Project, the iPad-exclusive magazine launched by Richard Branson’s Virgin last year, was updated yesterday to include a new issue that, unlike the previous ones, makes extensive use of the iPad 2 hardware to bring an HTML5-based, gyroscope-enabled animated cover to the readers. Project has always stood out as an example of a digital magazine willing to experiment more than the competition with interactive elements and on-screen graphics; and although it’s not perfect – like most magazine, text isn’t selectable and the overall navigation is based on old print schemes – I have to say I’m always curious to see what the Project team comes up with for each issue. It started with a video-like animated cover, and it continues in the latest Issue #5.
The design team told us the new issue uses the gyroscope to control HTML5 canvas objects: you can pan horizontally by moving your iPad around and see the various movies characters featured by Project in this month’s cover. You can’t do much with this feature, but we think it’s really interesting that magazine designers are starting to play around with the iPad’s hardware capabilities – and we’re definitely looking forward to more examples of this kind of integration with content and hardware.
The latest issue of Project is available as a $2.99 in-app purchase.
When I first reviewed TweetMag back in December, I called it the “most beautiful Twitter app” for the iPad. Lots of things have changed since then, but I stand by my statement: the iPad 2 is now available and Flipboard went under a major update that refined the UI and added Instagram integration, yet TweetMag still holds up as a gorgeous way to consume Twitter as a magazine specifically built for the tablet. There are some similarities with the iPad app of the year 2010, Flipboard, but with the recent 1.1 update TweetMag takes another important step to become the most beautiful alternative Twitter app.
TweetMag 1.1 is faster. The backend was entirely rewritten, and you can immediately tell the difference in speed – especially on an iPad 2. Images load faster, tweets are parsed in seconds, content appears within moments after choosing a magazine from the top “rack”. The speed issues encountered by several users in the first version have been fixed, and rarely did I stumble upon wrong headlines or non-loaded images in TweetMag 1.1. There are still some minor issues here and there (1.1.1 update coming soon?), but this thing is simply faster now. The new system that powers TweetMag definitely shows its capabilities.
Two new features in TweetMag 1.1 allow you to create a magazine out of your favorite tweets (and consequently add tweets to Favorites directly within the app) and link to your Readability account to create a Read Later mag. We’re big fans of Readability here at MacStories, and full integration with the service is more than welcome. You can add articles to your reading queue or simply head over to the rack to check out your Read Later mag – made of articles you have saved in your online Readability account. Instapaper support is gone, but it might be coming back in a future update. We appreciate the developers’ choice to support publishers by adding Readability right into TweetMag – which still grabs links off any Twitter timeline to present articles in a uncluttered layout with great-looking typography.
Other new features in 1.1 include a Featured section with the top publications worth following, and the possibility to add or remove friends from the app. TweetMag is a $2.99 purchase in the App Store for a limited time, and it’s still the most beautiful Twitter app, now with a faster engine. Recommended.
With the release of version 1.2 last night, the team at Flipboard has one again raised the bar for social magazines on the iPad. Flipboard 1.2, not different in the design from the previous iterations but richer in content, manages to extend the platform’s capabilities beyond articles and status updates with Instagram integration. The coolest iPhone-only social network these days is now baked directly into Flipboard thanks to an API that allows you to browse photos, comment on them and like them, discover and follow users without leaving the app or jumping to Safari. Everything happens through Flipboard. Together with that, a new feature called “social search” lets you browse for any term or hashtag within an easy-to-use popup menu that aggregates content from a variety of sources like Facebook, Twitter and the aforementioned Instagram.
In an interview with Robert Scoble, Flipboard CEO Mike McCue confirms Social Search is the first example of the implementation of Ellerdale, a company Flipboard acquired last year to build a smart algorithm for aggregating and displaying relevant and personalized content. Whilst this “intelligent system” is still in the works, all the members of Ellerdale are now working at the Flipboard office and have shipped the very first feature last night, social search. It’s very cool in the way it catches tweets, photos, articles and status updates from social media, but it’s not intelligent yet. More will come in the next months, we’re sure.
McCue also gives a hint at advertising coming in future versions of Flipboard. Some fullscreen, elegant banners have already been implemented in the Flipboard-formatted version of SF Gate, and he says they’re indeed targeting for this kind of ads: beautiful photography, fast and lightweight. The opportunity for publishers to team up with Flipboard (like SF Gate) and set up iPad-optimized versions of their articles is also something McCue is heavily betting on. Last night, Flipboard rolled out integration with Wired and Pictory, too.
Last, Flipboard is going to take advantage of the iPad 2’s improved hardware with the possibility to create more than two pages in the main screen – currently a limitation of the iPad 1 hardware and memory constraints. With the iPad 2 coming out tomorrow, we can’t wait to see how Flipboard will benefit from faster processor, graphics and more RAM. As for the competition and all the tablets coming out this year, McCue says they’re just going to wait and see.
Check out the video below.
Apple is keeping the whole in-app subscription thing hush for the time being, but the Wall Street Journal claims that March 31st will be the magic date for publishers to have their apps ready by according to a tip from UK publishing developers, Yudu. Clearing up confusion about Apple’s required subscription model, publishers should still be able to offer services outside of the App Store, but a payment option through iTunes is mandatory. Mostly likely Apple will want a 30% cut of all periodicals sold through the App Store, and whether or not we’ll see services like Kindle and Barnes & Noble jumping ship remains to be seen. For the customer, ultimately unifying the subscription experience in the App Store and getting publishers to price competitively with The Daily will benefit consumers who otherwise pay outrageous fees – individual issues of magazines can cost up to $5.00 per issue, a subscription to The Economist totals $110 a year, and the New York Times can total an incredible $240 a year. Current workarounds for selling periodicals simply aren’t working: Apple’s “fix” should appeal to a much larger consumer base skeptical about the future of digital media.
March 31st is a likely date: with iOS 4.3 and the second generation iPad expected soon, publishers will have a solid month to prepare their content for Apple’s latest device.
[WSJ via Engadget]
Project, the iPad-only magazine from Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, was off to a good start when it was first released and then, pretty much like any other iPad magazine, it quickly disappeared from the App Store charts. There was a lot of excitement and anticipation around Branson’s Project, mainly because it was the first magazine to be built entirely with the iPad in mind and because, well, anything from Branson is a little bit cool.
While we didn’t exactly go crazy over the first issue of Project (it had a great animated cover, and some fancy graphics here and there inside the magazine), perhaps the second issue, released today, will get us a bit more excited. Issue 2 of Project Mag has another animated cover and interview featuring the star of Born Survivor/Man vs Wild Bear Grylls. Read more
Last year, when the “Apple tablet” rumors started to grow louder and become more persistent on the Internet, many speculated such a device would be the savior of the digital publishing industry. Magazines and newspapers could finally find a new home on the rumored Apple device that was meant for reading. The iPad came out, the big names dropped their guns and released not-so-great magazine apps, the iPad didn’t save them from low sales numbers at all. According to data from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the iPad has failed at “saving” the digital publishing industry.
To make it simple, the numbers have been a disappointment: the Wired app sold 24,000 copies in its first 24 hours in the App Store, reached 100,000 downloads in June but then fell back to 31,000 monthly downloads between July and September and 23,000 in November. That’s a rapid decline indeed. Want more numbers? Vanity Fair sold 8,700 copies in November, Glamour went down to 2,775 downloads. GQ? Only 11,000 sales in November. Men’s Health has the worst performances with 2,000 copies sold in September and October.
Sure, the iPad hasn’t saved magazines if you look at the big picture. But let me tell you one thing: magazines haven’t done anything in their power to stand out on this new platform either. Developers of these magazine apps did, at best, optimize old PDF versions of a publication for the tablet’s screen, ignoring Apple’s user interface guidelines and people’s request for easier sharing options on Facebook and Twitter. Heck, they didn’t even make sure text was selectable in their apps. And it’s not that Apple has weird policies or “too much control” on apps: people, users, actually care about well-realized software. When they see something that’s been quickly converted or squeezed into a 10-inch screen, they don’t download. Or they stop buying. That’s what happened with the Wired app.
I understand big publications would rather have a single “tablet version” to use on a variety of devices such as the iPad or other Android tablets. I also understand that the lack of monthly subscriptions gets in the way with selling updates to App Store users. But a good app? That should always be the starting point.
Remember Richard Branson’s Project for iPad? In case you have forgotten, it’s Virgin’s first attempt to build an iPad-only magazine “about creative people, for creative people”. While the first issue of the app wasn’t that revolutionary or feature-rich, there was some potential in there, for sure. The animated cover looked nice and content was pretty good, too.
Today Virgin has announced that users will be able to download Project Issue 1 for free starting tomorrow (December 23) until December 29. Project Issue 2 will be released on January 7, although no further details have been provided.
In early 2011 Virgin will also release an entirely crowd sourced issue of Project, with a new animated cover that’s been selected from a contest held in NYC three weeks ago. Videos of the selected cover and the contest featuring Richard Branson have been posted online, check them out below. Read more
In case you missed it, Flipboard received a huge update last week. The new version, which I guess you’ve been using extensively, adds support for more services than the initially implemented Facebook and Twitter. Those two got a facelift, too, but Flipboard 1.1 is all about making the app the ultimate social magazine that can fetch articles and media from Google Reader and Flickr – something that loyal Flipboard users have been asking since the first version was released in July. In case you missed Apple’s 2010 roundup of the best apps from the App Store as well, Flipboard is now featured as the iPad App of 2010. To me, it’s an absolutely deserved position and I would have been surprised if Apple had chosen another app.
Before focusing on the new features and the interactions implemented in this update, I want to make my point clear: I do think that Flipboard is the iPad app of 2010, but not because of popularity, success or media coverage. Not because of the Apple commercials or the rave reviews it got on blogs and the App Store. Flipboard is the iPad app of the year because, in my opinion, it perfectly sums up the essence of the iPad as a consumer electronic product: it’s an app everyone can use, it looks simple and straightforward on the surface but if you want – you can make it go deeper on many levels. Flipboard, like the iPad itself, can be seen as something simple, an app for non-geeks, for the non-tech savvy audience that wants an aggregator of social content. I’m sure thousands of users think of Flipboard that way, and use it that way. Just like I know millions of people see the iPad as a simple and enjoyable alternative to the most complicated notebook. But a question has arisen between me, my followers and co-workers lately: does simple mean casual?
Better: does simplicity represent a weak point of a certain product? Read more
As spotted by The Next Web earlier today, the Flipboard team is hiring. Most specifically, the latest job openings on Flipboard’s website reveal that the company is looking for a “Designer-Web Developer” and a “Front-end Web Developer”, together with an additional iOS developer. Flipboard was named iPad App of the Year by Apple last week in the annual “iTunes Rewind” compilation.
A web version of Flipboard, in my opinion, would make a lot of sense, especially considering the availability of magazine and newspaper web apps in Google’s recently launched Chrome Web Store. Flipboard for the web would directly compete with the already popular paper.li service, which allows you to build digital newspapers around Twitter links and users. What’s for sure is that if this is true, if Flipboard’s really planning a full-featured web version, we won’t be seeing it until 2011. We’d also appreciate an iPhone version, a lot.