|One of the challenges publishers have faced with the first wave of tablet editions is getting users to come back to the app between issues. The newly designed iPad edition from New York magazine addresses this problem by blending daily web content with the weekly magazine mix.
The new app, which will debut in the Apple Newsstand on April 1, is a significant upgrade from the rudimentary PDF replica that parent company New York Media has offered since 2010.
"We wanted to take the time to figure out what our iPad strategy should be," Steve Motzenbecker, New York magazine's director of design and user experience, said in an interview at New York magazine's offices, where he demonstrated the new app. "We knew we wanted to give readers access to a great digital version but also great content online."
The magazine section of the new app still follows the basic design of the print edition. Now, however, readers can toggle between the magazine and curated web content using a "window shade" slider. The web content includes breaking news headlines along with 15-20 stories that editors pull from the brand's four web properties: Vulture, The Cut, Grub Street and Daily Intelligencer.
The home screen for the daily content is a simplified version of a website home page, and even includes a display ad. The content is upgraded throughout the day, with an emphasis on peak times such as mornings and evenings. "Having the daily content is a critical piece for driving constant engagement," said Motzenbecker.
The number of sessions by readers per issue is one of the key metrics publishers will need to track how readers are engaging with tablet editions. Adding daily content is one way to combine the "lean back" experience of a magazine with the "lean forward" web experience.
New York magazine partnered with The Wonderfactory on the app design and is using the Mag+ platform to produce it. "We wanted to use something that would let us work within InDesign but also allow us to be nimble," said Motzenbecker. "For various technical reasons, a fully custom app would have been too difficult to pull off. Mag+ gave us the flexibility we wanted, and their vision is in line with where we want to go: having the freedom to create custom experiences with existing design tools."
Two art production people are dedicated to the iPad edition. Their primary role is to take the print layouts created in InDesign and format them in Mag+. They are also responsible for identifying additional content, such as video or audio, for the app. At this point, they're keeping the bells and whistles to a minimum.
"Our strength is our editorial voice - our job is to keep the design simple and not get in the way of the experience," said Motzenbecker. "And readers told us they wanted a simple but well-designed experience."
That doesn't preclude more rich media in future issues. "We want to make smart decisions about those resources going forward," he said. "If people are gobbling it up, then we'll do more."
With the launch of the new app, New York magazine is also rolling out its first digital subscriptions for the iPad. Users can purchase annual ($19.99) or monthly ($1.99) subscriptions as well as single issues ($4.99). Print subscribers will receive the digital edition at no extra cost.