May 18, 2015 Last Updated 11:45 am

Hearst updates all 20 Newsstand apps – Road & Track’s different direction (landscape)

The most recent app update adds the ability to play video in landscape (most of the digital editions are designed for portrait-only reading)

The updates from Hearst Magazines are a little odd, I can’t quite figure them out. Most developers like to name their versions a certain way: a nice round number for a major update; and decimal number added for a minor update.

But Hearst definitely goes their own way. Today they updated 20 of their Newsstand apps, all to version 5.0.4:

What’s New in Version 5.0.4
Update now for these new video features and performance enhancements:

  • We added support for playing videos in landscape – take advantage of your entire screen!
  • We fixed a bug some readers were experiencing with missing video progress bars when they played a video more than once
  • Even more bug fixes and performance improvements.

Hearst-mag-updateOne would assume, then, that version 5.0.0 was a major update. But the app description simply lists bug fixes. There was no series of 4.0 updates. Oh well, its there apps, guess they can name them what they want.

Hearst magaizne apps get some of the most negative reader reviews inside of iTunes. But one does feel a little for the publisher as many of the complaints are the same. Beyond the complaints of crashes, which are certainly legitimate, are other complaints that really must annoy them.

There are the typical complaints about the fact that the apps are free to download but then you must buy the issues (sorry, you have to pay to read most consumer magazines); then there are the complaints about the Newsstand (can’t find the app once it has been downloaded).

Hearst’s apps tell us a lot about magazine readers: many are older and just not comfortable with the whole app experience of in-app purchases, or the way digital publications are navigated. That’s a shame, because Hearst’s digital editions are fairly good (app bugs aside).

Road & Track should be highlighted as they decided to create their digital edition in landscape.

It wasn’t always like this. Back at launch it was a replica edition. “So I pay twice and more than double for a scanned copy of the print magazine?” wrote one reader annoyed at both having to pay for digital (after they had also paid for print) and for receiving a PDF replica rather than a native digital edition. “The fonts are too small and requiring zooming, the photos are low res and unnamable, heck the text can’t be zoomed in very much.”

But a year and a half later another readers, writing about the native digital edition, wrote “I just switched from years of printed Road& Track to this iPad app and am super impressed at the easy way to navigate through the magazine and of course the pics look 100% better than print.”

But maybe Road and Track is read by a younger, more tech savvy audience than the other Hearst magazines. Still, many of the Hearst digital editions are well done.

But at Meredith, possibly because they have little faith in their readership, they have stuck to PDF replicas – even converting Martha Stewart Living from a nice digital edition to a really bad replica.

“Time to switch,” wrote one frustated reader of the updated digital edition for Martha Stewart Living. “The brand doesn’t care about our comments! And why buy the magazine when they put everything in their Instagram account and website?!”

Note: I worked for nearly six years at Hearst, but on the newspaper side, not the magazine side.

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