February 23, 2015 Last Updated 9:08 am

First look: Calia Magazine, new, anonymous quarterly digital magazine; Birmingham Post, news app with replica edition

New decor magazine is attractively designed but has flaws that will annoy readers such as a lack of information about the publisher, and a failure to incorporate native digital features

The Apple Newsstand is filled with self-published digital magazines that lack much in the way of design. Many of these new digital-only magazines are honest efforts from individuals who think they have a great idea for a magazine, but obviously lack the design skills necessary to executive on their dreams. Others have more mischievous goals in mind, like the developers creating digital magazines that start with the letter A (or AA) who know Apple has stopped maintaining its Newsstand and can sneak their hastily developed title up front.

Calia-iPad-coverOccasionally, like the new digital-only quarterly Calia Magazine, just launched into the Apple Newsstand, the publishers come with some rather obvious design chops. The digital pages of this new iOS-only magazine are very attractive, with beautiful photography throughout.

But the magazine still has serious issues. The first is the annoying habit many digital magazines have of failing to identify their creators. There is no staff box here, and other than one hotline to an anonymous email address, no way of knowing who to contact to offer advice or criticism.

One wonders why the publisher chose to do a digital magazine at all. There is very little “digital” here. For instance, there is a very nicely designed table of contents, exactly as you might see in a print magazine, but none of the stories are linked to.

Double tapping the screen brings up the navigation at the bottom, but there are no thumbnail images of the page – no way of actually using this to go to a story. (Now fixed, according to the comment below.)

Even the magazine’s website is devoid of any specific information. One wonders why all the effort to create a nice looking digital magazine and all the effort to stay completely anonymous. (Even a “Who Is” search of the domain revealed nothing.)

One thing that is constant about apps developed for the Apple Newsstand is that they open and ask for the same information alike. One is presented with a dialogue box asking if the reader wants push notifications sent to them, well before they have any information from the app that would help them decide. The default choice is “No”. One is also always asked if it is OK for the app to share their information, again the default is “No”. Only a few apps that I have seen, mostly from Europe, have been brave enough to later ask again if the reader would share their information, usually as part of some sign-up mechanism for a newsletter or some other product. Apple, back in the earliest days of apps, would reject apps that made brazen attempts for information, rightly fearing that developers were looking for additions to their email lists. But publishers have a vested interest in this information for many reasons, not least of which to communicate with their readers when they are going to change their apps, or their subscription options.

BP-iPhone5-W-lgThe new app for the business and culture weekly Birmingham Post goes out of its way to get you to share your information, offering a dialogue mechanism at open that walks the reader through the process for signing up for a free subscription. One of the steps, it says, its to confirm that you will share your information. This is a bit dishonest since you can say “No” and still subscribe (or you can just close down the dialogue and go straight to the news and issues).

The app appears under the developer account of the vendor, PageSuite, and is both a news app and a way to distribute a replica edition of the weekly newspaper. This is an approach taken by a few newspapers such as The Washington Post (which updated its app today) and The Boston Globe. It works especially well on smartphones, as you see here.

The replica edition part is spartan. The reader is completely dependent on pinch-to-zoom to read the stories as the app does not offer a text version of the stories – often accomplished by having the headlines hot linked to the text versions. But the resolution is high, so reading is comfortable, and as the newspaper is a tabloid anyways, on a larger iPad one might be able to manage without too much zooming.

  • Nick Martin 3 years ago

    Hi Doug,

    Thanks for the feedback for Calia magazine, we will be sure to pass it on to our client. The missing thumbnails were an obvious glitch and is has been fixed. They now show up nicely.