October 21, 2015 Last Updated 2:19 pm

Future plc launches photography magazine, decides to go replica with the digital edition app

Decision to launch a replica for its new photography magazine might have been unthinkable a few years ago when Future launched Photography Week into the Newsstand

There are few other magazine categories that I can think of that works better on tablets than photography. Maybe film (video), maybe cooking. But photography works as good as any. It was probably this thinking that motivated Future plc to launch Photography Week for the iPad in late 2012, about one year after Apple introduced the Newsstand.

PP-cover-iPad“At Future, we’ve taken the challenge of finding a new digital business model by the scruff of the neck and launched a series of well-received digital-only magazine brands, such as Photography Week, Football Week and Gathered – all powered by our in-house app creation software, FutureFolio,” wrote Paul Newman, Group Editor-in-Chief at Future PLC.

According to Newman, the new digital-only launch sold 20,000 subscriptions in its first six months, after being downloaded over 100,000 times. The sales numbers were, in fact, impressive – but those downloads that didn’t lead to sales probably was a sign that many consumers didn’t really get the idea behind digital magazines. There are still reviews being written inside iTunes from consumers who complain that while the apps are free, they still require you to buy something.

As mentioned above, the publisher of Photography Week, Future, has its own digital publishing platform. And two or three years ago it would probably have been unthinkable for the company to launch a new magazine and title and put out a replica edition of it (though many of their older titles were receiving the replica edition treatment).

So, it is incredibly disappointing to see that the recently launched Professional Photography magazine has released a digital edition app that merely presents readers with a PDF replica of the print magazine.

PP-iPhone6-380It is not hard to see why a magazine might go replica: with reduced staff sizes it cuts down on production, it avoids the issue of producing separate version for different digital newsstands, its cheaper.

But we are talking about photography here, the category that seems to scream out for a more digital-first approach.

The problem with print photography magazine is, as any editor will admit in private, is that pages are limited. A feature on a photographer means being very selective in what can be featured. Often, in order to get as many photos into a feature as possible the art director must place the photos much smaller in size than they would like. Two-page spreads, perfect for shots in landscape, are limited – and then there is that damn gutter.

Photographs have always looked great on the iPad, even before the retina display models were introduced. But inside a replica edition one is stuck – the small photos are even smaller unless one goes to the trouble of making the photos “hot” – linked to photos that pop-up to be seen in full screen. Geez, even the gallery of screenshots below let the reader click/tap to see larger photos, why shouldn’t the digital edition allow this?

I should point out that I had one bit of trouble with the app: as you can see below in the Gallery, a pop-up dialogue box appears asking you if you want to sign up for a newsletter. While there are close and back buttons apparent, neither worked for me. This forced me to close the app and restart it in order to get to the place where I could eventually download the issue.)

Like most other replicas, this new one is also available for the iPhone – so what is hard to read on an iPad become comical on an iPhone.

So it is interesting to remember what Future’s team was think a couple years ago, when it introduced an iPhone version of Photography Week a few months after launching the iPad version:

Treating the iPhone edition as a separate product enabled us to get some distance from the iPad edition and visualise the magazine as a collection of content rather than an iPad design. This helped us to appreciate that the actual development challenge we faced was how to create a series of iPhone-friendly templates that pulled in the same content but presented it in a different way…

…We eventually concluded that some articles would need to be simplified, interactive elements would need to be ‘hidden’ behind buttons and that certain article types just wouldn’t work on the iPhone.

No such adjustments were made for Professional Photography – what you see in the iPad version you get with the iPhone version (only smaller, of course).

Professional Photography’s place in Future’s portfolio of photography magazines makes sense. With Photography Week they have the number one book for digital devices. The publisher also has other magazines including Digital Camera. It also has runs The Photography Show, the UK’s largest event for photographers.

With enthusiasm for native digital editions waning at many major magazine publishers, it is easy to see why this new launch would be print first, with digital way down the list of priorities. But a better approach would to wait to produce a better product. But then again, I’m sure there were advertisers who would ask “so, what are doing about digital?”

(The answer to that question is that the magazine was launched without its own dedicated website, but with a Facebook page which links to the site for Digital Camera World.)

Professional Photography will be charging £4.99 ($6.99 / €6.99) for single issues, and £3.99 ($4.99 / €4.99) for monthly subscriptions, and £44.99 ($59.99 / €59.99) for annual subscriptions. If you sign up now for a subscription now, however, you can get a free trial to view the premiere issue.