Khoi Vinh, formerly the design director for the New York Times’s website, has a post on his blog,, looking at the problem with magazine apps for the iPad. (A couple of weeks ago, I covered another article on the same issue for which Vinh was interviewed.) The major problem, Vinh says, is that they are trying to be far too much like printed magazines, and failing to take advantage of advances the iPad makes possible.

iPad magazine apps do attract strong advertiser interest, Vinh notes to his surprise. He suspects that it may be an indicator of a bubble rather than any real market for iPad magazine apps—the audience has shrunken dramatically for these apps since their original introduction.

And the reason for this may be that, in aping the format of printed magazines, they are working at odds with the way that iPad users like to read on their tablets.

As usual, these publishers require users to dive into environments that only negligibly acknowledge the world outside of their brand, if at all — a problem that’s abetted and exacerbated by the full-screen, single-window posture of all iPad software. In a media world that looks increasingly like the busy downtown heart of a city — with innumerable activities, events and alternative sources of distraction around you — these apps demand that you confine yourself to a remote, suburban cul-de-sac.

Vinh places a lot of the blame on Adobe, who create many of these applications through their tablet publishing solution. The app encourages publishers to design for a print medium in the knowledge that they can translate that design to tablet format. This results in monolithic apps that take a long time to download and sync and do not offer any sort of social networking or sharing access.

What publishers should be trying to do, Vinh suggests, is concentrate on smaller, nimble apps that can keep readers attention and let them experience the content how they want to. He suggests Flipboard as a positive example.

I think it’s interesting to contrast how e-magazines and e-books have performed in this area. E-books, after all, try to imitate the printed form on the tablet (right down to featuring facing pages and page-turn animations in iBooks). But they seem to have done all right so far. Of course, most e-books do not have anywhere near the layout and picture content of magazines,

(Found via Techdirt.)


  1. What I like about the magazine apps is that I can pick and choose the overseas magazines that I want to purchase and that the eMag version is cheaper than the imported version – e.g US magazines People and Vanity Fair.

    I recently purchased the Vogue UK eMag – exactly what you would expect in a Vogue magazine with 80% ads and 20% articles. The one thing that would put me off purchasing another one (if they actually do plan on producing a monthly eMag) is the fact that it took over 5 hours for the eMag to download and the download used the majority of my daily broadband allowance!

  2. But I like the way they are like the print versions, that’s kinda why I buy them?
    I’ll agree with above comments that it’s now way easier buying overseas mags, personally I got into buying iPad magazines because I was looking for out of date back issues, and could only get them in digital form..

    I’ve been buying and downloading iPad magazines from here in case anyone is interested:


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