zinio iPad newsstand, too—I love having all of my magazines in one place, but do the files have to be so huge that I have to wait for them to download before I can read?)

And Matthew Ingram makes a number of great points about the Esquire app in an article on GigaOM:

…the biggest flaw for me is the total lack of acknowledgment that the device this content appears on is part of the Internet, and therefore it is possible to connect the content to other places with more information about a topic, or related material of any kind, let alone any kind of social features that allow readers to share the content with their friends.

Which brings me to another rule Canadian publishers should be careful to follow: just because the Americans are doing it, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. They’re experimenting, too, and with bigger budgets than we’ll ever have. Don’t throw money you don’t have at something that’s unproven.

On a positive note, there are some publishers doing cool things on the iPad. Flipboard is one, of course. And, Vinh notes:

…what publishers should really be focusing on is clever, nimble, entertaining apps like EW’s Must List or Gourmet Live. Neither of those are perfect, but both actively understand that they must translate their print editions into a utilitarian complement to their users’ content consumption habits.

The pros and cons of digital editions

November 9, 2008

Canadian Magazines recently posted the news that the New Yorker is launching a digital edition, available to subscribers (print or digital-only) first thing Monday morning, when the issue comes off the press and before it arrives in most people’s mailboxes. (If you’re interested, you can register for a free preview.)

And this raises the question yet again: why have a digital edition? By digital edition here I mean a “virtual” magazine: the full magazine in digital form, typically complete with ads and even pages that turn, which I assume is what the New Yorker is featuring (I’m not a subscriber so can’t view an example).

I’ve never been a fan of digital editions, but I know some people are, so I thought I’d flesh out some of their pros and cons as opposed to integrating content into your site as a whole. Let me know your thoughts as well, and if your magazine has offered a digital edition, please share your experience.

The pros:
• Full artistic control, including quality full-size images (especially important for some kinds of magazine)
• Full print-style ads (ad sales people, tell me: would advertisers care as much about a digital edition-only subscriber as they would a print subscriber?)
• Control of distribution and easy paid distribution
• Can be quite easy to make and cost-effective
• Eco-friendly

The cons:
• Annoying to read (in my opinion, at least)
• Not indexed for search or linkable; not cross-linked to older/newer content
• Can be hard to read; requires zooming in and out
• May add layer of confusion for readers
• Short shelf life

The bottom line? If it’s part of your business plan and you think your readers will respond, go ahead and produce a digital edition. But remember, it’s a different version of your print product – it’s no substitute for a well-designed and well-executed magazine website.

Online content strategies from south of the border

July 31, 2008

From the New York Review of Magazines, “How to Tame the Wild Web” discusses the strategies being used online by three major US publications: Harper’s, The New Yorker and Wired:

Although most magazines have embraced the internet, there are, because of the wide variety of purposes and styles among them, conflicting ideas about what kind of website is in a publication’s best interest. How much content from the print side should be available? Should magazines charge readers for access? How rapidly should it be posted and how long should it remain online? Should magazines commission original work for their websites and, if so, how vigorously should it be edited and fact-checked? 

Essentially, magazines must decide whether to run their websites just as websites or as extensions of their print products. While both media deal with the mass communication of the written word, they require different skill sets—and mentalities. And it’s clear that the jury is still out on the best way to proceed. 

Magazines continue to scout out this relatively new terrain. In the process, they have adopted a variety of models, reflecting the diversity of their printed products. These models cover a broad range of complexity, scale and scope; magazines like Harper’s, The New Yorker and Wired bring different resources, both financial and technological, to the table. But these three examples are just that: examples from a wide spectrum of possibilities. 

It’s an interesting overview of some very different strategies being used by the three magazines, why they use them, and how well they work.