The New Yorker: Magazines in the 21st Century

We’ve all been waiting for it, haven’t we? Even before the iPad became a reality, it was heralded as the publishing industry’s saving grace.

A large, touchscreen device being made by one of the hottest tech companies in the world. It captured the imagination of businesses and consumers alike. Perhaps this could finally take one of the last mainstays of the analog world into the next century.

No, I’m not talking about eBooks. Even though those were hotly anticipated as well, the iPad gave hope to a segment of the dead-tree industry that hadn’t had such a hope before: magazines.

Fast forward two years, and one iPad later, we finally have a major publishing industry playing by Apple’s rules. And, while those rules alone could be the subject of an article, we’ll simply say that Apple isn’t quite on the publisher’s side here. That aside, consumers are being given a beautiful experience.

Today we’re going to look at The New Yorker app for the iPad, and see just how successfully they’ve translated this legendary magazine into a new digital form.

First Things First

While the app itself is a free download, there’s no real content for you to view if you don’t start paying up. Personally, I’m a big fan of this type of payment style: free “reader/viewer” app, with the content being purchased through In-App Purchasing or In-App Subscription APIs. It’s certainly more user friendly than per-issue apps. That, truly, would be a nightmare.

Subscription Options

Subscription Options

So, as I said, access to the content costs money, but the rates are reasonable. Back issues cost $4.99 an issue, perhaps a touch steep at first blush, but in reality the back catalog is there as a convenience, not a necessity.

The purpose of the app isn’t to give you access to The New Yorker’s archives, it’s about giving you the latest issue when it arrives. Again, you can purchase each issue individually for $4.99, or much more economically, you can subscribe to a month’s worth of issues for $5.99. That’s an automatically recurring payment, but Apple makes sure that you know about it. Nothing sneaky going on here.

The Library View

The Library View

You can also purchase a year’s subscription from within the app for $59.99, but what’s even more interesting is that if you’re a current print subscriber to The New Yorker, you get to enjoy the iPad edition free of charge.

This really strikes me as the way these things should be done. Charging the technologically savvy twice for a subscription doesn’t seem fair, and it’s nice to see publishers seem to be agreeing.

No More Page Turning

Ok, now that you’ve picked your purchasing option of choice, and finally have a freshly downloaded issue ready, let’s look at the reading experience.

The New Yorker keeps things simple. There aren’t fancy page curls or other potentially distracting animations.

Swipe. That’s it.

Swipe to the right to go to the right. Swipe left to go to the left. Swipe down to – I think you get the idea. The New Yorker is the first app to use this type of interface design that I’ve used. To switch from one article to the next, swipe left or right. To continue reading an article, scroll down.

I like it. It’s intuitive, and yet powerful enough to do everything you’d need to.

One of my favorite parts of the app is the intro video. Well executed and entertaining, it helpfully walks you through how to use the app for the first time, including the swipe-based navigation I just mentioned.

The other main UI element is the toolbar chrome. Tapping once on the page will either show or hide the toolbars. From there you have some navigation options, including returning to the Library View, jumping to a particular section of the issue, or entering a “Zoomed Out” view. I really like this view. It gives you an overview of the entire magazine in a timeline-esque fashion, and will even store your reading position in articles you’ve started – giving a visual cue as to just how far into the magazine you are.

The "Zoomed Out" View


Change is hard. Even people who enjoy it can struggle with it.

Changing successfully is even harder, especially if you’re a business. The larger the company, the harder it is to turn. When it comes to titans of industry, few are larger and “less mobile” than publishing houses. In spite of this, I’d call The New Yorker for iPad app a whole-hearted success.

I don’t feel the need to soften my feelings, patting them on the back for a “good first try”. No, this is a mature, well designed app. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come. Hopefully these behemoths of content creation can make that turn, and do it elegantly, with the sophistication and class that we so desperately want to see.

They’re our elders, and they’ve become seasoned through the passage of time. How tragic it would be to lose them at a pivotal moment in publishing history, such as this.

I’m not here to be a harbinger of doom. The New Yorker for iPad is a success. And I can’t wait to see more of the same.


The New Yorker for iPad app a whole-hearted success. A beautifully executed digital version of the magazine.