Newsweek for iPad has made big news itself this weekend, with The New York Times covering the announcement that the app has been updated (to Version 2.0) and now offers subscription options. Here’s the basics of the new subscription model: a standard issue of Newsweek for iPad costs $2.99; a three month subscription is $9.99, and a six month subscription is $14.99.
Subscribing does not get you access to back issues, but starts with the current issue and continues as new issues are released for the length of your subscription.
Considering that there’s a new issue every week (so in 3 months you’ll get around 12 issues), the subscription plans seem a good deal. And they absolutely would be, if the magazine issues were worth paying for. Sadly, they aren’t – unless you are happy paying those sort of amounts for magazine issues that are the equivalent of reading Newsweek in a mediocre-to-bad PDF viewer.
What’s New in Newsweek for iPad 2.0
This was my verdict on Newsweek for iPad when I first reviewed it shortly after it was released in June:
More than anything, using this app feels like working with a mediocre to bad PDF viewer. It’s a shame, because it does not begin to do justice to Newsweek’s good content. It doesn’t feel like a 1.0 version – it feels like a ‘we mailed it in’ issue, with no thought given at all to how to embrace what the iPad can allow magazines to do.
In order to be worth $2.99 an issue the app doesn’t need an update, it needs a complete overhaul. Right now it is the poster child for how not to do a digital magazine.
I was really hoping with the release of their 2.0 version, and with the shiny new subscription plans, Newsweek for iPad would be much improved and feel much more like a true iPad edition. When I first started looking at the Newsweek Now section of the app, I was encouraged.
This new section is updated regularly with current news stories in a wide range of topic categories – from national and world news to technology, science, business, entertainment, and more. It pulls from the Newsweek online site – I’m not sure how much, if any, of its content is unique to the iPad.
What’s good about this section is that it has some digital magazine-like touches. It has a Share button, so you can share via email, Twitter, or Facebook. There are live links within articles, that open in an inline browser. It lets you adjust the font size on its pages, and select and copy text. You can also customize which topic areas you want to see, turn off those you don’t, and adjust the order they’re shown in.
There’s still little or no multimedia or interactive elements in the new section, but the features mentioned above are good ones in a digital edition.
OK … so guess how many of these features make it into the actual magazine part of the app? If you guessed NONE, then bingo, you win. In the magazine issues, including the latest / current issue for November 8,2010, not a single one of those features is implemented.
So the core, the essential piece of what you’re subscribing to in Newsweek for iPad, is no better than it was when I wrote my scathing review of it back in June.
Just to be clear, in the magazine issues there is no ability to share anything by any method, no ability to search for content, no ability to customize which content you see, no links, no inline browser. Worse still, there is no ability to adjust the font size, and magazine pages are not at all optimized for the iPad. Which means article text is very small and (at least for me) not comfortable for reading in-depth article such as those offered by Newsweek.
Here are a few examples of how bad and non-optimized the pages are:
If you tap to see the enlarged images, you’ll get some idea how small the article text is.
The text is small enough that you need to do a lot of double tapping, pinching, and zooming to read it comfortably. And of course when you zoom it, you require a lot more scrolling to get through an article – in landscape and portrait mode.
It’s an entirely unsatisfactory reading experience.
Still the Poster Child for What an iPad Edition Should Not Be
Back in June, I said Newsweek for iPad was an example for how NOT to do an iPad edition. Version 2.0 hasn’t changed that. It remains the poster child for how NOT to do an iPad edition.
It’s very sad to see that the first big-name magazine title to offer iPad subscription options is the worst iPad edition I’ve seen in the App Store.
I stumped up $9.99 to take a look at this and review it here. It is $9.99 I will certainly not spend again. I would not recommend subscribing at half the price, or really even for free – not until Newsweek produces something that looks anything close to an iPad edition.