First Look: Readbug, the Digital Newsstand for UK Indy Magazines

The Apple Newsstand is dead, and the new Magazines & Newspapers category remains an utter mess. Just as bad, the new Apple News app might as well be shuttered, as much of an impact that is making for digital publishers. So, how are indy magazines going to connect with potential readers.

In the UK there are a few interesting alternatives, including a brand new one.

Readbug-iPadMany are familiar with Magvault, which while no longer strictly about UK titles nonetheless started out with mostly UK magazines involved. Now the service includes over 6,500 titles and is now charging publishers £9.99 per month charge for new listings. The idea behind Magvault is to link readers to the various app stores where readers can download the magazine’s app. Magvault’s role is to assist discovery – though first, of course, you have to discover Magvault.

The other approach is to use a third party digital newsstand. Examples of this would be Texture (formerly known as Next Issue), Zinio or Magzter. The readers then either signs up for individual magazines or an all-you-can-read subscription.

This is the approach being taken byReadbug, a new digital newspaper app for independent UK magazines.

The new digital magazine service has an app inside the Apple App Store for the iPhone and iPad, though it is obvious that the app favors the iPhone as it is designed for use in portrait orientation. Though the app description doesn’t say it, what the reader will find inside are indy UK magazines such as AnOther, Dazed, Little White Lies, and others – many of which have their own apps inside the App Store, as well.

The reader can sign up from within the app and receive a 7-day free trial. Once the trial period ends the cost is £9.99 a month for full access to the current and back issues of the magazines offered.

Readbug was founded by Matthew Hammett, a former designer with Future plc. Hammett is not shy about saying he wants his new venture to the “Spotify or Netflix for magazines.”

hammett-300“There’s got to be a better distribution model for digital content, for a digital magazine,” Hammett told TechCrunch’s Natasha Lomas last week.

Of course, everyone compares an all-you-can-read magazine service to Netflix, that is that many called Next Issue when that service started up. But now that Next Issue has morphed into Texture (see this TNM post on that move, or this review), one might be tempted to call Readbug the indy version of Texture as they have a lot in common.

Both digital magazine newsstands disaggregate some of the content so that readers can open the app and read individual articles from the magazines being offered, more in keeping with the way many readers are consuming content today.

Roadbug-articleWhen opening the Readbug app for the first time the reader is offered subject matters to choose from so the app delivers more targeted content. In Readbug the individual articles are called the Article Stream. Then there is the Magazine Stack where whole magazines can be found.

Content in the Article Stream is presented in native digital formatting.

“We convert all our content so it’s mobile friendly… We’re adding a buy-it-now function so the reader can — at the end of an article or a magazine — decide to purchase the magazine there and then,” Hammett told TechCrunch.

Right now that buy-it-now function is missing, unlike Texture, so magazine publishers will want to see that added.

The business model for Readbug is to offer a 70/30 split, the same as Apple.

Inside the Settings area there is a place where one can purge the app of its data, very helpful when trying to manage a device’s storage. It is inside this area where one manages their account, including other areas of interest.

Like Texture, the only bad part of the app might be the digital magazines themselves. I looked at only a couple of them, but what I saw was replica editions. Some were virtually unreadable as the font choices and page layouts were meant for print. Others were better because they were designed with fairly large fonts. It would be fair to say that the best part of these new digital magazine newsstands is the disaggregated content areas, not the actual digital magazines.

You can download the new Readbug app here to try it our yourself.

reposted with permission from Talking New Media

About D. B. Hebbard (25 Articles)
Douglas Hebbard (or if you are using D.B. Hebbard use that) is a 30+ year veteran of the newspaper and magazine publishing business, and has been publisher of the digital publishing website Talking New Media since 2010.

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