Quick Look: The Economist on iPad

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The Economist on iPad

The Economist on iPad is the iPad edition of the weekly international news and business magazine, and the latest blue-chip print title to hit the iPad App Store. Here’s some of its App Store description:

The best way to read The Economist on your iPad.

FULL PRINT EDITION
Download the full print edition of The Economist for reading on your iPad, from 9pm each Thursday.

FULL AUDIO
Switch easily between reading and listening with The Economist in audio, fully integrated and read by professional newscasters.


FREE ACCESS
The app is free to download and gives you free access to the Editor’s weekly selection of must-read articles

FULL ACCESS
Subscribers to The Economist receive full access to each week’s issue. If you are not already a subscriber you can subscribe from within the app.

FEATURES
Each week’s full print edition of The Economist
Fully integrated audio versions of all articles
Download each issue to your device to read without an internet connection
Free access to the Editor’s weekly selection of must-read articles
Full access for print and online subscribers
Purchase single issues in-app using your iTunes account

The Economist iPad edition

Notes

When you first launch the app you get a login or sign-up screen – so if you’re an existing subscriber you can get your free access to all its content. If you just sign up (for free) you get free access to a cut-down editor’s weekly selection of content. I found that after looking at a handful of articles via that route, it cut me off and prompted me to subscribe or purchase an individual issue.  If you choose to subscribe, you’ll be taken out to Safari to get that done (as Apple still doesn’t allow direct subscription options within apps). A quarterly subscription costs $29 and the annual rate is $110.

There are two issues available right now within the app – the November 13 and 20 issues.

Highlights

— Great content: If you’ve ever read a copy of The Economist you know it offers stellar content – in-depth articles and analysis, broad coverage of news, politics, finance in the UK, the US, and across the world – and lots more.

— A Little Free Access: It’s nice that you have free access to the editor’s weekly selection of must-read articles. This lets you get a little taster before deciding on purchase of that week’s issue, if you’re not a subscriber (in which case you have access to all issues).

— Audio: Offering the audio narration for each article is a nice touch as well. It’s done fairly well, with a female voice that doesn’t sound too robotic.

— Number of Pages Indicators: The app shows small dots below each article page to indicate how many pages there are in this article and which one you’re currently on.

— Ads are un-intrusive. There are full page ads within the app, but they are attractive and quite easy to swipe through.  

Lowlights

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— Single Issue Price: It costs $5.99 for a single issue. I imagine that may equate to the newsstand price (it’s been a while since I bought one) but even so, that’s very steep for a weekly issue and just doesn’t seem like a price point that’s going to have anyone rushing to grab additional issues.

— It’s buggy and crash-prone. I’ve seen the spinning wheel of wait quite often when trying to turn audio on for an article, have had images on various pages fail to load, and have had the app crash back to the home screen on several occasions.

— It doesn’t follow some good near-standards for iPad newspaper and magazine apps. For instance, you swipe left and right to move through individual articles, rather than up and down. Worse is that tapping anywhere on the screen brings up nothing – as in, it does not toggle on/off on-screen controls and navigation links for the app, as is standard in nearly every good title I’ve seen for the iPad.

In fact, there are only two on-screen controls anyway, and they remain constantly displayed: the Audio icon to toggle audio on and off for articles and a Contents button. Again, this is executed clumsily – as the Contents button doesn’t bring you a popover showing contents when tapped, but actually takes you back to the main contents page. Very lame.

There’s no slider or thumbnails view to scroll through articles quickly.

— There are no interactive elements at all that I’ve come across so far in looking at the November 20 issue – and no multimedia other than the article voiceovers either.

— The app offers no sharing options at all – via email or any other method.

Overall

There’s no arguing with the quality of the content provided by The Economist, but sadly the presentation of content for the iPad as a new medium is very disappointing. This is another major title that has an iPad edition that just doesn’t deserve to be called one. It doesn’t feel at all like an iPad version and does nothing at all to embrace the potential of an iPad edition.

It feels like the equivalent of an Economist TV show that offered just an older gent in a suit sitting at a desk and reading out the articles in a monotone voice, while occasionally taking a sip of whiskey. There might be some diehard Economist readers who would tune in for that, but it surely wouldn’t bring a lot of new converts to the magazine.

The same can be said for this iPad edition. If you’re an Economist subscriber and just want the content itself on your iPad via an app, then you’ve got it. For anyone else, I don’t see anything here that will win you over.

You can find The Economist on iPad in the App Store now; it’s a free app with limited access to ‘taster’ content, with in-app purchase of single issues at $5.99 apiece and subscription options via the Safari browser.


Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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4 thoughts on “Quick Look: The Economist on iPad”

  1. Just loaded mine economist up today after an overly complicated signup procedure. I agree with the analysis above. This is a dead tree one way communication format brought to the iPad. There is no sense of community, discussion, or sharing of articles.

    I have a dead tree subscription, but even with that I am not sure I will bother downloading each week. And at the $6 price point, I will be very surprised if they do much new business.

    1. Exactly – I don't see why so many blue-chip publishers just don't 'get' the iPad at all, especially with so many of them viewing it as a potential savior.

  2. I agree with your summation. I can only guess that this is very much a version 1.0 of their iPad app – at least I hope so. I really hope they come up with something link Credit Suisse' Bulletin magazine which is awesome.

    The thing is, comparing the iPad version to the paper verion – the paper version is quicker in every way. Which has GOT to be arse about face eh?

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