Print Apps for iPad: What Works, What Doesn't

Print Apps for iPad: What Works, What Doesn't

From Vanity Fair to the New York Times, what's available so far — and how good are they?

 Is the iPad the savior of print?

"Anything that we can do to help the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal find new ways of expression so they can afford to get paid … I’m all for it," Steve Jobs told the AllThingsD conference on Tuesday.

Well, it’s way too early for results, but the pawns have started moving across the chess board. A number of print publications have just released apps created especially for the iPad.

And so far … it’s pretty encouraging. The monthlies are doing a far better job of it than the dailies, for obvious reasons – they have the time to invest. And for the most part, they not only look damn good, but some are taking full advantage of the interactive possibilities.

Following, a rundown of the apps available so far, ranked in order of best to not-so-best.

MEN’S HEALTH

Cost of App: Free
Issues Cost: $3.99
It’s beautifully designed, as most of the magazine apps are, and visually it replicates having the full print magazine in your hands.

But where Men’s Health beats the others is how much more content is buried beneath the surface.

As with most magazine apps, you swipe sideways to go from story to story. But after you swipe on Men’s Health, several “plus” signs show up in various places on the new page. Tap on one, and a pop-up menu shows what else is available for that area of the story. It could indicate a photo gallery, a mini-poll (“Have you ever shacked up?”), a link to Facebook or Twitter or a video. Indeed, videos are scattered throughout, from cooking lessons to weight-training exercises.

And it's extremely easy to navigate with a full, photo-filled contents pop-up and a bottom scroll.

WIRED

Cost of App: $4.99
Issues Cost: $2.99
Also beautifully designed, with lots to play with, including audio and video.

When you’re on a story, big round buttons show up, usually by the main photo. They allow you to change the photo, but keep the page where it is. Often, changing the photo brings more than just illustrative variety; it advances and explains the story further.

In a piece on creating “Toy Story 3,” the buttons visually show each step in the process. And on the next page of the story is a frame from the movie; tap and watch video of a sequence in the film.

Another cool exampe: A piece on bluetooth headsets pictures several headsets and the introduction; when you tap on a headset, the page layout stays the same, but the story area switches to a review of that particular headset.

Also, clear pop-up contents list to navigate around the site.

VANITY FAIR

Cost of App: Free
Issues Cost: $3.99
Each story begins with one full-page photo and a headline. Tap on the headline and you get a divided page with photo on the top, story on the bottom.

Swipe the top part and the photos change; tap and you get the photo full page; tap again you get the caption.

Tap the arrow between the text are and the photo area, and the photo disappears and the article appears in full. (And some of those articles are loooong.)

But even more impressive are the ads. Most have videos, links to websites, featurettes. An ad for Aveeno skin care products, for example, has four styling-instruction videos, and one for Bing South Africa, a travel site, has photos, videos and links to Bing’s website for more info.

GQ

Cost of App: Free
Issues Cost: $2.99
Basically the same layout as Conde Nast sister publication Vanity Fair, but lots more interactive. Most stories have places to tap for more info, sidebars, where-to-buys, Q&As, etc., usually at GQ.com. And an icon at the top of the screen lets you change the font size.

POPULAR SCIENCE

Cost of App: $4.99
Issues Cost: $4.99
Another attractive layout.

No long stories, but there are lots of little bits and pieces, making it fun and easy to read.

You swipe sideways to go from story to story. Swipe down from the main story page to see the text — but only text moves up — the full-page illustrated background stays where it is … until you come to another section of story, and then another full-page illustrated background automatically flips up to match the text.

For example, on a nail-gun story (hey, it is Popular Science!), you swipe and a nail gun shows up, full screen. A few seconds later, the text pops up on an overlay with arrows pointing out the various parts of the gun.

If you tap once on a page, the text disappears, leaving just the full-page illustration or photo. It’s not exactly clear why, but it sure looks pretty.

TIME MAGAZINE

Cost of App: Free
Issues Cost: $4.99
Not very inventive, but then they have only a week to produce each issue. It has all the sections of the magazine, plus a newsfeed.

As usual, you swipe to the side to get to each new story or section. Layout on all pages is the same: big headline and photo at the top, with the story underneath. You scroll down to read – and all addition photos are at the very, very bottom. Not such a good idea.

The text is huge – made for its senior-citizen readers, perhaps? Yet on the other hand, a contents pop-up scrolls across the bottom — but it’s way too tiny to see what’s actually on the page.

USA TODAY

Cost of App: Free
Issues Cost: Free
If the weekly Time is bare bones compared to the monthly magazines, the daily newspapers are even plainer. Though USA Today is the most interesting of all.

Sections are divided just like the paper: News, Money, Sports, Life. Every section has a thumbnail photo gallery on the left column, and “News Snapshots” – pop-up, a click-through of those wonderful USA Today charts and graphs, as well as lots of little polls and quizzes. You tap on the logo to navigate, though it doesn’t tell you that anywhere that I could see.

In the left two columns, there’s a great news scroll, with lots of thumbnail photos, with stories specific to each section. For some reason, the app seems to have more news than the actual newspaper does.

NEW YORK TIMES EDITOR’S CHOICE

Cost of App: Free
Issues Cost: Free
Oddly, Apple uses the Times in advertising and in Apple Store windows as an example of how good newspapers look on the iPad. Well, that’s not the iPad app; it’s the web version of the paper. The app itself is not the full paper but, as the name suggests, stories handpicked by the editors.

There are five two-page sections (News, Business, Tech, Opinion, Features), with 10-12 stories per section. Each story has a headline and 25-50 words; tap to get the whole story, and a few scattered photos.

 

WALL STREET JOURNAL

Cost of App: Free
Issues Cost: Current day free; subscription ($3.99/week) needed for older content
Works just like the New York Times. Has six sections: Main, Greater New York, Personal Journal, Money & Investing, Marketplace, Opinion. You swipe sideways within the sections to see more news, swipe up or down to change sections. Like the New York Times, standard newspaper layout: eight or nine stories a page, scattered art, tap to access the full story.

THE NATION

Cost of App: Free
Issues Cost: $1.99; subscriptions, $9.99, six months; $17.99, year
Does intellectual have to be so dull?

Very little artwork, tiny headlines, you flick the corner to turn the page – and though it looks like you’re actually turning a magazine page, unfortunately most of the time it doesn’t work.

Navigation, too, is kind of a mess. There’s a pop-up contents box, but the heads are too clever to give away what the articles are actually about: “Aiding the Insurgency,” “In Our Orbit,” “Five Books on the Enli…” (yes, it really stops on the elipses).

Basically, it’s a full issue of the magazine just loaded in like a PDF file. It even has the crossword puzzle – except you can’t actually enter in any letters.