July 10, 2014 Last Updated 9:14 am

First look: JET Digital, the new digital-only edition of the American-American newsweekly

Two months ago Johnson Publishing announced that it would be shuttering JET Magazine, a leading magazine serving the African-American community since 1951. The magazine’s rate base was around 700,000 at the end, down about 100,000 from just two years earlier.

JET-1As I stated two months ago when the news broke, the problem for Johnson Publishing was that it had not previously launched its own digital editions, relying instead on third party vendors to produce replica editions of both JET (the JET Mag app from Kastoff Enterprises remains inside the Apple App Store) as well as its other title Ebony Magazine (that replica app is from Rarewire).

But now Johnson Publishing has launched a new Apple Newsstand app for JET Magazine, and an Android version is promised soon. The app, called JET Digital, was built using the Picsean Media digital publishing platform, though the app now appears under a brand new Johnson Publishing developer account.

With no replica edition to build the digital edition off of, the new JET can now be more at home in the digital platforms. The new app is universal and the iPhone edition does not appear to be built off the tablet edition, like many other apps that have gone universal – if the screenshots are to be believed (I attempted to look at the iPhone edition but the app constantly crashed preventing me from getting beyond the screen you see at left).

JET-iPhone5-lgThe new app makes a few rookie mistakes, as you might imagine, as Johnson Publishing went digital-only before getting comfortable with the digital platforms they would be relying on in the future. The first mistake was with the app icon which is in landscape and so looks more like those used by newspapers rather than magazines. The icon is built off of the splash page that appears when the app opens rather than an issue cover.

The app description also mentions that the magazine is a newsweekly. Actually, the print magazine had gone down to 20 issues a year and when one opens the new app up one finds that the one issue available inside is for June, making one believe that the new digital edition will be a monthly – but it doesn’t say that anywhere in either the app description or the app itself.

If the reader opens up the app and buys the first issue, as I did, then subscribing becomes a problem. Where is the subscription information to be found? It’s actually there, if you tap around the screen enough times you eventually discover that there is an area on the store page that is hot which will bring up a dialog box with the subscription information ($19.99 for an annual subscription, and $1.99 for a month subscription). Single issues are also priced at $1.99.

The tablet edition itself is simple and attractive. The June issue opens up with a very simple animated cover: a cover photo and teaser headlines which move into place. The digital edition only supports portrait, which is fine, and the pages are built to spec, meaning that the fonts are perfect for the iPad, and so reading and navigation is easy and enjoyable.

One could almost call this type of digital edition an enhanced replica as there is no complex HTML animation usage inside the issue. This limits the file size which came in at 250 MB despite the presence of a bit of video (which you can see in the walk-through video below).

JET-editor-smKyra Kyles (right), formerly a senior editor at Jet and digital managing editor of JETmag.com, has taken over as Editorial Director for JET, and it will be her job to experiment with, and improve the new JET Digital app editions.

The first issue is a good start, and vast improvement on the replica editions Johnson Publishing relied on in the past. Hopefully someone at Johnson Publishing is getting familiar with Apple’s app system, going into iTunes Connect themselves to edit the app description, for instance, and not relying on their vendor. With firmer control of the app process the publisher not only can make almost instant corrections and updates, but can feel more comfortable with the entire production process – something they feel is vital when dealing with their printers, but often is left to outside vendors when digital editions are produced.

  • Tablazines 3 years ago

    Not bad.