September 9, 2013 Last Updated 10:58 am

Updated apps for travel magazine digital editions still fall short of more well-known competitors

Two travel magazines updated their Newsstand apps recently, Abroad Travel Magazine and Travel Africa Magazines. One of the magazines is digital-only, while the other is a replica edition – but both fall far short of their main competitors inside the Apple Newsstand.

The two leading magazines in the travel category are no doubt National Geographic and TRVL. More on why these are still the titles that matter in a moment.

Abroad Travel Magazine bills itself as fully interactive on its website, but this simply is not true. The digital edition uses the MagCast platform to produce a Newsstand app and digital edition that is built for the iPad. But the platform is based on PDFs so the digital magazine page is limited to the size of the iPad. In a truly interactive magazine the page can be infinitely expanded through scrolling, scrolling text boxes, oversized pages, etc.

Travelmags-iPad-lgThe video content here is made up embedded YouTube videos and the page design work here is not to the standard one would expect at an established print magazine.

Travel Africa Magazines does not have to worry about page design, it has professional art direction. But the Newsstand app delivers a replica edition of the print magazine and it becomes clear quickly that this simply does not work in this category. Photography, which wants to be in landscape, is trapped on the magazine’s print page. Two pages spreads, which this magazine utilizes often, are broken up onto two portrait pages, or displayed on one tablet page in landscape, but rendered impossible to read. Making things worse, the spreads are misaligned when seen in landscape.

As with many replica editions, the shrunk pages simply do not fit on the iPad’s display properly with gray bars seen on the edges of the pages.

Travel magazines are all about the photography, which is why they work so well on the iPad. Because of this, good tablet editions often choose to build their digital editions in landscape.

National Geographic’s first iPad app was released near the end of 2010 and the National Geographic Society has been active in the platform ever since. It’s native iPhone edition was designed by Joe Zeff Design. The apps are native to their platforms, but, of course, will still reflect the print magazine in content.

TRVL, on the other hand, is a totally digital magazine and therefore can re-imagine the category. Not only did the digital magazine launch as a landscape design, but TRVL’s publishers, Jochem Wijnands and Michel Elings, also decided that weekly would work better in the App Store than monthly.

“I don’t think a monthly magazine works because you never use the algorithms of the App Store,” Elings told MediaShift. “When you publish new content, the App Store ranks you higher the next day, so when you publish, you are in a good position for the weekend. When you only do this once a month, you never use your advantage.”

TRVL now has well over 100 editions inside its app’s library and now uses its own digital publishing platform, PRSS, to build its issues and Newsstand app.

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