February 12, 2015 Last Updated 2:48 pm

New branded digital magazines: RAND Corporation launches digital edition for RAND Review

First look at new digital magazine apps released into the Apple Newsstand from the think tank, RAND Corporation, and the Australian training and leadership development company, Proteus Enterprises

The Apple Newsstand is increasingly a place where corporations want to house their corporately branded customer magazines – either in replica or native or digital-only formats. Having a Newsstand app is somewhat similar having a mobile app: it’s all part of a company’s marketing initiatives.

Because of this, many of the digital publishing platforms see corporate and institutional communications as a far larger area for growth than simply serving traditional publishers – there are simply more businesses out there than there are magazine or newspaper companies.

(An interesting thing to consider: non-consumer publishers see the value of digital publishing their stories for customers and investors more than publishers do. Why aren’t the big media companies releasing corporate marketing digital publications. One that does, by the way, is Future plc which did this in 2013 for their Annual Report. In other words, if digital publishing is so important for a magazine’s customers to embrace, why doesn’t the publisher themselves take the advice?)

The latest batch of digital publications to hit the Newsstand is a mix of company branded digital magazines and what I call spam publishers – those that flood the Newsstand with look-a-like digital magazines designed to take advantage of the fact that Apple has stopped maintaining the Newsstand. One publisher that has been releasing these magazines, all starting with “A” or “AA” released two new ones just this week. Note: Apple’s developer support team sent me an email yesterday: “We are investigating the issue regarding the alphabetical listing of apps in Newsstand.” If they do anything about it you can thank me later, I’ve been harping on this issue for the past 18 months.


One of the branded magazines to appear inside the Newsstand is from the RAND Corporation, the global policy think tank. RAND Review, is the app description state, the flagship magazine for the company, and as such I’m sure is seen in print.

Its new digital edition uses the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite to create a native digital edition for both the iPad and iPhone. The design is brilliantly simple as the layouts appear almost as you might see them in print, but are reformatted just enough to make reading on a digital device a pleasant experience.

I use the term brilliantly simple because not all native digital editions need to be completely redesigned. Sometimes simply elongating the page, or inserting a scrolling text box is enough to keep the integrity of the print design, while adjusting fonts enough to make sure readers don’t need a magnifying glass to read the new edition. In my mind, this is what replica editions were going to look like, when I thought about it in 2010. Instead we got flooded with PDFs.


ProteusLife comes from the Proteus Enterprises Pty Ltd, an Australian training and leadership development company. Their new magazine is available through the Newsstand, online, and one assumes via print, as well, as the company says that the magazine reaches 6,00 professionals though a subscriber list and through distribution at events.

I don’t know what platform is being used here, but it produces a native digital edition, but one that behaves a lot like a replica in that pages take a while to download. The layouts are very simply and follow a standard pattern.

Last night I was looking though a batch of consumer magazines from one of the larger U.S. and U.K. magazine publishers. I was struck by just how ugly and outdated I found the page design. Crammed pages with small fonts, printed on razor thin coated stock. The large number of ads from pharmaceuticals, while adding to the revenue level (and we all love revenue!) made the art director’s job that more difficult, as those ads had to accompanied by one or two additional pages of ugly legalese.

But what really struck me was how difficult it would be to design a native digital edition starting from these print products. Publishers are always trying to find an easy way to convert their print editions to digital, often settling on a PDF replica simply to save time and money.

For me, I wonder if a different approach might be taken: reimagining print in such a way that not only will make the print products more attractive and easier to read, but also easier to reimagine as digital. In other words, maybe it is time for the art directors to start using what they have learned when creating their digital editions in their print editions. Readers of both print and digital surely would benefit from the initiative.

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