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Want a Successful iPad App? Impress the Reader, Not Yourself

Long downloads and rich media that serves no purpose are holding us back.


Matt Kinsman By Matt Kinsman
01/12/2011 -12:33 PM






The Atlantic is going back to the drawing board on its idea for a premium iPad App (dubbed The Atlantic Premium). The original concept would have offered a daily bundle of its online content for a monthly fee (The Atlantic sells single issues on the iPad for $4.99). However, publisher Jay Lauf tells paidContent that "We felt that we missed that first wave of iPad magazine releases and we wanted to do something a little different, a little more special."

As of now The Atlantic isn't sharing any details but they aren't the only ones rethinking their approach. With the flood of magazine apps hitting the market and many titles seeing downloads drop after the initial splash, publishers are looking at ways of standing out both to readers and advertisers. iPad-only editions are gaining traction, such as Bonnier's launch of Parenting Seasons but user experience (quick downloads, easy navigation) remains the key. As publishers we can thump our chest about Apple's strong-arm tactics and the lack of a workable digital newsstand, but the fact is long downloads and an emphasis on the one-time "wow-factor" (as well as treating the iPad like a closed environment, similar to a print magazine) rather than giving readers reasons to come back are even more dangerous.

Wired blazed the trail for magazines on the iPad but also received some knocks for excessive download times as well as a "compromised reader experience" due to an over-reliance on multimedia (it's a trap many new magazine apps continue to fall into--Project, Virgin Media's iPad magazine, debuted in November with frustratingly long download times and the second issue--out now--was delayed six weeks as the team worked out the bugs).

Wired spent the better part of last year working with Adobe to drive its iPad navigation model. "The convention of magazine reading is a single axis experience-flipping pages right and left along the X axis," former creative director-turned-Conde Nast executive director of digital development Scott Dadich told FOLIO: last fall. "We felt like it was time to expand that navigation model and embrace the digital conventions we're used to on the phone where reading is more of a scrolling or vertical experience."

The magazine mixed those models into a dual navigation system. Users swipe right and left to change an article and swipe vertically to read it. "That navigation model really drives the overall content experience," Dadich says. "Once you drill down to the content layer you need to be careful about a call-to-action."

For Wired, that includes calls-to-action in point size or design display that's a little smaller than a headline but clearly and instantaneously messages to the reader what they're supposed to do, such as "Tap the number to read the writeup," or "Touch image to learn more." "Finger friendly" directional arrows and blinking buttons also serve as calls-to-action.

Nobody is saying just dump the magazine onto a tablet. The appeal of the iPad obviously is to offer a much richer experience than print. Consumers WANT this--a survey from Harrison Group, digital magazine provider Zinio and mobile device display manufacturer Qualcomm--says owners of tablets and other e-readers spend 50 percent more time reading magazines than those who don't own such devices. But as these devices go mainstream, so do end-user tastes. This is just as new to many readers as it is to us, and early frustrations are often not forgiven. 





Matt Kinsman By Matt Kinsman --

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