The magazine industry will readily acknowledge that it hasn’t adapted well to the digital landscape. To try and play catch-up, some of the biggest publishers in the game have teamed and created Next Issue.
Next Issue functions much like Apple’s Newsstand by aggregating digitized versions of print content. But unlike Newsstand, all the magazines in Next Issue are available within one app, so you don’t have to hop from one application to another to read your favorite rags.
It’s a great idea with lots of promise, but one big issue hinders it from reaching its full potential. Let’s talk about it after the break.
Getting Ready to Read
Before talking about what it lacks, let’s discuss what it does and how to navigate it. Registration is required on Next Issue’s website before you can start reading the thousands of pages that will be available to you. Once that is accomplished and the app has been downloaded, Next Issue will let new subscribers choose their titles. These can be modified later as your interests change or if there’s a particular article from another magazine you’d like to read.
After selecting titles, Next Issue will download the index for each magazine, which takes several minutes for each magazine. Afterward, you can peruse the current and recent issues that are available and select which ones you’d like to download. Each issue of each magazine will take a few minutes to complete. When done reading a particular edition, you can delete the file. If you want, you can re-download it later.
Next Issue will alert you via email when the newest issue of a magazine in your queue is available for download. If your iPad isn’t set to lock, this should carry itself out fine. Otherwise, after a few minutes of inactivity, downloads may stop. They will resume upon re-opening the app.
Note that this application doesn’t “work in the background” and automatically download new magazines. It requires you to actively update your own library. For example, say you subscribe to Allure in Next Issue. You’ll get your email, but you will then need to activate your iPad, open Next Issue, and click on the Allure icon to download and access the new issue.
Per Next Issue’s website, the app works “in association” with five publishers: Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp. and Time Inc. In total, 39 titles are available.
The selection is fairly broad: titles such as Brides, Car and Driver, Time, Golf and People are just some of the magazines offered. Some areas are well covered (the trinity that is Health, Self and Fitness, for example), while others are lacking (no Men’s Health or equivalent).
It should be noted that there are several magazines from the participating publishing houses that are missing. Condé Nast’s Details, Architectural Digest and Teen Vogue are not available in Next Issue. Nor are Hearst’s Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan or Town & Country. Every Day with Rachael Ray and Family Circle are missing from Meredith, as are any offerings from News Corp. Time Inc. seems to have fully embraced this project, as a majority of its titles can be found in Next Issue.
Is the Price Right?
Netflix and Hulu Plus allow users to watch as much video as they want for a flat fee of $8 each per month. Despite being the called the magazine equivalent of those services, Next Issue will cost a little more.
The app itself is free, but its freemium model is what will make using it worthwhile. For $9.99 a month, readers get unlimited access to 34 of the 39 titles currently available, including recent back issues. Not included in this tier — but available in the $14.99-a-month package — are weekly publications, such as Time, Sports Illustrated, The New Yorker, People and Entertainment Weekly.
There are lower-priced options for those who don’t think they need to read more than 40 magazines in a month. Single titles can be subscribed to starting at $1.99 a month. Single issues can also be purchased for around $5 a piece.
Subscribers of the print editions of any of the offered titles can access digital copies in Next Issue for free after entering in the appropriate information.
A 30-day trial is available to test out the app and the offerings before committing to an unlimited package. When experimenting, go with the $14.99 option to really explore the amount of content available and your use of it.
The Easter Egg Hunt
The “wah-wah” moment for Next Issue comes with the fact that it does not take advantage of the iPad 3’s Retina display. That means that some of the features and photographs may not be as razor-sharp and crisp as they could be, but that hardly affects the experience of using the app.
In fact, what enhances it are the many add-ons featured within each magazine. Granted, each title takes its own approach to adding multimedia content to what are normally print stories. One may feature links to products that can be purchased in online stores. Another may feature a video that demonstrates a cooking technique or a martial arts move.
Others may simply provide a link to the magazine’s Twitter account or its website, which hardly offers a wow factor, but sometimes links go to article addendums that take the story from the theoretically printed page to a screen near you.
Next Issue is an example of a product that’s thisclose to having everything one could want in a magazine app. First, know this: To love this app is to love reading magazines. Casual or occasional readers probably won’t be able to justify paying freemiums to check out the content, some of which appears online.
But for those who love magazines, Next Issue is convenient. The virtual newsstand lets you read magazines you may love in one place and may encourage you to read others you normally wouldn’t (including those you wouldn’t be caught dead reading in public). Just remember that it will take a few minutes to set up a title for download.
If you’re a frequent magazine reader and the titles you love are available in Next Issue, it can also save you cash. The unlimited subscription packages can be cheaper than purchasing multiple apps, single issues or, in some cases, print subscriptions. You can also rejoice that you’re killing fewer trees.
That big factor mentioned earlier that will determine whether this app is or isn’t for you? That’s likely going to be selection. Yes, there are 39 titles available (if purchasing the $14.99 unlimited subscription plan), but it’s a very broad cross section. If you love magazines, this may not be a problem. But is a reader who enjoys, say, Essence, going to have as much interest in the availability of Popular Science? Would a GQ or Esquire reader appreciate also having access to Details or Men’s Journal above Fortune and Brides? It seems in this case that directly competing and similar magazines could benefit from being packaged together in Next Issue.
It’s hard to get over not having a larger selection of titles to choose from. Missing are PC Magazine, Forbes, trade publications such as Adweek and The Hollywood Reporter, Wenner Media’s Rolling Stone and Us Weekly, books by smaller publishing entities such as Ebony and Inked, the Rodale family of titles (Prevention, Runner’s World), all of the airline magazines, regional titles, among a slew of others. If and when these are added to the library, Next Issue could quickly become an app that snatches screen views from the Web.