July 2, 2015 Last Updated 10:20 am

Newly updated Newsstand app for Italian leftist newspaper brings in industry best features

Version 2 of newspaper app offers native digital layouts and features such as night reading mode, along with a PDF replica version of the print newspaper

There are many examples of great digital magazines inside the Apple Newsstand, despite the overwhelming number of PDF replicas. But really good, inventive digital newspaper apps are a rarity.

IlManifesto-replicanativeThe reason for this is that it is so hard to translate a print newspaper to the iPad or iPhone screens. As a result, most newspapers decide to either create a news app that brings in the RSS feeds from their website, designing the digital pages in a somewhat similar way as print, or they decide to just offer a PDF replica of their print edition. The New York Times app for iPad, launched in April of 2010 is an example of a paper that takes feeds from their website and reformats the content for the iPad. Most good newspaper apps follow this example with Le Presse+ probably being the best of the bunch.

Another route, a bit of a compromise, is to combine a news app with a replica of the print newspaper. Both The Washington Post and Boston Globe offer apps that do this.

Just a couple weeks ago, the Italian newspaper Il Manifesto launched a new Newsstand app, il manifesto digitale, and while it definitely takes a similar approach as the Post or Globe, it is different enough that serious digital newspaper publishers should study it. Along with Le Presse+, the new app may be among the best digital newspaper apps in existence.

Il Manifesto is an independent leftist paper printed in Rome, and with a small circulation. But its size and political views are irrelevant here – I can’t read Italian anyway. What is important is that the new app – the original app was pretty good, too – is a joy to read.

While Google translate is not the best, it is good enough to give you an idea of what the app description has to say about the new Newsstand app:

Il Manifesto redefines a digital newspaper. Every day preview our best journalism and a unique approach and radical politics, the economy, international events, reportage and culture.

You can buy a single issue or subscribe for a week or a month.

Our unique features:

  • Edition available on your iPad or iPhone in preview at midnight, before the newsstand
  • Daily editions six days out of 7 (normally comes out on Monday)
  • Digital version and PDF version
  • Possibility of special editions or special handbooks
  • Saturday and Sunday, a unique selection of items from Alias
  • Reading in night mode and text searchable make interaction with the newspaper even more effective and engaging
  • Fully compatible with Newsstand
  • Editions read for fast downloads and automatic for subscribers
  • All editions purchased will be downloaded and are available for offline reading
  • They are available at any time editions of the last 12 months, but to free up space on the device you can easily set the number of issues to keep in memory
  • Ability to share the article that you’re reading on Twitter, Facebook or by email, visible by anyone even without a subscription


(Note: Alias, mentioned above, is a special section inserted into the weekend paper.)

IlManifestor-articleviewI don’t know how useful readers will find the night time reading mode, but I find it very attractive, and while the app does not allow for adjusting the font size, on my iPad mini I found the fonts very easy to read.

Pictures in the news stories can be tapped to make to full screen. Readers can read the native digital edition on their iPad in portrait or landscape, though on an iPhone portrait is the logical orientation.

When TNM first looked at this app, a year ago, it was part of a group of digital publication apps released created by ThePrintLabs Ltd. One of those apps, for a new digital magazine called Issued, is now gone, and the original app for Il Manifesto has been replaced by this new one. I assume the people behind the old app are helping with this new one, as well.

Browsing through the Newsstand today one sees many, many new foreign language newspapers and magazine app being launched. The initial reaction may be to let your eyes pass over them as you search for more familiar titles. But this is probably a mistake, as occasionally a new app shows us something new. I think the French language Le Presse+ and the Italian il manifesto digitale are good examples of what a quality digital newspaper looks like. One can imagine that should either paper decide to go digital-only they will already have apps that can work for them.

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