Magazines Technology

Wired Now Updates Like a Normal Magazine App

The November 2010 issue of Wired is out on iPad, and once you get past the giant breasts on the cover, the first think you notice — or that you may not have noticed unless you accessed the app — is that new issues are now just added in-app, and you can set notifications to tell you when a new issue comes out. It’s about time.

You’ll also notice that it’s another big issues in terms of MB size — I say this because last month was a bit slimmer, but now we’re back in the 400-500MB range.

And if you’re wondering why there are two cover images in this post, that’s just the portrait/landscape variations you get depending on how you hold your device. Which one’s your favorite?

Magazines Technology

Coasting on 30,000

The sort of big news today in the digital publishing world — although not entirely surprising — is that Wired creative director Scott Dadich has left the magazine to focus entirely on his other gig, that of leading parent company Condé Nast’s digital publishing development.

But the most interesting thing to come out of the announcement (via MagCulture) is that we find out how well Wired has been selling on iPad after that initial blockbuster release — to recap, on its first month it sold 100,000 copies, which is well over the magazine’s average 76,000 in print. Since then, it has settled at around 30,000 copies per month, which is not bad at all.

I do hope we start getting digital circulation numbers for other magazines, because right now it’s hard to say what is working and what isn’t when you don’t really know the level of mainstream acceptance (i.e. sales) titles are getting.

Magazines Technology

Another Portrait/Landscape Mistake

Wired isn’t the only magazine that needs to be more careful about text that refers to images in a dual mode reading environment. I rather like Entertainment Weekly‘s The Must List app for iPad, and check out their 10 picks every week — I like how you can watch trailers and sample tracks from within the app. But today I spotted another lazy mistake, as the text above refers to a photo on the left, which only works when reading in landscape. Unlike Wired, this is not a case of using text destined for print, so it’s really a matter of having designed for one orientation, and forgetting about the other.

Magazines Technology

Esquire on iPad

The latest big title launch on iPad is Esquire, with its October issue getting an iTunes App Store release just a few days ago. Although Esquire has had an iPhone version for a while now with fluctuating prices (older issues are currently being sold for $2), the first iPad version is priced at $5, although it appears that nothing is set in stone yet.

It’s currently a single app download with no in-app store, but we’ve already seen a lot of first issues come out this way, and so there’s a very good chance that from next month the app will be updated to include a store component.

The first thing you should do is go here and watch the video the publisher has put together, which showcases what to expect from the magazine. Overall, I’ll say that it’s not a bad first foray in the world of digital magazines on iPad, but it’s far from perfect. Let me also start by noting that this is one of the first major titles to stick with one layout mode only, in this case portrait — switching your iPad to landscape mode will not rotate the page. Leslie over at MagCulture had been suggesting that this would happen soon, but I didn’t think it would happen this fast. Let’s see how long it takes for others to follow suit.

One of the magazine’s strengths is the way it deals with video, especially how it gets incorporated within the pages. Opening the app, you are first greeted by the screen-filling head of actor Javier Bardem (above, in color), the feature for the issue. It may sound hokey, but it comes off looking rather nice, and it’s one of the first times — as far as I remember — that I see the use of full-screen video in portrait mode. The same technique is also used within the feature itself, this time with a black & white Bardem reciting a poem in Spanish (above) — it’s a great addition to the article, and manages to bring me closer to the subject.

Another great example of video use is pictured below, for the issue’s “2010 Esquire Car Awards” feature. Unlike most times I experience video in a magazine on iPad — where you are clearly greeted by a video box — the intro video in the article is framed as if it was just another image, but gives a nice bit of motion to the intro page, especially fitting since we’re dealing with cars.

In terms of layout, the opening section of the magazine — the “Man at His Best” bits — follows a very blog-like structure (a constant sidebar on the left lets you navigate to the different sections), but the designers have managed to dress it up in a way that doesn’t feel too web-like, with an aesthetic similar to what you get in the print edition. When it comes to the “articles” though, some issues crop up.

The first thing to note is that all of the text in the magazine is in fact selectable, but that’s all you can do. No matter how many times I tried, I was unable to get the “copy” option to pop up, and so I don’t understand what the point of HTML-ing the text is, if there’s absolutely nothing you can do with it. Even stranger, the app includes a survey — I filled it out because you run a chance of getting a 6-issue subscription — and it mentions sharing features, but there are none to be found. Something that is planned but wasn’t ready in time for the launch of this issue?

But the biggest issue I have with the text is that although it uses vertical page flipping instead of scrolling — something I generally prefer, as it’s done in Wired — the page cuts have not been clearly indicated, and so you end up with a lot of unreadable sentences that are cut in half (see below). Sure, you can hold your finger on the screen to gently move the page up or down to read it, but this is not very elegant, and these awkward cuts are found throughout — and as you see in the example below, they cut images as well.

Other than that, you get a lot of interactive features like we’re used to seeing in Wired, like the fashion page below that lets you rotate the model, with his jacket (and accompanying description) changing on the fly. One problem I encountered a few times on these pages was lag when you started touching — other pages also took some time to load, so this is not limited to the interactive features.

But the most annoying part of the magazine is how they’ve decided to handle ads. Unlike other magazines that include regular ad pages throughout, this issue of Esquire is entirely sponsored by Lexus. Now there’s nothing wrong with a magazine having just one sponsor, but it’s the execution that is annoying. Instead of being placed at regular intervals, it randomly pops up while you’re reading. And not only is it the same ad every time, but it’s an interactive ad (you’re supposed to zoom in with your fingers to see a video of a car in action) and it often takes a bit of time to load (or rather, to exit the page).

Another thing that I found slightly annoying was that I never had a good sense of where I was inside the magazine. The only table of contents that you can access opens up at the bottom of the screen, and there’s absolutely no indication of where you are in relation to the rest of the magazine.

Despite all these criticisms, it’s still an interesting first try, and from the editor’s intro, it does seem like they are looking to take in feedback and improve things for upcoming issues. Pricing is also a big problem — I’m certainly never going to buy another issue at $5 — but it does sound like they are going to be experimenting with that, just as they have with their iPhone app.

Magazines Meta Technology

Talking About Magazines Is Good for the Soul

Just want to take a moment to say how much I need to thank everyone for the avalanche of feedback, emails, tweets, retweets, and blog mentions that I’ve received since I started doing more magazine/digital coverage here, in just the short few weeks I’ve been doing it. It’s funny that I removed all comments on this site just before I started writing stuff that people actually had a lot of things to comment on or add to, but as I hoped, it hasn’t stopped the feedback from coming, it’s just been delivered in a variety of places, and in a more direct way.

I’ll also point out that it’s because of this method I have of dealing with feedback that you end up getting a post like this one, with Craig’s responses to my previous post. How many people would have read his comments if they had just appeared in a comment thread, a day after the post went live, which is also probably after most people ended up reading the post in the first place.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been a letter reader in magazines, and have always felt like they’re a waste of space. But I do like the way Wired handles it, especially in its iPad edition (I haven’t seen a print copy in a while, so don’t know if they do it there too), which is to run excerpts, along with editorial comment. This is the kind of interaction I’d rather read: Seeing “condensed” feedback from the readership, and seeing how editors feel about it, in a tightly written paragraph.

Anyway, I digress, but again, thank for all the kind of words, and please keep on reading — the digital age of magazine design is just starting, and so there’s never been a more exciting time to follow and comment on all of this stuff.

Magazines Technology

Dadich Is Not Anti-HTML

Wired magazine’s creative director — and overseer of Conde Nast’s digital strategy — Scott Dadich recently gave a talk at the OFFSET 2010 festival in Dublin. His talk of course focused on the successful iPad edition of Wired and the collaboration with Adobe, but I found the following bit (from Creative Review’s event report) to be rather interesting:

He then showed the difference between how the New Yorker iPad app is different to the Wired Reader because the content demands to be updated more – so it makes more sense to have a much more HTML-led content management system, rather than an InDesign reliant one.

So far the biggest criticism towards the Wired app has been the lack of text control, due to the fact that every page is basically an image, and so it’s impossible to resize text, copy it, share it, etc. And what Dadich says is true — for the “Goings on About Town” section of The New Yorker (the front section) all text is in fact selectable. But it needs to be said that all you can do is copy the text — there is no way to resize, or to directly share it, or do any of the things that most ebook readers let you do these days.

And since I’m on the topic of The New Yorker — you can read my initial thoughts on the first issue of the iPad edition here — I’m happy to see that they did not follow Wired‘s example when it comes to the method of releasing new issues. Instead of Wired‘s annoying reliance on a full app update, new issues of The New Yorker simply appear for purchase inside the app, same as all of the Time, Inc. titles. Let’s hope Wired turns to this method as well.

Design Magazines Technology

Wired Is Disoriented

Today finally marked the release of Wired‘s October issue on iPad — as I noted yesterday, it’s later than usual — and I of course have a few things to say. First off, they again go ahead with their trick of making you update the app to get the new issue instead of just using notifications, something I’m assuming is to help them rank again on charts when a new issue comes out. Are they (Conde Nast) going to be doing that with the New Yorker as well, on a weekly basis? Oh, and in the “what’s new” notes they include “issue size improvements” as a feature — the issue download was around 290MB, compared to the 400-500MB of past issues.

But what I really want bring up this time is the question of orientation. It’s a topic Jeremy has been bringing up a lot on MagCulture — most recently in his review of the New Yorker — and it comes down to the hard fact that supporting both of the iPad’s orientations means having to design your magazine twice, which means more work for the design staff.

Since the release of its first issue on iPad, to its credit, Wired has been having some fun with the dual orientation layouts, often using completely different photos to illustrate the same story, like in the example above. That’s all fine and dandy, and it can be a neat little “easter egg” to discover, but I’ve been noticing quite a few errors creeping up in text as well, as it relates to orientation changes.

In the example above, the “FACE-OFF” sidebar, the intro text refers to the chart “below” in both instances. That’s correct when in landscape mode, but not in portrait mode. In some cases, they’re just plain wrong no matter what orientation, which could be a remnant of text referring to the print layout, but that’s not something that should be creeping in the digital edition. As an example, the text in the “Safe House” article (below) refers to the pod shown “below,” even though in both cases it appears in different spots (above, and to the left).

This may be nitpicking, but for me it amounts to having the wrong caption under an image. When I was reading the “Safe House” article in portrait mode and hit on the mention of the “pod shown below,” my immediate reaction was to swipe down to the next page.

But another point to bring up is how all of these double layouts are affecting the text formatting. It’s an important point: Since you have to keep the same amount of text no matter the orientation, it can result in some forced constraints. Look at the text below, the second line of the paragraph — the tracking on it is horrendous. The text is fine if you’re reading in landscape mode.

I’m not sure if I’m siding with Jeremy just yet though. Even though I tend to read in portrait more, I do like having the option, and I do often find that the layout in landscape mode is a tad more attractive (but I do realize this is just subjective). But more care has to be done for it to work properly, or else depending on the orientation you pick, you’re going to end up with a different — and possibly subpar — reading experience.

Let me end with an ad from the issue that I rather liked. I don’t know if the same ad appears in the print edition, but it obviously works very well when seen on an iPad. It’s also in keeping with the theme of this post: You only get it in portrait mode, with the landscape version featuring a different image.

Magazines Technology

Time, Inc. Overcharging iPad Magazines in Japan

Even though I rather like the way Time magazine is presented on iPad — at least the way it was back in June when I purchased an issue — my biggest gripe has always been the pricing. I just feel that $5 an issue is not good business, and it will never make sense to match the pricing of a print edition with the digital one. So because of that, I haven’t purchased any issues since that first one (to check out the design), and I’m still hoping that they’ll come to their senses and come up with a new pricing structure.

But today I got curious as to what they were charging for issues if you access the app using a Japanese iTunes account, and was shocked to see that individual issues are 600 yen, which at today’s rate is about $7.20. Are they serious? The exact same digital product, which is simply downloaded from a site, gets a 30% price hike in a different region?

And it gets better. I checked to see what the pricing on other Time, Inc. titles were in Japan, and not only do Fortune and Sports Illustrated go to 600 yen, SI even has an issue priced at 700 yen. Sure, it’s a football preview issue, which was probably bigger, but even the one issue of Time I bought (pictured top, a World Cup preview) was a double issue and it was priced normally.

What’s wrong with these companies? In comparison, the Bonnier Corporation (Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, etc.) does a bit better. Although the latest issue of Popular Science is priced at 600 yen, all previous issues are priced at 350 yen ($4.20). As another comparison, Wired charges 450 yen ($5.40), which is not as high as the others, but still a price hike compared to the US price ($4).

Magazines Technology

Where’s Wired?

I was going to go with a title like “Is Wired on iPad Dead,” which is of course not the case, but I am wondering why the October issue of Wired on iPad hasn’t been released yet. So far, every issue has come out around the 26-27th of the month, but I’m still waiting. Did Dadich get too busy with the New Yorker launch?

Magazines Technology

The New Yorker on iPad

The big news in the digital magazine world this week is of course the release of Conde Nast’s The New Yorker app. It was designed by the same team behind the Wired magazine app — creative director Scott Dadich is in fact now in charge of bringing all of the publisher’s stable of titles to iPad.

The first thing I’ll suggest is that you take a look at Jeremy’s great write-up over at MagCulture — he also posts the terrific video intro produced for the launch, directed by Roman Coppola and starring Jason Schwartzman.

In terms of my experience with the magazine so far (I’m not yet done going through it), it started out badly with a crash as I tried to play a video from the front cover that is supposed to show that cover being drawn. No matter how many times I exited and re-entered the app, it would just show the video screen, and I couldn’t get back to anything else. After deleting the app and re-installing it, and then re-downloading the issue, I was able to start reading the magazine, but that video still refuses to play for me.

As Jeremy mentions in his review, what you get here is very similar to the interface used in the Wired app (menu functions are all the same), and the biggest change lies in the page design, which is much more simple — in keeping with the source material — with text that is less formatted as well (columns of text run down until they’re done, not necessarily at the bottom of the page).

It also uses free scrolling more than in Wired, where you only see it in the table of contents and credits page at the end. As I’ve said before, I’d really prefer if they just kept to the page scrolling, which I rather like — maybe in part because it feels more magazine-y to me.

It was interesting to see a bit of live content appear in the magazine. Pictured above, you see that “This Just In” section is made up of tweets with updated event information. Even Wired hasn’t included any live content yet.

Looking at the ads, The New Yorker app introduces another first for the Conde Nast interface, and that’s the inclusion of ads within an article, as you scroll down — so far the Wired app has kept ads to themselves, in-between articles.

I also had to share the ad pictured above, for a Russian magazine I’ve never heard of, with a title I have no idea how to pronounce, but that I now want to read. What a great tagline!

My biggest gripe right now is the pricing, which is $5. I’m sure they decided to charge more than they do for Wired ($4) because they don’t expect to get the same sales numbers, but I think a lot of people are going to be turned off by the price, especially for a weekly, and especially with so much of the content being city-centric (it did make me want to make a move to New York though, I’ll give them that).

Let me end this with one of the comic strips (above) found inside. The joke for me and my wife is that our dog has escaped from his cage so many times that we’ve given him the nickname Houdini, and so you can imagine how much of a chuckle I got when I saw that strip.