Updated: New York Magazine's New iPad App
New York magazine rolled out its new iPad app today, and one reviewer went so far as to describe it as "the future of print + digital publishing."
We don't think so. (NYMag GM Michael Silberman's responds, below.)
Don't get us wrong, New York magazine for iPad is quite good. It is well-designed, with lots and lots of extras: audio clips, video clips, and layers of content. The print content has been thoughtfully redesigned for the tablet edition, which runs on the Mag+ platform. Not only is the editorial content enhanced, so is the advertising: a Macy's ad comes to life on the screen with autoplaying video, drag-and-drop outfits, and shortcuts to the online store. All in all, New York Media and The Wonderfactory did a terrific job.
The app, however, is another story. A pared-down version of nymag.com fills the top half of the busy storefront, and weekly issues peer out from the bottom. We're not sure that people who return to the app for a daily dose of web feeds will remember to swipe down once a week to buy a magazine. Users have been trained to come to the Apple Newsstand to download magazines. Increasingly, digital publishers frustrate those users by erecting custom storefronts with non-standard interfaces that make it less intuitive to obtain an issue.
We see other ways to bring users back: Integrate live content within weekly issues to create a more robust New York magazine that builds upon the spirit and spontaneity of the brand. An Approval Matrix or Strategist section that's updated daily, for example, would appeal to readers and advertisers. So would commenting, so that New York readers could share their opinions alongside those of their favorite reviewers. There's room in the storefront for a daily digest — but one that's much more compact, as to complement the magazine rather than compete. Alongside that digest, a single advertisement — much more endearing to users than a blaring banner on every page.
The future of print and digital publishing is repackaging magazines like New York as a la carte applications. Turn the "Where to Eat" issue into a mobile app with Apple map integration and Open Table reservations. Republish "Best Doctors" as a tablet app that's accessible year-round, along with the "Best of New York" and "Weddings" issues. Weekly features like "In Season" could be standalone apps. Each would pay for itself through highly targeted advertising, and further strengthen the New York magazine brand.
Update: Michael Silberman, General Manager, Digital Media, of New York's parent company, responds . . .
Thanks for writing about our app. So far, we’ve gotten generally positive reviews from users and people seem to appreciate our model of combining daily web and weekly magazine. (Some people who had trouble validating their print subscriptions complained, but we fixed that problem and the reviews since then have been very positive.)
We considered the approach you suggested but rejected it for several reasons. First, users aren’t in the habit of revisiting weekly magazines every day, even if they’re digital. Bloomberg Businessweek’s app is similar in concept to the idea you describe – related daily content, magazine extensions – but the weekly magazine is still the centerpiece, and that’s what people visit. We thought that making an explicitly daily section of the app we would drive more daily usage.
Second, we already have digital content people are in the habit of visiting every day – our multiple web brands – and we have a rich stream of excellent content. By putting it on the iPad with a great reading experience, we hope we will get more people to consume our content during peak iPad usage times – from 6pm-11pm – when our desktop web usage drops off.
You may be right that people will forget to visit the magazine, but since you see the new issue every time you load the app, we believe that won’t happen. We also promote a story from the magazine every day on the daily content home page. Our approach leverages the existing business and content to drive additional downloads of the app and then upsell that audience into subscriptions. And we don’t have to convince a user to buy it every week – we just have to convince them to become a subscriber once, and then give them enough value that they want to renew.
Third, your proposed model is very expensive, requiring a big investment in the app every day or redirection of effort away from our successful web business toward something that may or may not succeed.
Fourth, we extensively explored the idea of creating multiple apps for different franchises and for the time being have decided to hold off. Apps are expensive to build and become products that need constant maintenance and upgrades to follow Apple’s iOS and device releases. It’s very hard to get people to download them. We are hoping to change that dynamic with this new iPad app. Once we drive a significant number of downloads with the New York magazine app, we would have a platform to drive people into other apps – a model that could be successful.
So, yes, your concept would be a good user experience, perhaps more integrated than our approach. But it wouldn’t be a good business, at least not for us.
General Manager, Digital Media
New York Media (Parent company of New York magazine, nymag.com, etc.)