August 5, 2015 Last Updated 9:31 am

New business magazine apps choose very different approaches to their new digital editions

Digitalist Magazine from SAP and SWISS Universe from Swiss International Air Lines use different platforms to create very different digital magazine apps

The best work being done today in digital magazines is coming from brands. This has been the theme this week at TNM as so many commercial publishers continue down the same road to nowhere with their digital media efforts, but corporate communications departments look to digital publishing as an opportunity to promoted their brands – and so doing cheap and easy is not a good option.

Several new digital edition apps have been launched since late July that show how good digital magazines can be when the designers choose to go native rather than replica.

Digitalist-cover-iPadDigitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly is a new digital magazine from SAP. The company has launched a new website called Digitalist Magazine by SAP which is designed to cover the digital economy, in the words of its producers. The new digital magazine is an extension of that web effort, and as the name implies, will be published in app form quarterly.

“The Executive Quarterly is a tablet-based magazine distillation of technologies and business strategies that are gaining momentum, and that you can capitalize upon today,” wrote Jeff Woods, Vice President in SAP Global Marketing. “It is written with a strategic enterprise view, specifically to help executives understand the digital economy, but more importantly, apply it to their own large-scale enterprise transformation.”

Woods is also credited with being the new magazine’s Editorial Director.

The app is stand-alone – that is, not placed inside the Newsstand – and appears under the developer account of Clarkebot, Inc. Michael Clarke is listed as creative director, while Vivek Bapat, ‎Senior VP, Global Head of Marketing Strategy with SAP, is listed as publisher.

As you may know, I don’t like it when the publisher allows their apps to appear under the name of their vendor, so it would seem to be the same kind of mistake to launch this digital magazine under any other name other than SAP.

The digital magazine was built using the Mag+ digital publishing platform, so what one sees is very much a typical (and very good) native digital magazine. The font sizes are correct for the device, the layouts clean and easy to navigate. The new digital magazine mimics print in that it starts off with a “cover” and proceeds to the editor’s column, then to the staff box. This may be traditional, but it is also good in that it tells the readers who is behind the new digital magazine and how to get in touch with the staff. Far too many digital magazines fail to provide this information.

SwissUniverse-iPadSWISS Universe takes a very different approach to its new digital edition app. The magazine is subtitled the “luxury edition for first and business class.”

The app uses the Adobe Digital Publishing Solution and was created by the agency DOCMINE and appears under the developer account of (again, probably not the way this should have been handled).

Unlike the Mag+ built digital magazine, this one takes a different approach, and one we are likely to see more often as companies and publishers start using the new Adobe DPS to build their apps.

The app opens to a page that acts as a table of contents, built with boxes containing the stories or advertising. If you read the TNM story on the new Qantas digital edition (see here) you immediately start to see a pattern developing. Is this the new look Adobe is promoting? I hope not because it will get boring really quick. Designers have questioned the need for a traditional magazine cover for apps, but the traditional cover does allow for endless variations and maximum creativity. Boxes are, well, boxes.

But the approach is taken because the nature of digital editions is bound to change – from static monthly editions to constantly updated content. Adobe is leading the charge and it will have a profound impact on the digital magazines we see launched in the future. It is also an approach that is consistent with what many on the vendor side of the business have been advocating for years.

“I read recently that the average individual with a smart phone picks it up 150 times a day. If you are picking up that device that often, a bit of content coming into me every 30 days doesn’t feel right for the device that I am consuming it on,” Gregg Hano, then CEO at Mag+ told TNM last year.

“Now that doesn’t mean we do away with digital monthly issues,” he added.

Like the digital magazine from Qantas which also uses the new Adobe DPS, the editorial content of the magazine is accessed via that new cover, swiping from the cover takes you to the staff page, but not the articles. If you tap on the article box you reach the content which is very attractive – but, again, swiping will not take you to the next article.

This is a new kind of navigation and one not very reader friendly. The reader has to always go back to the home page to get to more stories. Why do this? I think it is Adobe saying that your digital editions should act more like an app than like a print magazine, and there is some logic behind this thinking. But then again who says readers want their magazines to act more like apps than print magazines?

(I know that some would say that this is a false comparison, that the new digital apps are not really “magazines” but attempting something new. I’m not sure I would buy into that, as the content is coming from a print magazine, and the article layouts are what one normally sees in an editorial product. But I understand that the new look and navigation are an attempt to created a new digital media form that works better than both PDF replica editions and static, but native digital magazines.)

There have been several other new digital magazine apps released lately to look at. I am curious to see whether they will reflect their own individual ideas of what a digital magazine should look like, or instead simply reflect what the vendor thinks works best. In other words, who is driving this car? Publishers or the digital publishing platform?

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