Digital Magazines

I am a big magazine reader, in fact I have one subscription that is now 20 years old; although sadly I’m letting it go this year, Newsweek’s quality has dropped since Daily Beast took it over. When I got my iPad a year ago I was interested in trying out reading some magazines on it. I’ve gone two routes and gotten two different magazines through the Zinio app and I’ve gotten two through the Apple Newstand app. I’ve now gotten them for close to a year and I have some questions and thoughts about this whole genre of reading that hasn’t really figured out how to take full advantage of the possibilities of being a great digital product.

The Zinio app magazines are really just pictures of magazine pages. It isn’t really an enjoyable reading experience, I would rather just have the magazine because it in no way takes advantage of being digital. There are no links, no interactive features, nothing. The only nod to being on the device is the ability to zoom in on the text. The only reason I will continue to subscribe is because I want to save the paper, since most magazines I read and then recycle.

The two magazines I get in the Newstand app are both done by Martha Stewart’s company and they are actually trying to utilize a portion of possible interactivity. Scrolling down, linking to web sites, using touch icons to get more information, etc. It’s way more enjoyable to read and get the information and I will definitely keep subscribing as long as I enjoy the content of the magazines.

But the big issue for both apps and all the magazines is how large each issue is, I wait for several minutes to download the individual issues and I don’t keep many back issues on my device since the files are so large. In addition to this, I feel like there is more they could be doing to take even more advantage of the web. Just today everyone on Twitter was linking to The Eephus League, which takes advantage of the true scrolling nature of the web to provide a seriously cool user experience. Plus it is plain old beautiful and all I need is my browser to use it, not having to download an app is a big bonus in my opinion.

Then there is the success story no one seems to want to copy, The Financial Times. They just stopped supporting their iOS app and are running completely in the browser, utilizing all the great things that HTML5 can do with offline storage in order to be able to provide a great user experience. Why is no one else doing the same thing? Why are they putting so much money into developing apps that are not profitable or popular? There has been an article going around, Why Publisher’s Don’t Like Apps, where a publisher is finally admitting what a mistake the app route may have been. I am glad to see someone take notice of a success story and think about how they can implement a similar model.

So I long for my favorite publications to figure out a better way and I admit that I am not exactly sure what the way is, but I think it looks a lot more like The Financial Times model than the Newstand or Zinio model. I just want to use my browser to get the content I want in a way that takes full advantage of the capabilities of the browser. With how far the browsers have come, why are so many publishers so scared of them?