What Matters Most in Magazine and Newspaper iPad Apps? Quality, Report Says

Too Many Apps Are Still Minimally Enhanced PDFs

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Apple's new Newsstand for magazine and newspaper apps
Apple's new Newsstand for magazine and newspaper apps

Publishers, don't start skimping on your iPad editions now. Magazine and newspaper apps' quality seems to be the most important factor in their success with consumers, according to the first annual "The State of the App" report from McPheters & Company's iMonitor service, drawing on iMonitor's evaluations of 3,000 apps from publishers around the world.

Quality has a higher correlation with the magazine and newspaper-app revenue than a wide variety of other variables including price, subscription availability and audience demographics like age and income, the report says.

IMonitor gauges quality by rating how well apps work, whether they crash, how long they take to download, the presence of video or audio, design, navigability, interactivity, social-media capabilities and other factors. Apps' total ratings also reflect the quality of the ads they carry.

"People who have iPads are pretty sophisticated and tech-savvy consumers, and there are a wide variety of options available to them on the iPad," said Rebecca McPheters, CEO at McPheters & Co. "So apps are competing not only with other apps, but websites, games and news applications that are not publication-related. And to compete effectively they need to provide a high quality of experience."

The last couple of weeks have seen an influx of apps, however, with rather low production values and few enhancements. "They skew heavily toward replicas, much more than they have in the past, so that 's kind of disturbing," Ms. McPheters said.

The best apps reformat their content as users turn the iPad from a horizontal to vertical orientation, Ms. McPheters added. "But because this takes resources, we're seeing a move toward fixed orientation," she said.

The report found that 82% of North American magazine and newspaper apps include links, while 69% include social media, 34% include video, 28% include animation, 16% include transaction capabilities, 14% include audio and 2% include localization.

Most advertising is also presented only in straight PDF format, according to the report, which found that 68% of ads in North American apps include links but only 18% include video, 17% include social media, 15% include transaction capabilities and 13% include navigation.

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