October 21, 2013 Last Updated 4:02 pm

Finnish platform to stop recommending the Newsstand to its magazine customers

Developers and publishers question the merits of Newsstand publishing as discoverability problems mount (and sales drop)

In the past I’ve criticized the organization, search capability and management of the Apple Newsstand before, but the posts rarely gained much traction. But Marko Karppinen of the Finish software company Ritchie (its publishing platform is called Maggio) wrote last week about why publishers should avoid the Apple Newsstand and his post was picked up by Daring Fireball’s John Gruber – that means wide exposure.

Karppinen’s position is that the Newsstand is where publication apps go to die, undiscovered. His position is that publishers should launch their apps as stand-alone apps, outside th>e Newsstand.

Newsstand-iPad-1-lgThere is a lot of merit to the argument, the biggest one being that launching an app outside the Newsstand does not preclude one from one day moving the app into the Newsstand if you want.

But Karppinen’s argument against the Newsstand is incredibly weak. Basically it boils down to the fact that the Newsstand is a folder. This is true. In fact, that is basically all the Newsstand is.

The problem with the argument can be seen on any iOS device – its generally filled with folders. My iPhone has 19 folders with apps in them – and that doesn’t count the Newsstand. My iPad has 31 folders on it.

If readers never used folders on their tablet, and if the Newsstand did not exist, their device would have dozens of pages of apps and finding anything would be a nightmare – it is anyways.

So if the fact that the Newsstand adds a folder to an iOS device is the argument against using the Newsstand it is the weakest possible argument.

No, instead the problem today with the App Store is that it is a unsupervised mess, unsearchable and poor organized. For many, the idea that Apple is not moderating its apps may come as a surprise, since Apple has a reputation of being tougher on developers than Google or Amazon. But the reality is that the Newsstand, and App Store, in general, is rife with bogus magazines, publications that appear once, sell an annual subscription, then never publish again. There are Newsstand apps that advertising one title, but when installed, deliver deliver different titles.

There is no question that the design of the Newsstand app is grotesque in the extreme. iOS 7 itself has been panned by most observers and I have yet to find even one iPhone or iPad user who thinks it is an improvement over iOS 6 (my daughter, trusting Apple, immediately updated her phone to iOS 7 and called me in tears). If Apple wanted to break the spell, so to speak, of users addicted to its platform, it could not have done anymore more effective for doing this than the introduction of iOS 7.

The problem with the Newsstand, and the App Store itself, is that democratizing publishing comes with many downsides that have to be dealt with if the system is to work for everyone. In the traditional print world, the curator is the distributor who severely limits the titles they handle in order to maximize profits. In a distribution scheme where anyone can publish, the big losers are not the biggest titles – Apple relentlessly promotes a handful of titles – it is the hundreds of other publications that are disenfranchised.

But whether one’s app is inside the Newsstand, or among the dozens, hundreds of apps to be found elsewhere on one’s device, is pretty irrelevant if one can’t find the app to begin with.

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