First look at new tablet photography mags: Fotograf magazine and Bee & Birdie
When I launched my first new magazine, while at McGraw-Hill in San Francisco, I remember taking endless trips to the newsstand to pick up magazines to bring back to the office. Together with our production director, who would serve as art director on the launch, we compared notes as to what we liked, and what mistakes we wanted to avoid making.
Recently I had a conversation with a publisher of a new tablet magazine where I discussed his new launch. In the course of the conversation I brought up about a half-dozen other tablet magazine in his category. To my surprise, he hadn’t seen any of them. His model remained print titles.
This is why I remain fascinated with looking at the most recently launched digital magazines inside the Newsstand.
The photography category remains one of the best places to find excellent tablet editions, so I downloaded two of the newest entries into the category: Bee & Birdie and Fotograf magazine. Both titles are native tablet editions, and both offer interesting lessons.
Bee & Birdie is from Australia and uses MAGetc to create its Newsstand app. MAGetc uses the Adobe DPS to build the digital editions, charging $99 per month, plus 35¢ per download. The monthly charge is pretty small compared to many platforms, but the per-download cost is pretty high. Not surprisingly, the publisher of Bee & Birdie chose to charge $4.99 per issue inside the app. Even the monthly subscription price, $3.99 per month, is no bargain.
*In a previous article, now amended, I mentioned that apps using MAGetc use the vendor’s account to launch their apps. Actually, this is only an option, as a publisher can choose to use the platform and their own developer account if they want. Either way the publisher retains the rights to their app.
Fotograph is from Prague and has been in print for 11 years – in both Czech and English. The just released Newsstand app is for the English editions. The issue inside is offered free of charge, though inside the digital edition there is a promo code that a reader can use to get a 20% discount off the price of the print edition.
The app also uses the Adobe DPS to create its tablet edition, and like Bee & Birdie, has chosen to build its digital magazine in portrait. Many new digital-only magazines have opted to design in landscape as the majority of photographs are shot in this orientation.
But a magazine that has a print edition has a good reason to create in portrait – keeping the print ads as they are seen in print. But Fotograf has no ads in its digital edition, so it is bucking the trend a bit. I don’t see that as a bad thing, I am well aware that there is a difference of opinion about whether a digital edition should be in portrait or landscape. (Our own Tablet Publishing app was designed by landscape, but believe it or not, that was simply a result of a two minute conversation with the designer, and a desire to do the Guide that is in the back of the issue in landscape.)
The TOC, as you can see here at left, scrolls to reveal all the content (you only see part of that in the GIF, it continues on). The editorial that follows, though, makes a bit of a mistake with its text, however. Designed in two columns, the text forces the reader to scroll to the bottom of the page, then scroll back to the top to start reading the second column. This same mistake occurs throughout the digital edition, sometimes forcing the reader to scroll just a little bit, other times more.
Both the app and the app description in iTunes contains links to what is supposed to be the magazine’s website, but instead goes to a dead site. The real site is at another URL, a minor mistake that can be corrected with an update.
There are now over 300 tablet magazines inside the Arts & Photography category, with replica editions being in the majority as they are in every category. But the category also contains some of the best examples of digital magazines designed specifically for the tablet (or smartphone).
Unfortunately, Apple’s App Store team has made a mess of things, both inside iTunes and the Newsstand as seen on an iPad. In iTunes there is no active carousel promoting titles, and in both places the “New” promotion area has been left to rot – with the titles listed in alphabetical order. It would be nice if Apple loved the arts and photography as much as publishers and readers do, then new digital magazine launches might find it easier to reach their audience.
* This post was updated to add the paragraph about MAGetc after a conversation with the company and a clarification of how their platform works.