July 16, 2015 Last Updated 2:13 pm

Two apps are better than one? Magzter launches second Newsstand app for DownBeat

A second app for the iconic jazz monthly has been launched through Magzter, now sitting next to the older app from PixelMags, and both with the same PDF replicas available inside

The jazz magazine DownBeat last month launched a second digital edition of the magazine into the Apple Newsstand. Now there is DownBeat Magazine, a PixelMags app that appears under the publisher’s own developer account, and Downbeat (Magazine), which offers the same PDF replica, but appears under Magzter’s developer account. Both apps charge $19.99 for an annual subscription.

Downbeat-cover-300DownBeat was founded in 1934 in Chicago, just a few years after the center of jazz had migrated to New York, but still flowed through Chicago regularly. The magazine went monthly in the late seventies and continues to look healthy with strong ad page counts.

But the publisher is not big on branching out, with only a couple books published over the years, and digital is not much of a priority as the site only occasionally gets content posted to it (despite it being a consumer magazine, the title’s website actually gets less traffic than TNM, a B2B website with a far smaller potential audience).

DownBeat’s first Newsstand app, also a replica, came from Better Press, a small platform that now appears to be out of business (I left it out of the last edition of the Guide to Digital Publishing Platforms after I could no longer reach them). After a period of time a new app appeared, this one coming from PixelMags, but still appearing under the publisher’s own developer account.

The new app is from revenue share platform Magzter, and so appears under the Magzter developer account, along with hundreds upon hundreds of other titles. (So many that in iTunes, on my iMac with 16 GB of RAM, I cannot scroll through them all without producing the dreaded spinning beach ball and crashing the program.)

twodownbeatsThere are a few differences between the apps, though the issues are identical. The newer Magzter app gives the reader fullscreen previews of the issues, while the PixelMags app uses the 1.5 x 2″ cover slot to let readers “flick” through pages. The PixelMags app today has the August 2015 issue available, while the Magzter app’s latest issue remains July.

The Magzter app offers all the issues from 2015, but nothing older, while the PixelMags app has issues going back to September 2014 which is when the app changed platforms (the PixelMags app has not been updated since it was originally launched). Also, the two app open to different looking splash screens: Magzter’s has a retro look that is attractive, but strangely the graphic doesn’t fit the screen; while the PixelMags splash screen is less attractive but at least fits.

The choice of screenshots for the app descriptions are interesting: PixelMags seems to want to avoid showing two-spreads as they must obviously be housed on two different screens; but Magzter seems to like showing the page spreads cut up between pages.

Finally, the Magzter app is not only inside the Apple Newsstand, but in Google Play, as well; while the PixelMag app resides in the Apple Newsstand and may also be the one to be found on Amazon.com’s Android app store.

Today, both apps reside inside the Newsstand and when they both contain the newest issue one assumes reader would not be able to tell the difference between them. In iOS 9, when all apps return to simply having icons, they might look different – but they will both still offer PDF replicas, of course.

Two years ago I would have, and did, think anyone pursuing a replica strategy with an entertainment magazine was crazy, short-sighted and badly outdated. Back then, in 2013, I would assumed that by now, 2015, music and film lovers would be reading a native digital magazine filled with music and video of live performances and trailers, one that record labels and movie studios would support because digital editions with multimedia to offer would be an obviously superior product. I thought that even labels like ECM, that keeps most of their music off of the streaming services, would prefer this kind of music magazine because it could better promote their artists and their releases.

But no. Unfortunately, time truly has stood still in the publishing world. All therse years into the digital publishing era we are still forced into reading PDFs of 8 x 11 inch print pages shrunk down to 2.5 x 4 inch screens. No wonder no one wants to buy them (and no one wants to pay for producing them).

  • Nick Martin 2 years ago

    Wow I’m really confused by the publisher wanting to give up his own control of the magazine moving from their own developer account to Magzter’s. I guess they are trying to get as much exposure as possible? Do we have any numbers available from Magzter publishers regarding added exposure from being in their newsstand? I wonder if there is a benefit at all with that many titles?

    From the publisher’s perspective, I guess taking Magzters offer of a “free” app (giving up 50% of the income) is seemed as okay, if it generates sales from their Newsstand? But then again, if you are selling for $1000/month, you are first giving Apple 30% and then Magzter 50% of what’s left and end up with $350 in sales effectively paying $350 for Magzter’s platform.