December 8, 2015 Last Updated 7:12 am

Book reading platforms Kobo and Kindle update their iOS apps

Morning Brief: The New York Times and The Washington Post update some of their iOS apps, modifying push notifications, playing with fonts, fixing annoying app bugs

There were a large number of updates issued to media related apps this morning, including several publishing platforms/digital newsstands app updates.

Kobo-library-iPadTwo book platforms updated their iOS apps: Kobo Reading App was updated to return several features taken out by previous updates. The features are cosmetic: the page curl animation is back, as is the author sorting feature (useful for large collections of eBooks). The update also fixes some issues involving spacing and font sizes (the text size was displaying too small on some imported ePub files).

The first two written reviews of the app in iTunes following the update say the update has broken the app. I don’t use the Kobo platform, but the update did not cause an app crash for me when I tested it.

(One thing I have noticed is that a large number of updates are being released trying to grapple with issues involving the iPad Pro. Anyone seeing issues with the iPad Pro?)

Amazon has updated its Kindle reading app for iOS, bringing the app up to version 4.15. The update really is about one thing, at least according to the app description: adding a setting that limits downloads to WiFi-only. This will prevent readers from burning through their data plans when downloading large book files.

The digital publishing platform Mag+ has updated its previewer app, now called Mag+ Designd Reviewer. The update brings iPad Pro support to the platform.

Mag+ recently introduced a new mobile app making solution called Semble (see TNM story here), and so now have two solutions to offer customers, forcing it to come up with a name for its original digital edition solution. They chose Designd, though I admit I am not a big fan of cute names that involve intentionally misspelling something. Oh well, they didn’t ask me for my opinion.

NYT-IPhone-PN-updateThe New York Times has issued a minor update to its iPhone app, slightly changing the push notifications settings. The options are now Top Stories, Business & Tech, New York, Sports or Election 2016.

Honestly, media companies do an absolutely horrible job utilizing push notifications. Many simply add a dialogue box at the initial open of their app, and then when the user reflexively say “No” that is the end of it – hardly a real strategy to utilize the feature.

I think the best discussion I had with a digital publishing pro about push notifications was with then Mag+ CEO Gregg Hano last fall. (Hano is now CRO at ScrollMotion.)

Hano thought the key was to get specific information from readers about their interests, then try to deliver better targeted content.

If you take a brand, and you say “Hi consumer, how are you today?  Are you interested in automotive technology, home technology, space, aviation…”

“Yes, I love home technology, I’m interested in aviation, and I’m interested in automotive technology.”

Great, now the publisher, the content owner, has some great data.  They can then begin to ask them “would you like to see information from our brand on automotive technology?”  Then you can begin to send out SIPs (special interest publications) that are maybe eight pages long that talk about what is going on in Nevada with Elon Musk fill in the new electric battery power plant, or talk about what’s on with Volvo and it’s new ownership by the company in China.

There is so much information that they can begin to drill down and begin to share with their consumers on a weekly basis, or on a more regular basis, that is pushed to their devices, so that when they pick it up one of those 150 times a day they see that little bit of content come through, and they begin to engage with the brand more regularly.

I think there was serious frustration with those who were selling publishers digital solutions as they simply did not see publishers serious about exploiting their digital editions, simply content to create replica editions rather than using the new opportunities inherent in digital editions to deliver more targeted content to readers.

By the way, the NYT has also updated its new NYT VR app, the virtual reality app. The update fixes an issue where downloaded videos were being removed unintentionally.

The update app description also includes some tips for getting the most out of the Cardboard viewing experience – a very nice use of the app description (it is always nice to see when a developer takes the app description for updates as an opportunity to communicate with their users).

The Washington Post also has updated one of its iOS app – The Washington Post Classic for iPad.

WaPo-Classic-articleThis app has an interesting history in that it was probably to be replaced by the new app designed originally for the Kindle, then released for iOS. But, it turns out, that the original iPad app was popular with readers and has continued to be updated.

This update is a major one in that it introduces some design changes, plus fixes some bugs that were causes readers to complain about the app.

Here is what is in the update:

What’s New in Version 3.6.0
This update brings support for the iPad Pro, along with the following enhancements:
– New article layout, inspired by the typefaces used in our print newspaper.
– New look for Settings, in the standard iOS style.
– Made even more alerts and messages non-modal! Look at us getting out of your way!
– Improved rendering speed and performance on older devices.
– Fixed a bug where notifications wouldn’t open the article if the app was closed and Print Edition was set to default.
– Improved the messaging around offline access for the Print Edition.
– Squashed a bug where changing the font size made articles render strangely.
– Improved our Print Edition logic for when to automatically download weekly sections like Food and Outlook, if you’re a frequent reader.
– Fixed a bug where you couldn’t click on a Facebook or Twitter profile link.

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