Newsstand is, basically, a way of organizing and making it easier to find magazine apps. Don’t think of it as a stand-alone app that will arrange all your stuff like iBooks does. In fact, Apple doesn’t even advertise it as an app, they call it a “folder”.
What’s most interesting about this folder is its integration with the “Newsstand” section of the App Store. Along with the introduction of this new folder in iOS 5, Apple also opened up a new section on the App Store that is dedicated just to magazines and newspapers, and in which you can get any free magazine app (as long as it’s available) in just a matter of seconds. But how does it work, and how important is it? Let’s see!
The StoreTo access the Newsstand store, you can go to the categories in the App Store and click on “Newsstand”, or you can go to your Newsstand folder and click on the “Store” button. Once inside, you’ll see a rotating menu with a selection of featured publications, and below it you’ll have the usual “New and Noteworthy” and “What’s Hot” categories. You can also filter publications by release date or search for them individually.
While browsing, most of the publications will seem to be “Free”, and you can download and install these apps without problems, but once inside the app most likely you’ll have to pay to get access to a single issue or get the option to buy a periodical subscription. Some apps offer a few samples and free material within the app, while some others won’t show you anything unless you pay.
If you want to find out how much a magazine costs before downloading and installing it, you can go to the “Top In-App Purchases” section under the information of the app. There you can see the price of the latest issues and usually also the price of the yearly subscription; so that you can make up your mind without having to go through the process of downloading and deleting each magazine app.
MagazinesLike I said, the Newsstand is pretty much just a section to arrange and store the apps of publications. Once you start using different apps you’ll notice that some of them have similar interfaces, while some others have their own custom-made interface, like the Esquire app and most newspapers.
But there are also some much needed new features that Newsstand brings with it. The most important one is the ability to download new issues in the background, without having to open up the app and wait for the download to start and finish until you can read it. Another one is that with each new issue that gets downloaded, the publication’s icon inside the Newsstand will change to the new issue’s cover and there will be an added tag that reads “New”. This of course, needs to be supported by the app, and not many of them do so, at least right now.
How Big Is This?Much has been said about the “death of print”; and despite of what your stance is on the subject, you do have to admit that this could mark a big evolution for digital publishing. Not like it hasn’t been done before, of course it has by Zinio and other similar apps. But it’s not the same thing having to look for a specific third party app that does something for you, than if Apple makes it available directly through a software update and opens it up inside their prestigious App Store. There’s a much bigger market in the latter.
However, I’m not too sure how I feel about each publication having their own customized app. I feel like, unless Apple offers some sort of easy-setup, this will cause a few publications, without big budgets to build an iOS app, to be left out. Although I understand the advantages of letting each publisher have the freedom of putting any feature that they want inside their app; I was expecting Newsstand to work as more of a unified app, much like iBooks (or even Zinio) does.
You could basically look at Newsstand in two ways: calling it a useless feature and saying that it does nothing new as it is just a folder that keeps (already existing) magazine apps; or understanding it as a new way of receiving publications with much needed features like background downloading, which also exposes the average audience to a publishing world in the iPad that they maybe didn’t know existed.
In the end, it’s a thing of personal selection. Like is happening with books and the e-reader market, there are a lot of people that just don’t want to give up the feel of reading a physical book. I’m sure this will also happen for magazine collectors. Regardless, I think Newsstand has the potential of becoming a much more convenient, comfortable and cheaper way of getting new publications inside a device that you already have with you most of the time.
Like books and newsparers, magazines have also suffered from the evolution of the internet, as they have slowly gotten replaced by websites and blogs that offer the same content without a price tag and with much more immediacy. Perhaps this could bring new life to the publishing market, and not just for newspapers.
I’m excited to see how the Newsstand will evolve and how big its impact will be. Newsstand apps are already in the top of the most purchased apps since iOS 5 released, is this just because of the novelty, or is it here to stay? What do you think of Newsstand, and are you planning on using it?