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GayTimes on iPad

August 27, 2010

In my continuing quest to piss off most of the media industry such that in the event of an emergency search for work I’ll find I’ve royally shot myself in the foot, I’ve turned my attentions to Gaytimes recently launched iPad version of the magazine.

If as I reckon might be the case, that the lucrative writing opportunities for journalists in the future are going to be found in digital magazine sales, then securing sales on the likes of the iPad won’t be solely down to the amount of flesh to gawp at, nor the words to pore over. A lot will be down to visual and user experience to be had.

Subscribing to GayTimes via the iPad is a slightly different experience from their competitors Attitude Magazine. Downloading the Zinio app (Zinio are providing the digital platform for Gaytimes) provides access to all the other titles on their slate. The sight of National Geographic (even if it is in a foreign language) is tempting and at £1.32 its an attractive price too. The app comes bundled with a handful of articles from other publications including Hello Magazine and Wallpaper giving the would-be purchaser at last a legitimate opportunity to browse at least. Subscription demands leaving the Zinio app to input card details via the browser. It’s hardly an inconvenience – just different from other services.

Browsing the magazine once it’s been downloaded, the first thing which delights is the considerably more responsive and faster-moving navigation. The blurred thumbnails preferred by Attitude Magazine’s app aren’t copied by Gaytimes. And because the graphics are flatter in the navigation panel, the movement is swifter too. In general, navigating around the magazine is a whole lot easier too using the magazine wide thumbnail screen or jumping too and from the contents page.

What jars however is the use of graphical boxes around the elements on the page highlighting where the links are. As petty as this observation might seem, it is that visual signposting of links across the digital magazine which give off a whiff of old school, slightly cheap web development. It’s not meant that way – I can see why its been implemented like that and the inclusion of links on a page is a real boon – but on one level, the joy of reading something digitally on a tablet device is lessened by the linking graphics. That will definitely have an impact on the perceived quality of the product.

Where GayTimes benefits in terms of navigation and response time, it does lose out in terms of image quality. Some of the page images lack the crystal clear quality of Attitude Magazine’s pictures. On some pages for example it looks a little like the office intern has just put the freshly printed magazine through the HP scanner. A good example is the cover of the magazine. Areas of the image look a little degraded. Given that the iPad is rated for its image rendition, this seems like an easy hit for the magazine (or indeed the app) and a shame when its missed.

Both publications include adverts in their online digital mags, but scrolling through the back pages of GayTimes for example I don’t quite follow why so much of the premium rate phoneline and escort adverts still need to be included. Maybe there’s a contract which still needs to be adhered to.

If I had to choose? I’d want the user experience of the Zinio app (Gaytimes) combined with the editorial of the Attitude Magazine. But you know, you can’t always get exactly what you want. I’m certainly not subscribing to both and until I’ve finished reading Attitude Magazine I may not subscribe to that either.

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