May 29, 2014 Last Updated 2:12 pm

Category review: Citygram remains among best city/regional digital editions available

Many titles avoid using the Regional News category, making it one of the smallest inside the Apple Newsstand

When media reporters write about digital edition they usually talk about the familiar consumer titles produced by the major magazine publishers – rarely are B2B or city/regional magazines mentioned. That is a shame, both because there are plenty of titles published, and because these publishers are usually looking for leadership in the industry as they attempt to evolve their digital strategies.

Citygram-iPad-0514The Regional News category, where many city/regional magazines are placed, is unique in that there are currently no paid apps to be found. Paid apps are unusual, of course, because most Newsstand apps are free, then either require a subscription or give away issue access from within the app. But most categories have a number of paid apps because many digital publishing vendors do revenue shares and so encourage charging a few dollars for the app itself.

The Regional News category is under utilized by publishers with only 178 titles using the category – not the smallest, but far below the 1,000+ title that use Business, for instance.

Probably the best city/regional digital magazine does not use this category: Citygram. Launched a year ago, the magazine has survived its first year and managed to publish nine editions.

Built using the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, Citygram is digital-only, and so does not have to consider migrating a print edition to digital. The result is a magazine the looks and feels comfortable on both the iPad and iPhone.

Citygram-iPhone5-lgMany consumer publishers who launched native or hybrid apps originally launched their digital editions for the iPad exclusively – then later updated their apps to make them universal, adding in iPhone support. But those iPhone editions are often replica editions – replicas of the tablet edition, that is.

Citygram’s iPhone edition is native, however. This makes it a far superior reading experience than many magazine digital editions, which are either replicas or built off the tablet edition.

(Citygram’s publisher, Chris Perez, is featured in the book Talking Digital, available as a print book and Kindle Edition through Amazon.com, an interactive eBook inside the Apple iBooks Store, or an ePub edition for the NOOK.)

So who is using the Regional News category, if not city/regional magazines? The answer is that the category is mostly preferred by international titles, many of them regional newspapers. Of the last 20 titles to be launched into the category, few are from either the US or UK.

Some of the most recently launched digital editions found in the category come from the French local information publisher Publihebdos. This month the publisher dropped ten new titles into the Newsstand including Côté Brest – le journal.

CoteBrest-iPadThe app is, well, interesting. It opens fine, but immediately appears upside down – something that I have seen before, so it was not as shocking as when I first encountered this design flaw. I’m not sure why this occurs, but it can be alarming if you have never encountered it.

The bug only effects the app’s library page. Upon opening the app the library page appears and instantly the app wants you to turn your iPad upside down. One you have downloaded an issue, however, you can read the issue in either portrait or landscape, and if you move from landscape to portrait, then back to landscape, the issue will now adjust properly (though returning to the library pages results in being upside down once again).

What the app delivers is simple replica editions that feel almost ancient now that we are over four years into tablet publishing.

Unfortunately, there are very few interesting native tablet editions to be found in the Regional News category, probably because so few smaller publishers want to invest in platforms that can do the job properly. Creating a native digital edition also requires more labor, and many publishers are sold on the idea of that a vendor can create their digital editions automatically, with only the minimal amount of effort on the part of the publisher’s staff. Unfortunately, this is how an upside down app comes about.

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