Lately, I've been reviewing many magazines for the iPad. Today I spent 2 hours reading 'Gourmet Live", a free app for the iPad, based on the historic Gourmet print magazine. I had first heard about it here, and was interested in knowing more about the game mechanics of the magazine. There was some praise in the press that I don't share by now.
How does it work ?
- the app is free, and so far new weekly issues are also free (I have editions #3 and #4. I couldn't find a way to get older editions #1 and #2).
- the content offered is rather limited, only 10 articles of 2-3 pages, with pictures; I am a bit disappointed at the quality of the writing, and choice of subjects (although I should be a perfect target for a gastronomy magazine)
- whenever you finish reading an article (almost every article), you unlock new content (a set of recipes, more stories, that appear on the shelves on the same level as your magazine).
What I did not like :
I originally thought it would be great to adapt game mechanics to reading a magazine, but the implementation is rather poor :
1) after unlocking 3 new contents after reading 3 articles, it gets annoying : there is no real game mechanic involved, you always get new content, very predictable, just by reading a piece. They should at least get inspired by foursquare's game mechanics : after reading 5 articles, after reading 3 issues, after reading 5 articles on wine, after reading articles on the 7 continents, after sharing with 10 friends, etc. As it is, the only interest seems to be for Gourmet, in that they don't pay the distribution cost (bandwidth) for people not reading the whole of the magazine.
2) In addition, the notification for new content is annoying, as it occurs a few seconds into the reading of a new article usually. They should just add the content automatically with no notification, or make it as a scrolling text at the bottom. Multitasking on iOS should also enable background downloading.
3) You can connect the app with either Facebook *or* twitter. Not both. That's just plain stupid. And it's only for sharing notifications of rewards on your facebook well or twitter stream, nothing else. The link sends back to a landing page on Gourmet's site, for you to download the app. This is just too heavy. I'd much rather prefer an option to share content with Facebook, Twitter, gmail, etc. (just like Foursquare's iPhone app does) on an article by article basis (this option is not present), and on notification by notification basis. After 7 notifications on my facebook wall, I deleted 5 of them, and deactivated the notifications on the app.
4) In addition, there should be a web version of the article available somewhere so that the link you share (facebook, twitter, email...) sends back to the article (with a download app button - that's ok) so that your contacts can read it. As it is, there's no social implementation on this app. The option should be available on each article, and bonus content.
5) There's also no interaction with a social graph : there's no way to know which of your contacts and friends is reading the content, liking it (like Facebook's Like button - not present here), etc.
6) I couldn't find a leaderboard and stats, typical of a massively multiplayer game, as claimed by the folks behind the app.
7) there's no forum / comments section on the app, as you would on a blog, enabling discussions around each article.
8) you don't find all of the almost standard navigation mechanisms from other magazines : left-right swipes to change articles for example, thumbnail of article pages, etc.
9) all contents appear on the same page, mixed between recipes and articles. I suppose we need a way to organize this content : hierarchy by country / regions, by date, by type + a search box.
10) finally, my iPad crashes as a whole after downloading 2 "unlocked" contents sequentially. Only way out is to reboot the iPad...
1) the topic of the magazine : food and wine, but Food+Wine seems a contender here
2) lots of pics, recipes. nice. Eye candy.
3) There's a "favourite" button on each article, that puts all articles together. At some point I guess I'll need a way to rate (1-5) each article for faster retrieval ?
4) no ads so far. I wouldn't mind them if they are targeted right
5) one of the additional content had video embedded in the page. That would be great if expanded to chefs cooking the recipes presented.
All in all, it's a first attempt at game interactivity in a magazine app, but I think that by focusing on the "unlocking" content mechanism, they totally missed the point. I've met Mike Wolf a couple of times, and he's a great person : I hope these comments will help him and his team improve the magazine. I look forward to a greatly enhanced issue soon.