The Magazine, sub-compact publishing, and going digitally native

The Magazine, sub-compact publishing, and going digitally native

If Apple had created an iNewsstand store, like the iBookstore, App Store, and iTunes Store, we'd likely have gotten a more consistent, more controlled experience, rather than the mixed bag of hurt that are PNG-prints of traditional magazines by traditional entities, unwilling and unable to embrace digitally native formats. But we might not have gotten some of the truly creative, truly inspired apps that have come to Newsstand. Craig Mod takes a look at the quiet revolution that's going on in digitally native publishing right now.

Our current tools are a bit kludgey, a bit clunky, a bit too tied to the past. The Magazine is a great first example of a subcompact publication, utilizing Newsstand — an existing under-leveraged tool — to indigenously and ingenuously deliver content.

I’d be shocked if there weren’t a dozen other publishers prepping to launch similar magazines. Or, even better: someone building a system by which anyone could launch a Newsstand app like The Magazine — for minimal cost with minimal complexity.

Mod argues that when you strip everything away, when you get down to only the most essential of parts, everything from the sub-compact car that revolutionized the auto industry, to the sub-compact publication which may well revolutionize the periodical industry, becomes possible for those brave and bold enough to see seize it.

That it took a developer like Marco Arment to make The Magazine, with the perfect confluence of development skills, reading app experience (Instapaper), and connections to authors who could feed his first few issues, shouldn't be underestimated. I like that The Magazine was hard. If it hadn't been, it might not have been good.

I also like that traditional publishers like The New York Times are breaking with legacy media preconceptions to do something authentic with their Newsstand app.

If I had my druthers, there'd still be an iNewsstand store proper, where Apple controls the experience, and users enjoy the consistency of the rest of iTunes. But there'd also be Newsstand-style functionality -- background downloads, easy subscription processing and management -- would be available to all apps, unconstrained by the conventions of the periodical format.

Then the potential for both digital magazines, and things well beyond magazines, would really be unlocked.

Now go read Mod's entire essay, it's a fascinating look at a medium truly in need of disruption.

Source: Craig Mod

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

The Magazine, sub-compact publishing, and going digitally native


Newsstand is a complete mess, where different publishers use different systems with different ways to subscribe and unsubscribe, you never know what to expect. I actually gave up my National Geographic subscription on Newsstand to subscribe on the Kindle, a far better experience overall. The system Conde Nast uses for Wired Magazine forces you to watch the loooong download or it stops.

Right now the interactivity that is provided by the Newsstand environment is distracting and confusing, every time you open a magazine you don't know what to expect, if the scroll is vertical or horizontal, or if you have to touch the images to open legends or to enlarge, or if there is more content hidden somewhere you did not notice. It takes the focus out of the information and into the interactivity, and that for me is a major fail.

I find myself having a much better experience using the vanilla environment that the Kindle iPad app provides, where you can zoom on pages at will, and scroll magazines horizontally, than using the apps inside Newsstand.

I personally disagree that "The Magazine" is as good as this blog post is implying. I tried it for a while and deleted it. It's boring and I hope all digital magazines do not become like it! I personally like the experience found in magazines like Pop Photo, Men's Health, or Total Film. If I want to read an essay totally devoid of interesting photos I'll pick up a school textbook. Digital media, at least the kind you pay for, is as much about entertainment as it is the message it is trying to deliver.

I subscribed to The Magazine, and although it's good, it's not great. Really appreciate the lack of ads, but the articles are hit-and-miss for me. All well-written but sometimes I just don't feel like reading about wet shaving or the perfect cup of tea.

Re: "...where Apple controls the experience, and users enjoy the consistency of the rest of iTunes."

I'd really prefer a standardized way of subscribing. Tired of constantly being up-sold through in-app purchases within the publications.

Also, I'd prefer a standardized navigation scheme within all publications. It sometimes feels like "Designers Gone Wild" with all manner of swipes, taps, and oddball document designs. Like over-designed web pages.