The midwinter break seems to be getting longer. But we have been busy improving the Exact Editions App functionality in the last few weeks.

There have been some important changes in the way we view Apps. The first big change is that the Exact Editions App platform now supports full issue sync-ing to the iPhone. The sync-ing is only possible in a WiFi zone and it happens in the background, automatically whilst you are using WiFi. The sync will only work for the ‘most recent issue’ for a periodical (if it happened for everything iPhones would soon be full of back issues). This development was strongly requested by early users of the Exact Editions Apps and it has been warmly welcomed. The change has three important consequences:

  1. Subscribers can read the current issue of a magazine anywhere on their iPhone (no need to be connected to the web, so great for tubes and airplanes).
  2. Reading of a sync-ed issue is significantly faster and smoother. You have to be in a very good web environment (eg 4G) to get such a fast response from an un-synced App.
  3. An incidental benefit is that a subscriber whose sub has ended, will still have access to the last issue of the subscription, even after the term of the subscription. This has obvious benefits for the subscriber, but it also makes ‘trial’ or ‘free’ Apps more attractive, when the trial has ended the sync-ed issue is still there.

The Music Week App which we released yesterday, was the first to be launched with single issue syncing from the ‘off’. Apple have also been making some subtle shifts in the way they manage/control the App Store. And a couple of these changes have also had some bearing on the way we think of Apps for magazines. A very important improvement has been that Apple are now more comfortable with developers offering in-App purchasing from a free App. This has huge potential for magazine publishers (who have always used the free issue as an incentive for print subscribers). Another subtle shift is that developers are now advised against offering subscription services for a period of only a week (30 days is OK). Since all of the magazines that we have launched have used the ‘low priced’ one week sub as a way of seeding the market and encouraging early adoption, this presented a slight problem for Music Week (which is a high value professional publication). So, with a last minute change of guidance via the approval process, and a fast moving decision from the publisher (who liked the idea of offering a free taster for their premium service) we were able to quickly introduce the concept of a free preview. Within a day of launching the Music Week App we were also able to offer a free App which provides users with almost all the functionality of the full publication — but on a delayed basis. The issues available for free are four or more weeks out of date.

PaidContent today had a premature piece on the Music Week App where the journalist got this story almost backwards. The last minute change alluded to was not a matter of ‘rethinking’ on prices, but of fast moving development to offer a ‘free trial’ something which had not previously been possible with the Exact Editions technology and the Apple e-commerce rules. This was a case of ‘instant development’ not of ‘indecision’. A lightning advance not a hasty retreat. We expect all our magazine Apps to adopt the same taste-before-you-buy approach in future. The response to the Music Week App has so far been very strong. More than encouraging: confirmation. Free Apps to paid for subscriptions is the way that magazines will work. That is the story that PaidContent needs to take a look at.