May 22, 2014 Last Updated 11:07 am

Apple’s developer guidelines silent on Newsstand app naming schemes, contradict their own app ratings system

New digital magazines start using convoluted names to take advantage of Apple’s unsupervised Newsstand

Without much fanfare, Apple has changed its policies concerning nudity and adult themes inside the Newsstand. Previously, magazines such as Playboy were not permitted to launch tablet editions without pulling their nude content, and even today the only editions found inside the App Store are foreign editions.

But the old rules, enforced while Steve Jobs was alive, have been quietly dumped.

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App for Kandy Magazine is called AAA+

Yet, the Apple guidelines have not been modified. Section 18 of the guidelines are pretty clear:

18. Pornography

18.1 Apps containing pornographic material, defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “explicit descriptions or displays of sexual organs or activities intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings”, will be rejected
18.2 Apps that contain user generated content that is frequently pornographic (e.g. “Chat Roulette” Apps) will be rejected

However, Apple’s own rating system contradicts all this:

17+ You must be at least 17 years old to purchase this app.
Apps in this category may also contain frequent and intense offensive language; frequent and intense cartoon, fantasy, or realistic violence; and frequent and intense mature, horror, and suggestive themes; plus sexual content, nudity, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs which may not be suitable for children under the age of 17.

Obviously, these two can sections directly contradict in the case of the Russian magazines discussed earlier this month. Apple is now very much in the porn business, but the fastest way it can announce it would be to change its developer guidelines, where thousands of developers would likely notice immediately. So the guidelines remain.

But there is another area where developers are quickly doing things that seem shady, but do not seemingly run afoul of the developer guidelines: app naming.

Naming one’s app has always been a bit of an art. Many a publisher has not given their app name much thought and used the name of their magazine just as it appears on the cover – only to, months later, discover that launching a new app would require using a different name. This is why, for instance, many publisher add something to the end of the app name such as a “+” or “for iPad”.

But for the past six months Apple’s app store team has stopped maintaining the categories inside the Newsstand. As a result, the promotional area labeled “New” is now just an alphabetical listing of the magazines in the category.

Developers have noticed, and because any app that starts out “A” will be seen on the front page, have started to launch their apps with convoluted names.

Kandy Magazine, for instance, named its app AAA+ America’s Kandy Magazine – probably the World’s Best Free Men’s Lifestyle App For iPhone & iPad. That the publisher would have added the promotional sentence at the end of the name is no big deal, but why “AAA+”?

They are not alone in this naming scheme: Manic Magazine from DCude Publishing, is called Absolutely Manic Magazine inside the Newsstand; Lifestyle Magazine is called A+ Lifestyle For Men’s Magazine For iPad & iPhone.

AaronsGolf-featureOthers have simply decided to launch new digital magazines with odd names just to game the system: the developer holding the account name Andrew Alexander has launched 14 Newsstand apps, all of which start with “A” such as Aaron’s Golf or A Horses Best Friend. The app descriptions lead back to 480publishing.com, a site that has paid to make its registration information private.

The Apple developer guidelines are quiet about naming schemes such as these, concentrating instead on trademark violations. You can’t call your new digital magazine Vogue if you are not Condé Nast, for instance – and you probably could not get away with calling it AAA+ Vogue, either.

The problem caused by the odd naming of magazines would simply go away if Apple once again began maintaining the Newsstand. Until then we will continue to see these games be played by developers who know how to game the system.

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