March 13, 2014 Last Updated 7:26 am

Modern Luxury magazines have their apps updated to universal, the question is ‘why?’

The most recent trend in digital editions from magazine publishers is to update their apps from iPad edition to universal apps – ones that can be read on an iPhone or iPad. The desire to reach smartphone readers who actually use their devices to read is understandable, how they do it is another thing.

This week Blue Toad, a company that has been making apps for publishers pretty much from the beginning of the app era, updated the apps for Modern Luxury. The apps are replica editions that go back to the earliest days of the iPad, having been originally released on April 21, 2010. Back then, the goal was to just make your titles available to new tablet buyers. Each of the apps appear under the Blue Toad developer account name.

SF-iPhone5-lgOver the course of their almost four year existence, the apps have been updated a number of times. the sixth update, in November 0f 2011 brought them into the new Apple Newsstand and made them compatible with iOS 5. Version 3.0, released in May of 2012 brought them into the retina era.

The latest update, versions 4.0 and 4.1 packed together, brings iOS 7 compatibility and makes the apps universal.

The problem, which you can see by the graphic, is that the goal here is to fit a magazine that has a bleed size for its spreads of 20.25 inches wide, into a screen size that 3.5 inches wide in landscape. An iPad’s display is approximately one-third the size of these magazines, making a PDF-based digital edition hard enough to read, but on an iPhone?

But Modern Luxury is not the only publisher to allow their vendor to do this to their titles. In fact, many major publishers are moving in this direction, as well. The reason is simply that they can do it. For magazines from Hearst and others the digital editions are designed first for the iPad, then the iPhone gets what is essentially a replica edition of the tablet edition.

The two alternatives would be to create a good mobile app that is your basic news reader. The other option is to create a digital edition that is more like The Magazine or what 29th Street Publishing and TypeEngine are producing – single column layouts with fullscreen graphics. The reason most publishers don’t go in this direction is the added work needed to produce these new mobile editions, and the fact that the real motivation behind these unreadable mobile editions is to gain added readership for the advertising contained in the original print edition.

  • Daniel Genser 3 years ago

    Great article. Replica editions are, by and large, artifacts of an antiquated circulation auditing system that should and will be disrupted. Already, we’re seeing more and more interest from publishers that care deeply about their subscribers’ digital reading experience.

    We’ve already seen upticks in subscriber conversion rates from publishers who come to us from digital replica systems. We have to think that a big part of that is access to a first-class citizen phone app. In fact, over the first several months of TypeEngine’s existence, we’ve seen 52% of issue downloads occur on iPhone and iPod Touch.

  • Jessica Aslanian 3 years ago

    This post brings up several points of which have merit. We at BlueToad agree that strict print replica apps delivered via phone are difficult to read. To improve the reader experience, our current solution includes a text version of articles designed for phone consumption. Across our customer base, more than 25% of page content consumed occurs through the iPhone experience we deliver.

    Our next version will improve the phone experience even more as we migrate the iPhone portion of the universal app to a phone-centric view of articles and content. This version will be delivered via the iPhone component of the universal app.

    So why deploy a universal app? BlueToad today supports thousands of apps in iTunes – most of which are submitted through the publisher’s developer account. By combining the upgrade process, we cut in half the time it takes for our customers to receive the newest app upgrade.

    Modern Luxury in particular has achieved amazing success presenting an app experience that their readers love. They are both capturing digital readers and monetizing their various digital experiences, including iPhone, in a way that results in positive ROI in a market where that has proven difficult.