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BIG APP-LE: New York magazine’s tablet app for the past two years has been a standard digital replica, a static PDF with scrollable pages, zooms and gateways to its Web site and RSS feed. It was time for a revamp. On Monday a new subscription iPad app that combines a daily news stream from its network of blogs and an interactive version of the magazine will appear on the Apple newsstand.
The new app’s defining feature is a “window shade” that allows readers to swipe from the daily posts to the features in the print magazine, but nonsubscribers will be asked to sign up for a paid digital subscription, or to buy a single issue, to read a full story.
The split model is a distinction from New York’s Web site, which, despite offering all content, print and digital for free, has become the magazine’s largest driver of print subscribers. The app is supposed to be more of a transactional come-on.
“We’re hopeful this freemium model will convert casual readers of the Web site to become subscribers of the print magazine,” said editor in chief Adam Moss.
For the weekly, a popular tablet app is vital. While the magazine reflected industry trends and registered a newsstand decline in the second half of 2012, almost 13 percent, digital replicas kept the circulation flat at a little more than 405,400, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. By the end of December, digital replicas totaled 3,827, a 56 percent increase from the first six months of last year.
The new app is expected to also be a source of added digital advertising revenue. All ads from the print edition will be duplicated on the iPad, but there will also be ads beside the daily blog posts — Tekserve, a leading Apple consultancy, is the launch issue’s sponsor.
Moss said he’d held out on updating the magazine’s original replica, which appeared in October 2010, until it could be an “all-in-one experience of our content.”
Real work on the overhaul began about eight months ago with the design firm The Wonderfactory; Apple finally approved it for sale last Thursday.
New York is pitching the regular in-app updates as the first of its kind among general interest magazines. “What we’ve done is take the Web experience and make it iPad-compatible,” Moss said.
The top half of the home page is reserved for updates that come from the Web about 20 times a day. Hundreds of posts go up on nymag.com every day that just explode and disappear, but the app will be limited to “the stuff that has a little bit more ambition,” Moss said, citing as an example the posts of political blogger Jonathan Chait.
The magazine section of the app is more dynamic than in its previous incarnation — it features a vertical reading function and horizontal navigation, for instance. Unlike some other recently redesigned magazine apps, most notably The New Republic, there is no read-aloud function, though there’s audio where “appropriate,” Moss said. For instance, the March 25 issue features snippets of conversation with the writer Renata Adler.
“Our philosophy about this is, we will put it in where it is relevant, where it’s not just bells and whistles but adds to the reading experience,” he said.
Other features allow for more multimedia — like a 360-degree view of a restaurant in a review and a how-to video of a recipe. Stories that got a two-page layout in the print magazine, like a fashion spread in a recent issue, are instead broken down by item in the app.
With the magazine in a paid-for silo on the iPad, what’s to stop New York from also raising a pay wall on its Web site? It’s something Moss and publisher Larry Burstein have considered.
“Right now, it doesn’t make economic sense for us to do that. Someday it might,” Moss said.