April 11, 2017 Last Updated 3:33 pm

First look: Film Comment digital edition app, version 2.0

Powered by the PugPig platform, this digital magazine provides readers an excellent smartphone or tablet reading experience, even if lacking the kinds of interactive features once seen in the early days of digital edition publishing

As TNM readers know, this site rarely looks at digital edition apps these days – such is the state of things, with far too many publishers dismissing the idea that some readers might prefer their magazines in a digital format. Nonetheless, there still is the occasional nice digital edition produced.

Film Comment, the magazine produced by Film Society of Lincoln Center, is a good example of a functional, easy-to-read digital edition – one without all the bells and whistles, but provides an excellent reading experience.

That last sentence may sound odd to those who have not read earlier TNM app stories. What it basically is saying is that this digital edition doesn’t attempt to be an interactive digital magazine, with embedded video, for instance. But instead reformats the print magazine in a simple way to create an easy-to-read digital magazine.

Early interactive magazines envisioned something different. A film magazine created for a digital device, would, it seemed logical, have some video included in them, be it trailers or something else. Some music magazines, such as those of the now dear departed Team Rock, contained music files.

Their polar opposite was, and remains, the PDF replica – the format the vast majority of publishers have decided to migrate towards. The reasons given are many, but I only buy one of the reasons: they are basically free for the publisher as they often enter into revenue share deals with the vendor that have sold them.

There is, of course, something in between: the reformatted digital edition, with all the stories, and often all the advertising, included from the print edition, but with the editorial reformatted for smartphone or tablet reading. Film Comment’s app belongs to this category.

The app file has recently been updated to version 2.0, and looking at the app itself one sees that it says it is powered by the digital publishing platform PugPig. The app description in iTunes, however, still links to 29th Street Publishing, which leads me to believe that the publisher has recently decided to change platforms. (29th Street Publishing is the platform used by the film magazine Little White Lies.)

The new Film Comment app provides the reader with previews of the issues, making available at least one or two articles free in order to entice the reader to subscribe, or at least buy the issue.

Single issues are priced at $1.99, while a yearly subscription is $9.99 (six issues).

As we all know, Apple’s subscription mechanism is terrible, and the company has never been very friendly to its publishing partners. The result has been that the relationship is now forever broken, with Apple failing to fix or maintain the App Store category important to publishers, and publishers mostly giving up on Apple being an important source of subscriptions.

Nonetheless, publishers like the one producing Film Comment are still producing good digital editions. I remain of the opinion that this is important as so many magazine newsstands have closed down, making it harder and harder to find magazine titles other than those of the major celebrity or lifestyle variety.

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