April 23, 2015 Last Updated 10:29 am

Three digital magazines: design choices and discoverability at the core of these Newsstand apps

First look at the digital magazines Minneapolis Institute of Arts Verso Magazine and Casa BRUTUS which use the Adobe DPS platform, and Greatness Magazine, a professionally designed title that uses MagCast

The issue of discoverability remains at the center of concerns about the Apple Newsstand, though new titles continue to be introduced each week. But once a digital magazine has been launched, the issue of discoverability, and driving subscriptions only increases in importance.

This issue was at the core of TNM’s decision to partner with the publisher of the digital magazine App Publisher. The hope was that the having an industry website constantly promoting a digital magazine a spike would be seen in issue sales and subscription – I wish I could report that this proved to be the case.

This week I looked at two new titles launched into the Apple Newsstand, as well as one that has been there since 2012.


Minneapolis Institute of Arts Verso Magazine is an excellent digital magazine that was originally launched into the Newsstand in November of 2012. It’s latest update was in October of last year, bringing the app up to version 1.5.

The app uses the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite to create its app and digital editions.

“Verso is a free multimedia publication for art lovers produced by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, one of North America’s premier museums—now celebrating its 100th Birthday Year,” the app description states.

Kris Thayer, Audience Engagement Strategist and Sr. Designer at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts reached out to me following a post on other magazines launched into the Arts & Photography category of the Newsstand. She is rightly proud of the digital magazine, which is designed in landscape. I hope to follow-up with her about Verso and their track record so far of downloads and subscriptions.

In the meantime, if you would be wise to check out the design decisions made with Verso Magazine.


Casa BRUTUS Magazine was just recently launched into the Newsstand by the Japanese publisher Magazine House. This new app also uses the Adobe DPS to create its Newsstand app and digital editions, but this publisher has decided to go in a completely opposite direction by launching a replica edition.

I learned of the app though the rather traditional method of promotion via a press release though one of the promotion services.

Japanese magazine publisher Magazine House began offering a downloadable Newsstand version of its lifestyle and design magazine “Casa BRUTUS” on iTunes starting with the May issue, initiating worldwide availability of the magazine. The launch makes it possible to deliver Casa BRUTUS, which has already won notable popularity outside Japan, to every corner of the globe.

The new app will, indeed, be able to make Casa BRUTUS available worldwide. But I think this is where design decision will effect the success of this digital edition as much as discoverability. This digital edition is simply unreadable in its current form.

Most replicas are far easier to read in portrait and landscape often displays not one but two pages. Here the app is locked into landscape, reducing the size of the pages to just a few inches on my iPad mini. It just doesn’t work and one wonders what the designers were thinking.

Greatness-iPadThe third magazine is called Greatness Magazine and is published by 418 Media LLC. This digital magazine probably has the best chance to find an audience if only because it comes from Lewis Howes, who appears to be making a career of selling himself as an empowerment guru. Howes is, it seems, a thing, or at least wants you to believe he is.

My guess is that Howes will be promoted his new digital magazine at those that attend his events, or listen to his The School of Greatness podcast.

What makes Greatness Magazine interesting to digital publishers, however, is that it is using the MagCast digital publishing platform. MagCast is most often used by self-publishers who want an easy way to launch a digital magazine, and most often have no clue about design. The revenue-share publishing platform allows a would-be publisher to deliver a PDF to create their Newsstand app and digital issues. Because the resulting product is usually digital-only, the magazines are typically rather unattractive, design-wise. But, it is important to note, they usually are very readable as the designer is thinking iPad from the start and so choose properly sized fonts.

(This is why most journalists launching their own digital magazines, without the help of a designer, choose a platform like TypeEngine or 29th Street Publishing, as it delivers a more web-like final product that is easy to read on any digital device and does a good job of hiding its design deficiencies.)

But Greatness Magazine is gorgeous and the reason is that the magazine was designed by professionals at the India-based design agency Enamus. The firms’s CEO Jain Karan is listed as the magazine’s art director.

This digital magazine is the reason I am not 100 percent against PDF editions – assuming the digital edition is still designed properly they can work. Additionally, a PDF can often be used inside a platform for native tablet navigation (scrolling inside a story, swiping to reach the next story). Here, however, the platform simply delivers the standard replica edition navigation similar to an eBook.

All three digital magazines are free to look at, so those designers looking to see a wide variety of design and platform decisions can do so in just these three titles.

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