This post is long overdue. As so many magazine publishers are seizing on the iPhone as the saviour of their falling-circulation-and-advertising-revenue woes, a roundup of the various magazines using the iPhone is definitely in order.
I have been fairly loose with my definition of "magazine iPhone apps", and this is because I am unconvinced that simply replicating print editorial in digital formats will sustain magazine publishing. However the more interesting brand partnerships and retail platforms offer a potentially lucrative extension to the magazine brand, and are certainly worth considering. It is worth noting that most of the current apps are free, with some form of advertising or integrated product sales, although there has recently been a lot of talk about using a paid-content model, delivered via iTunes. Finally here, in no particular order, is my pick of the most interesting magazine iPhone apps:
Wired Product Reviews
This is the best magazine iPhone app I have come across. It's well designed, totally in line with the Wired brand, and useful. The app doesn't complicate the process, just provides you with searchable and browsable product reviews, videos, blog posts. The navigation is slick, with all reviews being categorized under product types, and when viewing a list of results, they can be ordered by name, latest, price and rating. Altogether a nice viewing experience, although I don't see any advertising, so I assume the app currently makes no revenues. 9/10
Epicurious.com, launched in 1995, is the online home of Gourmet magazine and Bon Appetit magazine, listing over 20,000 recipes as well as reviews, guides and other editorial. The iPhone app is a clever (if obvious) and well-executed extension of the brand, basically creating an intelligent recipe and shopping list for its users, with user-submitted reviews included. The app carries no editorial content, and is simple and effective at what it aims to achieve. Advertising is carried in an interstitial format, with certain areas also sponsored by brands (Visa and Barcadi Mixers currently). Its useful and easy-to-use, and provides another entry point into Conde Nast’s cooking and lifestyle properties: 8/10.
This app is a superb example to other magazine publishers, as it extends the Style.com (and therefore the Vogue) brand onto the iPhone, re purposing quality content whilst maintaining a similar feel for the user. It’s content includes a blog, an archive of catwalk videos, a huge catalogue of catwalk and party photos, and a “Look of the Day” voting feature. There is so much content that you would have to surf for hours to get bored, and the navigation is smooth and intuitive. The app has a sponsor (currently H&M), and the main advertising format is an interstitial which appears during navigation, and after every 10 photo impressions. I have shown a screenshot of the style.com interstitial, as it is the cleanest and most appealing mobile advertising format that I have come across (please email me if you know what rate this format is achieving). 8/10
Lucky at your service
This app is another great brand extension, from the US shopping magazine Lucky. It doesn’t carry any editorial (although I think this would be an improvement), and simply has a product image gallery for you to select those shoes you’ve always wanted. The products have all been featured in the previous issue of Lucky, and when users click on them, they can find out which local store carries the product and reserve it for instore purchase. I don’t think Lucky currently take any cut of the purchase revenue, but that is always a possibility. Lucky’s sister mag, Domino, was recently shut down by Conde Nast, but hopefully this app will resonate with its audience and provide another valuable revenue stream. 7/10
Elle City Guides
In partnership with Mobileo AG, Elle has launched city guides for six European capitals. They are paid apps, available for £2.39, and contain relevant local information such as restaurants, walks, sightseeing, local personalities, and bars. I believe that Elle has run print supplements in its regional magazine versions for each of these cities, and its great to see that this concept has been used and extended through the AppStore. I haven’t found many people using these apps, which is to be expected given the price tag. It would be interesting to see if local advertising from restaurants, events, and sightseeing companies could help generate revenue. 6/10
I can only assume that other territories have their apps in the works, but this Canadian version is a pretty good start. It is more cluttered than Style.com’s app, with links to the gossip blog, photo gallery, horoscopes, look of the day and shop, all listed on the front page. Advertising is in the form of a small banner at the top and bottom of the screens. 6/10
I’m impressed with this nice music app, which gives access to Spin’s reviews, news and photo galleries. The reviews include a “buy from iTunes” button, but I can’t see any other advertising in the app. It doesn’t do anything new or radical, but is a well-executed extension of the Spin brand onto the iPhone. 6/10
This is a simply a feed from OK Magazine converted using Mippin into a format for the iPhone. Although this was the only example I could find, Mippin are undoubtedly in talks with lots of other magazine publishers about doing the same thing. I love what they do (ie making web content accessible and readable on mobile devices), but for an iPhone app it leaves something to be desired. Magazines pride themselves on the gloss and tangible quality of their work, and merely pushing an RSS feed of content into a suitable format removes those attributes, and all the potential interactivity of the medium, entirely. 5/10
Car and Driver
This is a photo gallery containing a few hundred images of supercars. Users can view the photos, set them as the wallpaper, or share them. It’s basic, but seems reasonably popular. The app costs £0.59. 5/10
This app is very expensive (was $7.99, now $4.99) and delivers a basic feed of astrology information. I have heard from people who know much more about this than I, that much more useful/personal/detailed information is available for free from several major astro sites, and there are already several free apps in the Appstore. It doesn’t seem to really tie in with Elle’s brand image. 4/10
In addition to the above apps, many sites have optimised their sites for the iPhone. Here are a examples of three different approaches:
This is a slimline and iPhone-optimized version of FHM’s website. It is not very aesthetically pleasing, being designed for generic mobile delivery rather than the iPhone experience specifically (mobile site here). And it doesn’t have much content, really just the articles, photos, and videos about girls. There are several paid download links, including wallpapers and ringtones, and there are also display ads which are currently promoting other Bauer properties. 4/10
This is a iPhone version of a digital edition produced by Texterity. It is an exact copy of the print version, so obviously lacks on the interactivity and format front. You can view the web version here or the iPhone version here. From what I understand, Texterity and several of the other digital magazine providers have big plans for a paid-content Appstore delivery system for magazines. I only hope that it doesn’t hinge on merely delivering facsimiles of the print issues. 4/10
This is a web-only personalized music magazine, which recommends news, reviews, interviews, and videos based on each user’s unique taste. The major social functions are included, and an archive of over 20,000 recent articles is available to search and browse. Revenue is generated from affiliate links and targeted advertising. This site is built off our personalized publishing platform, so I can’t give it an unbiased rating. Also, I know how much more is to come! The website is here and the mobile site is here.
It’s very interesting to see that the best magazine apps seem to currently be from Conde Nast (Style.com, Wired, Epicurious, Lucky…), although Hachette Filipatchi is also doing a lot with its Elle brand. It’s great to see that despite being hit hard by the recession, they are continuing to innovate. (As a sidenote, another nice iPhone app that I have used a lot recently and which comes under the Conde Nast umbrella is Reddit, a socially-powered news service similar to Digg.) When will the other magazine houses start to catch up? Where is Hearst, IPC, Future, Dennis (etc) on the Appstore? I expect to see a flood of standard content apps from most major magazine titles over the next few months, but I will be looking expectantly for more interesting and monetisable offerings that might actually make a difference to the future of the magazine.
Since posting this, several people have let me know about new magazine iPhone apps. Here are the best two I have seen since.
People Celebrity News Tracker
This is a paid-app ($1.99) which caters to the avid celebrity lover. It gives news, photos and celebrity bios, all packaged in an easy-to-use app. Content is pulled from across the People Magazine network in the US, and the “top-5″ stories seem to change enough for the content flow to appear sufficient.
Maxim “Hottie Weather”
Maxim did have a weather application, which gave detailed weather forecasts with photos of girls from the Hometown Hotties contest alongside. Although several sites review this app as “easy to use” (…), it seems to have been taken down, so I can’t verify.