I had to take my first-gen iPad out of mothballs for this one. I’m talking about the Next Issue service and app. Like most of you I’ve let my print magazine subscriptions lapse over the past several years. I spend less than $150/year on my remaining subscriptions and more than half of that is just for one, The Week, which is highly recommended, btw. So why would I sign up for an online magazine subscription program that will cost me $15/month, or $180/year? Because it’s terrific.
Next Issue currently offers 76 different magazines in an all-you-can-eat subscription. I only found eight that I really like, so I’m barely taking advantage of 10% of their content. And if I stick with only those eight I’m paying on average $22.50 for each one. Not exactly cheap but The New Yorker alone costs $70/year for print and digital access, and that’s the one that lured me in.
I’ve explored other magazines on tablets and none of them won me over like Next Issue. Most of the ones I’ve seen, and you know who they are, are nothing more than a PDF-like rendering of the print edition. I haven’t played around with all Next Issue magazines but the ones I’ve read so far do something pretty remarkable: they work the way you’d expect them to.
There’s no need for a handy reference on how the user interface works. It’s all very intuitive. One of the things I love best is that most articles scroll vertically rather than flowing from page to page horizontally. That sounds so simple but it’s really how this sort of content should be presented.
I also love it that some of the magazines do a terrific job of fully leveraging the device’s capabilities. Far from “print under glass”, Sports Illustrated in particular really shines. I’m three screens in and I see a scrolling list of the latest top sports stories. Good luck implementing that in the print edition. They do a great job utilizing frames on the screen too. For example, all SI’s writers who have Twitter accounts appear on one screen and I can just touch their photo and see a live stream of their tweets in a separate frame…all without ever leaving that one screen. Again, it sounds so simple but it’s such an effective reading experience.
And how about this?: Advertisements are actually engaging! There’s a surprise-and-delight aspect to them. I found myself paying much more attention to them than I would in a typical print magazine. Advertisers will love to hear that.
Then there are the “digital extras” you’ll find from time to time. I’m sure many of these appear in the separate digital subscriptions for these magazines but it’s great having access to all of them in one app. I can also cancel at any time, so there’s no lock-in.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about all-you-can-eat ebook subscription models. Anyone thinking about launching such a service would be well-advised to study Next Issue and see what makes them special.
P.S. — One area where Next Issue actually fails is with their Android implementation. Like so many other apps, Android users are treated like second-class citizens. You’ll find the magazine assortment is more limited on Android than iOS. I also found the Android app to be much less stable than the iOS one. Good thing I kept that old iPad of mine.