May 26, 2015 Last Updated 5:42 pm

First look: Travelers Universe, a free digital-only magazine for iOS, Android, and Amazon

This new digital magazine dispenses with the traditional idea of a magazine cover and instead opens to the reader with an interactive table of contents page

What is it about the travel category that leads to so many good digital magazines. The category is home to TRVL, the groundbreaking digital-only magazine from Jochem Wijnands and Michel Elings, both now working at Apple. Then there is, of course, National Geographic, which remains the category’s most popular.

TR-1a-smTravelers Universe Magazine may not be quite at that level, but it does a few interesting things with its digital-only magazine that designers might consider.

For one thing, the magazine does away with its cover, except for displaying inside the Newsstand, Google Play, Amazon and inside the app’s library. It’s a little thing, but one I think more magazines should consider.

First off, designing a good cover is difficult. Second, what’s the purpose of a cover inside an app? In print, the cover is one of the most important elements that lead to single copy sales, but in an app the screenshots and app description are probably more important. And besides, those “covers” we see inside the Newsstand are so small much of the detail really goes missing.

Here, the publisher, Maria Laura Iancu uses the first page that is displayed for the table of contents rather than a cover page. A variation I have seen on this is to design a traditional cover, then have the reader scroll to the TOC. Another variation is to simply make the teaser headlines of the cover serve as the TOC itself.

TR-2a-smThere are a few things I wish the publisher did that would be a bit more traditional. First, it would be nice to have a credits page. This is something many digital-only magazine do without, but I think it is important (though one might assume this is the work of just one person, Laura Iancu). Second, the new magazine has a support website, here, but it too lacks the information I would like to see that would make the reader feel more at home with the magazine. Finally, the app description states the magazine is interactive, and there are interactive elements in the issues (as seen at left), but the photographs themselves are not. Digital readers will assume that they can tap on the smaller photos to enlarge them, but they cannot.

Travelers Universe Magazine can be found in the Apple Newsstand, in Google Play and in

Inside the Newsstand that app is named AAA Travelers Universe Magazine for rather obvious reasons: Apple has stopped maintaining the categories and so the “New” section of each category, rather than being a listing of apps sorted by release date, is instead a list of apps sorted in alphabetical order. Apple has known about this for well over a year (because I’ve talked to numerous Apple representatives about this) and have done nothing about it. I understand that Apple could care less about the Newsstand that this point, but to intentionally keep something broken is very odd, indeed. Imagine if they knew about a bug inside iOS and intentionally kept the bug there to discourage you from using the feature?

The publisher here knows that Apple isn’t maintaining the Newsstand, too, and so has named her magazine in this fashion.

“Yes, it is sad what has happened to the Newsstand… especially for the newcomers, for the independent magazines that do not have big marketing budgets,” Iancu told TNM. “Many users do not even know about the existence of the Newsstand app on their mobile devices. They have dragged it into a folder and have forgotten about it.”

One can’t blame the publisher for playing the same name game other developers have. It is just odd that the Apple App Store team allows it.

In any case, the digital magazine is free to download and access, so you are encouraged to check it out, no matter what device you want to choose.

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