November 16, 2012 at 6:59 pm

AUX Magazine: What the ‘First’ Digital Music Magazine App Means for Readers

Finally, the “first” digital music magazine designed for iPhone and iPad has arrived. What’s so great about a magazine in app form? And haven’t other people done this before?

Aside from the obvious benefits of convenience and portability, web and app platforms also translate to lower risks for publishers, which translates to lower prices — or in this case, a free magazine — for the audience. Sure, sometimes bugs will cause the magazine to crash, but hey… free magazine.

Let’s take a look at what the AUX Magazine iOS app has to offer:

What makes AUX different?

Unlike publications that have print versions and accompanying websites and maybe apps, AUX Magazine was designed for iOS from the ground up. Certainly, there are apps for music magazines like Rolling Stone or NME, but these are news apps, not app magazines (ed. note: SPIN has done some interesting things app-wise.) Magazine apps typically share features with blogs, but their apps do a better job of retaining the issue-based format and aspects of graphic design, and have different navigation and interaction features.

Rather than migrating stories from the web to an app, AUX creates content for the app alone. What does that mean? Compare the online version of the xx’s interview with AUX with the app version, and you’ll see the difference: Aside from the straightforward and clean design there’s much more room for interaction in the app. Swiping from side to side lets you view two halves of a band photo. Flicking through the four videos within the article and clicking play allows you to watch the interviews inside the app.

AUX Magazine is a great example of a trend I was hoping would catch on: creating content specifically for these new mediums, whether it’s the web or these post-web apps. Pitchfork took a step in the right direction; AUX Magazine is arguably taking a bigger leap.

What does a digital music magazine mean?  

Fading from the xx album artwork to the magazine cover

It means you can instantly share articles from your device. It means you can watch the built-in videos or listen to new music with one simple tap. It means the table of contents is consistently available, so navigating the magazine is simple; tapping text on the cover leads to the corresponding article. Heck, even opening the magazine can be a different experience. Tap on the third issue, and the cover fades from the xx’s Coexist album artwork to the actual magazine cover (image to the right).

So, expect more interaction, better design, and easier navigation. A scrolling bar lets you skim through the magazine, while the table of contents button lets you skip to articles you want to read first. By incorporating slideshows, the app displays more high-quality photos than would typically fit on a physical web page at one time.

It’s easy enough to swipe through most app magazines. AUX is no different, and it’s nothing new in that regard. There are no virtual page turns because the app isn’t trying to mimic a real magazine. Instead, articles are laid out in a vertical format that doesn’t feel unnatural because we’re used to scrolling through web pages on iPhones. By utilizing the common form of navigation used for our devices, AUX Magazine shows there’s no need to try to copy the form of physical magazines (see skeumorphism).

So where does AUX Magazine stand in terms of the future of music publications? 

Swipe To See More

We’ve all read about the struggles of print publications, and the music ones are no different. With so much online content available and blog reviews aplenty, it’s difficult to retain subscribers and a paying readership. Magazine apps like AUX Magazine could certainly be on the rise, as the more affordable option, but apps aren’t the only alternative to print that’s not quite the typical web either.

UNCOOL, currently in its Kickstarter phase, intends to fill a void in music journalism by publishing longform writing online. You won’t find soundbites, clickbait galleries, news, or even advertising there. Instead of timely blog posts, they plan to publish “in-depth profiles of fascinating musicians, thoughtful criticism, archaeological discography expeditions, personal essays.”

Perhaps more importantly, they want their writers (who come from well-known publications like Grantland, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, the Atlantic, the Paris Review) to be paid a fair rate.

UNCOOL seems to be swimming against the current — thus the name. But it’s not the only one offering in-depth content. Take a look at an interview we recently posted that shows there are plenty of people on the prowl for a long read. Bloomsbury Publishing‘s series “33 and 1/3 Books” compiles details and contextual content about albums that you can’t quickly find online.

Sure, in-depth articles and books may not be the alternatives to online music publishing. But it’ll certainly be interesting to watch these mediums develop, because today’s model for online journalism may not last. The question is: Will magazine apps effectively replace the websites or physical publications of the music journalism of today and yesterday, or will they prove to be just another medium for already-established brands?