Finally, an iPad magazine app that is actually a pleasure to use.While many magazines have made iPad apps already, ranging in quality — and you could argue that they don’t need to exist in the first place — we’re impressed with the new Bloomberg Businessweek+ app, which launched today.
Why? Well, most importantly, the stories and design seem to be better under Businessweek’s new editorial and design overlords. (Stay tuned for more on that.)
But also, because Bloomberg’s mobile team — led by former ESPN mobile boss Oke Okaro, whom Bloomberg poached — has actually made a magazine app that is worth spending time with.
Okaro gave us a brief tour of the new app, which is based on a new, in-house publishing system.
Magazine issue files seem smaller than in other apps, and download in a few minutes on our residential cable modem. (We haven’t tried it using 3G.)
Unlike other magazine apps, you can do obvious, basic things, like… searching and selecting text! You can also make the text bigger or smaller, and it wraps nicely.
And you can quickly share stories via Twitter and Facebook, and the links send people to the original Bloomberg online version of the story, not some weird, locked-in-time screenshot page. There’s also a video for each issue, featuring Businessweek’s editor and/or design director talking about the issue, how they designed the cover, etc.; kind of fun.
The iPad edition is free for Businessweek print subscribers.
But Bloomberg is proud of the fact that it’s the first business publication using Apple’s new subscription billing service, which means that people can subscribe to the iPad edition of the magazine using only their iTunes account — $2.99 per month, recurring — and get a notification when the newest issue is ready for download. (In future versions of Apple’s iOS, we imagine there will even be some sort of in-the-background download function.)
Actually, after you’ve downloaded the free issue that Bloomberg has made available, you have to subscribe to get more issues, or even to “unlock” old issues at $4 a pop. So far, we haven’t been able to locate the area in the app to terminate your iTunes-based subscription; we’ve reached out for help on that, and will update when we hear back.
One big challenge for apps like this is that most (all?) of the stories are available to read on Businessweek’s website for free, and the iPad is a great device for reading websites. The articles aren’t formatted as nicely, but they’re there. And it’s not like there’s much exclusive or interactive content in the app.
So apps like these are mostly useful if you decide you want to read the whole magazine, or read it in “magazine” format. Or if you want to read it offline, on a plane or something. If you do, that’s great, and that’s one reason why Bloomberg knows it’s important to cater to existing print subscribers. But many people just don’t really need this app anymore.
Bigger picture: While you could say that weekly business magazines are already irrelevant in the Twitter era, Bloomberg is at least spending money on making good products. (That’s the beauty of having a cash-printing terminal business with which to fund Bloomberg TV, magazines, etc.)
And while it’s still hard to see an iPad app saving any print publication’s eventual decline, at least those who want to pay for Businessweek on their iPad — in magazine format — will have a nice app to do it with.