Are Subscriptions Fair?

Subscription pricing, once the domain of newspapers, magazines, and cable bundles, is lately becoming much more common in everything from online video and movie tickets to razors and meal kits. One newish area that has been causing a lot of anguish has been subscription pricing for apps, as summarised on Metafilter. I was inspired to write this comment in defence:

A couple of years ago, we switched Zombies, Run! from being a paid app with IAPs for new seasons, to a subscription-based service costing (now) $25 a year. The subscription allows us to pay not just for the cost of developing new content and features, but also the very significant costs of just keeping the app running on the latest versions of iOS and Android; not to mention working properly on new phone sizes and supporting basic new OS functions.

I’m not sure whether people realise quite how much work it is to just keep *exactly the same app* working over time. There is always something in new iOS and Android versions that breaks our app (and other devs’ apps); and particularly on Android, new phones will often also break things.

The simple fact is that most indie app developers are not swimming in cash, and that if thy decide to switch to subscriptions, usually it’s not out of a desire to squeeze every last penny out of users, but just to keep the lights on and not be continually terrified that tomorrow may bring zero sales.

Our switch to subscriptions was also driven by industry-wide shift towards freemium pricing for smartphone apps and games. Yes, there are old-schoolers who refuse to download freemium games, but they’re far outnumbered by people who – not unreasonably – prefer the much less risky option of downloading a game for free and seeing whether they like it before paying anything.

Some of that shift is also down to startups that were unnaturally juiced by venture capital firms. This is less common nowadays, but it was not unusual for investors to pump a few million in to an app development company in the hopes of making the new Runkeeper or Instagram. That investment is made with the goal of making a 10x or 100x return in a few years time, which in turn requires hyper-growth – and you don’t get hyper-growth by asking your users for anything terminally embarrassing like actual money.

I think the economics of this strategy have been more or less ruined by the fact that the most popular and generic non-gaming apps have now either been subsumed into the Google/Apple/Facebook nexus of free utilities; or into much larger lifestyle brands like Nike and Adidas, who effectively use them as marketing. That leaves more niche utilities apps like Ulysses (a writing tool) and Zombies, Run! which are small enough to fly under the radar of most VC firms; or professional apps like Adobe Creative Cloud, which are extremely expensive to develop.

I spotted some familiar themes among comments on the Metafilter and Hacker News posts, and I thought it’d be interesting to run through them here:

“Digital subscriptions are more like renting, not subscribing”

If you subscribe to the paper edition of The New Yorker, you get to keep all your magazines forever, whereas when your digital subscription ends, your access to the content completely ceases (just as Netflix does). This is a fair point although it ignores the fact that:

  • Digital subscriptions are often cheaper than print subscriptions
  • Most customers don’t place a high value on continued access to the content they had while they were subscribed…
  • …and in any case, this is balanced out by most digital subscriptions offering you access to the complete back catalog of magazines and issues, unlike print subscriptions

So I don’t buy this as a strong argument against digital subscriptions, although it varies an awful lot for each app – not just due to the type of features or content you get, but also due to the individual pricing.

“What about people with no money?”

It’s ahistorical to think that quality journalism – or quality software – was ever cheap, let alone free. Yes, there was a short period from, say, 1995 to 2015, where investors didn’t care about making money, but we’ve now returned to the norm where good, established stuff mostly costs money and bad or unreliable stuff is mostly free.

And I don’t see how subscriptions are necessarily any more expensive than paying up front for software. If you think $10 a month for Adobe Creative Cloud makes it unfair and inaccessible to poor people, I don’t see how paying $200 upfront was somehow far more accessible. You could equally argue that by lowering the initial signup cost, subscriptions are more accessible.

I, too, would prefer to live in a world where most people earned more and software was more affordable. I just don’t think that subscription pricing is at all related.

“Micropayments are the answer for journalism”

Only if you want your journalism to be entirely click-driven. I’m sure Blendle would take exception to that argument, but if your goal is to fund quality journalism, then I don’t think that paying only for the articles you read is the best way to go.

“Subscriptions contribute to the centralisation of data…”

This is a new one to me. Insofar as any monetary engagement with Google and Apple will reinforce their dominant position as platform owners, I can’t argue against this, although it would also require that you don’t pay for anything on these platforms. And I don’t think that’s a practical suggestion if you want to participate in modern society.

Guardian comments are destroying civilisation, Part II

Becky Gardiner just published a fascinating and damning study on the endemic hostility towards women and minorities in Guardian comments:

By using blocked comments as a proxy for abusive or dismissive comments, I found that articles written by women attracted a significantly higher percentage of com- ments that were subsequently blocked than those written by men, regardless of the subject of the article. This effect was heightened when the articles ran in a particularly male-dominated section of the site [e.g. Sport, Film, Technology]. I also found evidence that articles written by BAME writers attracted disproportionate levels of blocked comments, even though the research was not designed to reveal this.

The preliminary findings of the research were shared on the Guardian, and predictably, the commenters did not react well. Of course, Gardiner also analysed the content of those comments:

Half the comments (1,235, or 50.24%) … were coded as negative; 294 (11.96%) were positive; 799 (32.51%) were neutral.


Two-hundred-and-twelve (17.17%) of the negative comments criticised the research methodology, mainly on one of two grounds: either claiming that the research had failed to take moderator bias into account (this is discussed below), or that it had failed to consider the quality of the articles (for example, they said that articles by women may be more “worthy of complaint”). The study did not control for article quality, but assumed that, taken as a whole, articles written by women are not of poorer quality or otherwise more “deserving” of abusive or dismissive responses than articles written by men. In the author’s view, this “methodological” criticism is an implicit form of victim-blaming.

A further 277 (22.43%) of the negative comments were overtly victim-blaming. Some asserted that female and/or black journalists in general were more likely to write poor quality or controversial articles—for example,

“I would hardly say that all woman writers write daft things. But a lot of them do,”


“Male author: Neutral / economic / sport / war / politics (general) articles; Female author: More click-bait / anti-male articles / feminist articles.”

Others blamed individuals for the abuse they received—for example,

“Thrasher gets negative feedback because he racebaits, not because he’s black.”

These commenters failed to engage with the finding that the gender disparity was not confined to a few individuals, but was seen across the entire corpus, or that articles written by women got more blocked comments regardless of the subject they were writing about, and that this proportion increases when they write on subjects traditionally regarded as “male.”

Part of the problem is that many of commenters reject the value of moderation entirely:

Some commenters argued that all moderation was a de facto attack on free speech, and what the Guardian sees as self-evident—that commenters should abide by the community standards—was far from being universally accepted. This points to a fundamental breakdown between the assumptions of the Guardian and a significant cohort of its commenters, and will complicate any attempt to manage comments.

Gardiner ends with a couple of recommendations:

Moderation is not endlessly scalable, and although technologies (better filters, machine learning tools, and so on) will be an important part of the solution, they will not be enough. What is needed is a change of culture. If comment threads are to be diverse and inclusive, media organisations need to create small, curated comment spaces where journalists can genuinely engage with what is said, even when it is critical; they will also need to develop anti-racist and feminist strategies to counter racist and sexist speech, and offer stronger institutional support to journalists and others who do experience this.

Secondly, this research indicates that the hostility to women and people of colour below the line mirrors a historical institutional hostility to women and people of colour “above the line”—the discriminatory hiring and commissioning practices over many decades that have left them struggling to get published at all.

I’m a paying member of the Guardian because I value the journalism they perform. But while it’s worth noting that the comments on BBC News, The Daily Mail, and many parts of Reddit are far worse, I expect much more of the Guardian.

Three years ago, I wrote a post here, facetiously-titled Guardian comments are destroying civilisation. Life comes at you fast.


Spies, Cairo, and Cats on The New Yorker

I don’t know how I feel about rumours that Apple might buy part or all of Condé Nast – yes, their unlimited resources might boost journalism, but there is a long history of tech companies buying news companies and it usually doesn’t end well. Still, if Apple brought more readers to stories like these two from this week’s New Yorker issue, that’d be a small win:

The Spy Who Came Home by Ben Taub. The training process at the Farm sounds incredible:

[Skinner joined the C.I.A.] during the early days of America’s war on terror, one of the darkest periods in its history, and spent almost a decade running assets in Afghanistan, Jordan, and Iraq. He shook hands with lawmakers, C.I.A. directors, the King of Jordan, the Emir of Qatar, the Prime Minister of Singapore, and Presidents of Afghanistan and the United States. “I became the Forrest Gump of counterterrorism and law enforcement,” he said, stumbling in and out of the margins of history. But over the years he came to believe that counterterrorism was creating more problems than it solved, fuelling illiberalism and hysteria, destroying communities overseas, and diverting attention and resources from essential problems in the United States.

Meanwhile, American police forces were adopting some of the militarized tactics that Skinner had seen give rise to insurgencies abroad. “We have to stop treating people like we’re in Fallujah,” he told me. “It doesn’t work. Just look what happened in Fallujah.” In time, he came to believe that the most meaningful application of his training and expertise—the only way to exemplify his beliefs about American security, at home and abroad—was to become a community police officer in Savannah, where he grew up.

“We write these strategic white papers, saying things like ‘Get the local Sunni population on our side,’ ” Skinner said. “Cool. Got it. But, then, if I say, ‘Get the people who live at Thirty-eighth and Bulloch on our side,’ you realize, man, that’s fucking hard—and it’s just a city block. It sounds so stupid when you apply the rhetoric over here. Who’s the leader of the white community in Live Oak neighborhood? Or the poor community?” Skinner shook his head. “ ‘Leader of the Iraqi community.’ What the fuck does that mean?”


Training begins at the C.I.A. headquarters, in Langley, Virginia, where aspiring case officers develop cover identities to facilitate clandestine work abroad. After a few months, they are sent to the Farm—a sprawling, wooded campus in southeastern Virginia. There, for about nine months, the students inhabit an increasingly complex role-playing scenario, in which the Farm is a fictitious unfriendly country and the instructors serve as teachers, tacticians, sources, border guards, and officers of a hostile intelligence agency. Case officers rarely steal secrets themselves; instead, they recruit well-placed foreigners to pass along information.

Students practice their recruitment skills at fake embassy parties. Each is assigned a target from the host country, and is tasked with carrying out conversations that play to the target’s interests and hobbies; by the end of the evening, students are expected to have elicited their assets’ contact details, which are used to begin a delicate, months-long process of recruitment. The next day, they receive feedback on their approach. They lose points for tells as minor as drinking beer from a bottle; diplomats typically use a glass.

The Personal History section is seemingly written for people 30 years older than me, but Cairo: A Type of Love Story by Peter Kessler was a lovely tale:

After Morsi arrived, the mice vanished. He ate the heads of a couple, leaving the bodies behind, and others stopped showing up. The coat markings of Egyptian Maus resemble those of cats that are portrayed on the walls of ancient tombs, and even the name is old: in pharaonic times, mau meant “cat.” Maus are agile, and they are characterized by a flap of skin that extends from the flank to the hind leg, which allows for greater extension. These house cats have been clocked at speeds of up to thirty miles per hour.

The toddlers, like the mice, learned to give Morsi a wide berth. He had no patience for their chattering and tail-pulling, and he scratched each of them hard enough to draw blood. This was handled efficiently: one attack on Ariel, one attack on Natasha. Leslie and I thought about having Morsi declawed, but it would have put him at a disadvantage against the neighborhood’s rodents and stray cats.

It was impossible to keep him inside. He was strong enough to open screen windows and doors, and he hid around the apartment’s entrance, waiting for an opportunity to dart out. Often I’d hear cat screams within minutes of his escape. We had a small garden, where strays liked to gather, but Morsi refused to tolerate them. Many times, I saw him drive some scraggly animal out through a gap in the spiderweb fence.

Sayyid, the neighborhood garbageman, warned me that somebody might grab Morsi. “He’s a beautiful cat,” Sayyid said. “Qot beladi.” People often used this phrase—“a cat of the country”—when they saw Morsi and his stripes. Egyptians are believed to have been the first cat breeders in history, and they loved the animals so much that they forbade their export more than thirty-seven centuries ago. They used to call Phoenicians “cat thieves,” because the seafarers snatched them for their ships.


We will also require people who manage large pages to be verified as well. This will make it much harder for people to run pages using fake accounts, or to grow virally and spread misinformation or divisive content that way.

In Ep 242 of The Cultures, we talked about how the “MMR vaccine causes autism” lie was spread not just by tabloids, but also by influential bloggers, YouTubers, and others with large social media followings. I doubt Facebook’s new policies would change much – after all, plenty of those spreading the lie were happy to use their real names – but I wonder whether they plan even more regulation.

How many British women want to have no children?

I was astounded by a particular statistic in a piece about Mother’s Day by Donna Ferguson in today’s Guardian:

About one in five (18%) of British women aged 45 are childless, the Office for National Statistics revealed last year, and Britain has one of the world’s highest rates of childlessness among women aged 40-44.

For some women, this will be by choice – but for many others it will not be. Only 0.67% of British women aged 15-39 do not want to have children, according to a global survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). To put this in context, the eurozone average is 1.5%, meaning fertile women in Britain who do not want to be mothers are among one of the smallest minorities measured in Europe.

Only 0.67% – really? Less than half the EU average? I was so surprised I had to look up the original source. Sure enough, the story is more complex. Here’s the full table from the OECD Excel file containing the 0.67% figure:

According to the table, 20.26% – over a fifth of British women – have no ideal number of children, or they don’t know. That’s the highest proportion in the EU, and very possibly the sort of socially-acceptable response a woman might prefer to give in place of the truth that they’re embarrassed or afraid to say. As a paper on “childlessness” by Professor of Demography and Social Statistics Ann Berrington notes,

…there may be a social desirability effect whereby British respondents may be unwilling to express a desire to remain childless, as British society and media tend to have a pro-natalist bias

There are other peculiarities. How is it possible that 0.00% of women in Estonia want no children? A glance at the population pyramid for Estonia shows there are roughly 180,000 women aged 15-39. 0.0049% of that is 882. So, in all of Estonia, there are only 882 women in that age range who truly don’t want any children? At the very least, the use of two decimal points implies a level of accuracy that is almost certainly unwarranted.

(Update: In the comments, sev points out that the table I show above, which is the same used by the Guardian as the basis for their article, is about the ideal general number of children in a family. That’s very different from the personal ideal number of children. The former would pose the question “Generally speaking, what do you think is the ideal number of children for a family?”; the latter would ask “And for you personally, what would be the ideal number if children you would like to have or would have liked to have? ” So, in conclusion, the Guardian article is completely wrong, and you can more or less ignore the paragraphs above as well…)

I haven’t been able to find any information about how the OECD figures were gathered so it’d be premature for me to go much further, but this wouldn’t be the first time a survey didn’t accurately reveal people’s true preferences; just for comparison, a 2014 paper by Berrington and Pattaro, using data from a large British cohort study, showed that in 1980, 6.2% of women aged 23 wanted no children – a number ten times that of the OECD results.

Numbers have power. If you’re going to use statistics in an article as emotive as one about “childless” women (or “childfree”, as many prefer), you best be sure they’re rock solid. Because if you confidently state that practically zero women in the UK want no children, and in reality there are more, then you are unnecessarily othering those women and their choices.

This article is trying to be sympathetic, but in reality, it’s making people feel alone – and it might be totally wrong.

Alex Pareene on the link between the profitability and ethics of newspapers in the Columbia Journalism Review:

In retrospect, it seems inevitable that American journalism’s professional norms around fairness and ethics emerged at a time when newspapers and magazines were good investments for normal financial reasons. Safe investments attract safe corporate investors. Corporations like clear standards of conduct and don’t like offending huge numbers of potential customers, which is how Yellow Journalism gave way to “All the News That’s Fit to Print” and the mainstream media as we knew it. The market played a big role in determining content. A big city paper could lean a little to the left or the right, but it couldn’t go full–John Birch or all–in Yippie without losing the thing that gave it power: monopolistic access to the eyeballs of the city’s literate adults.

We can’t afford your perfectionism

For a long time, I refused to pay for membership to The Guardian despite reading it multiple times a day. “Fifty pounds?!” I’d cry. “And for what? Shit I don’t need and junk mail? I’ll pay when it’s half the price and they fire Jonathan Jones.”

I was being a dick. If The Guardian disappeared tomorrow, I’d be all over Twitter rending my clothes. I really do appreciate their journalism and commentary, and while a small part of me would be glad to see the back of their anodyne lifestyle articles and flaming garbage pile of a comments section, and yes, Jonathan Jones, I’d regret not having done more to support them.

There is a segment of the population — let’s call them Silicon Valley Optimisers — who feel intellectually and morally superior to the rest of humanity. One can observe them in their natural habitats of Hacker News, Lesswrong, and Slatestarcodex. They work in technology, they earn a good salary, and they want the best.

No, scratch that — truthfully, I spend a lot of time in Optimisation Land. We want the best, because the world and the conomy expects the best from us. We are hyperanalytical cost-benefit maximisers. There is no charity so pure that we can’t criticise for wasting money; no non-profit too noble to snipe at for using the wrong tech stack; no institution too valuable to be explosively disrupted.

Whether it’s journalism, healthcare, transportation, social security, or politics, we could do better, if we tried. But we don’t care to try, because we’re too busy trying to make shit tons of money, and you don’t make money by working in non-profits or journalism. So fuck anyone else for trying and failing to attain perfection, and what’s more, fuck them for having the temerity to ask us for our hard-earned cash.

The time for that attitude is well and truly over. We cannot afford your perfectionism any more.

If you read the New York Times or the Washington Post, or you listen to NPR, or you value living in a society with civil liberties, you must support those organisations — even if you object to a lot of what they do. The people working there are doing hard work for comparatively little pay, and they need your support.

If you’re always waiting to donate to the perfect organisation that deserves your money, you will never be part of the solution. You will be part of the problem.

The Guardian is not going to fire Jonathan Jones, as much as I might complain. They probably aren’t going to change their shitty comments system, even though I was told several years ago that it was happening ‘any time now’. And like the NYT and Washington Post, they aren’t going to stop producing hard-hitting investigating journalism that tries to speak truth to power. So if that’s something you value, you need to support them now.

Likewise, organisations like Liberty, the ACLU, and the Southern Poverty Law Center — they may be inefficient. They may do political things that irritate you. But if you share their ideals, you need to support them now.

Don’t be an Optimiser. Be a Human.

Photo CC-BY Trevor Hurlbut

Guardian comments are destroying civilization

A vast swathe of people now believe that it’s impossible to have intelligent debate online. This is not an unreasonable belief; scroll down on any newspaper website, let alone YouTube, and you’ll discover the shouting matches that inhabit most comments sections. Jessica Valenti recently wondered whether we shouldn’t simply shut down all comments, like Popular Science and, in part, The Verge, have done. Of the Guardian, she said:

My own exhaustion with comments these days has less to do with explicit harassment – which, at places like the Guardian, is swiftly taken care of. (Thank you, moderators!) Rather, it’s the never-ending stream of derision that women, people of color and other marginalized communities endure; the constant insistence that you or what you write is stupid or that your platform is undeserved. Yes, I’m sure straight, white, male writers get this kind of response too – but it’s not nearly as often and not nearly as nasty.

It is strange that she praises the Guardian’s moderators for taking down explicit harassment, but doesn’t consider that they could also remove the ‘never-ending stream of derision’. When The Times or The Telegraph choose which letters to publish in their printed editions, we don’t consider the letters that didn’t fit as having been censored. And just because web pages can be infinitely long doesn’t mean that newspapers suddenly have an obligation to publish everything.

It’s clear the writers and editors at the Guardian care deeply about combatting sexism and racism; that much is evident through the paper. That’s why I regard their refusal to properly moderate their comments to be an astonishing abandonment of principle. It is not a question of free speech or censorship – people may take their hateful speech elsewhere online, and rage at authors to their heart’s content. It just doesn’t have to happen on the article itself. And if it is a question of cost, then remove the comments entirely.

Unmoderated comments sections like the Guardian’s may start out well, but they inevitably succumb to entropy, giving prominence to those who have effectively unlimited time to shout and argue. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has considered trying to reason with ignorant commenters, only to conclude that they have far more time than me, and far less inclination to listen. The transient nature of articles and comments doesn’t help; why bother arguing that sexism is real for the tenth time on the tenth article?

But the real reason why I detest what the Guardian is doing is because their comments sections are, bit by bit, contributing to defeatism and pessimism. The unrepentent toxicity held within them makes it seem as if there’s no point trying to improve the world or change people’s minds. How many times we do hear “I’ve lost my faith in humanity after reading the comments”? In reality, the comments that are see are come from a tiny, unrepresentative sample of the population – but because they are supposedly open to all and they represent some of the little free conversation we see amongst strangers, we conclude that they are representative.

Well, they are not. And the Guardian’s comments are not representative of what could be possible in a well-moderated community. I’ve often praised Metafilter for it’s excellent moderation, and I was reminded of that by a thread in which someone complained their ‘completely harmless’ comments had been deleted for no reason. A moderator explained:

For context, this is about a couple of comments deleted from the thread about how pop songs are all written by the same guy (link goes to my note in the thread). The comments were about Taylor Swift’s short-shorts and her legs. My prediction was, this would cause a pointless derailing fight in the thread, so I deleted them. These were the comments:

“These kids today probably don’t have time to write. The energy they put into these elaborate stage shows. Plus TayTay walking around New York in her short shorts avoiding the paparazzi…”


“I got a kick out of one pic of Taylor and her legs sitting on the floor of a fabulous all white garret jotting down tablature.”

You may look at those comments and think, but there’s no outright harassment, how could they be moderated? Well, as a few people pointed out, they are sexist and gross. People are free to be sexist and gross in their own homes or with their friends – but not on Metafilter. When you read Metafilter, you do not conclude that the world is composed of sweetness and light; people often have strong disagreements there (but not violent disagreements). You would conclude, however, that it is possible for people to change and learn and be reasonable; that you can have faith in humanity.

And if you criticise Metafilter for not being representative either, because it has full-time moderators, then you would be criticising the entire project of civilisation; the idea that we can organise ourselves and improve our culture in a way that makes the world better, not worse.

Peak Ad Irritation

Using Adblock on my desktop browser gives me a completely unrealistic view of the internet. Websites magically become temples to content and information; they are unsullied by commercial interests and bias; they place my interests as a reader above all else. I can’t imagine using the internet without it. I realise I’m potentially depriving sites of ad revenue (which is why I subscribe my favourites) but I confess I don’t find it hard to justify.

You can’t get an adblocker for Safari on the iPhone or iPad. For some reason this hasn’t bothered me in the past, partly because I used Instapaper and RSS readers a lot, and partly because zooming into specific columns of text meant that ads in sidebars tended to be hidden.

But no longer. Cast your eyes upon this travesty:

Captured from my iPad from the Guardian yesterday. The ad animation is artificially lengthened in this video due to the capturing process, but when I timed it separately, it lasted for 30 seconds (15 seconds, looped twice).

The bright colours combined with the motion graphics made it impossible for me to concentrate on reading the article – and because it was in-line with the text, and because the iPad shows quite a lot of text in a single screen, I couldn’t simply scroll past it quickly as I might do on a phone. My only option was to turn on Reader mode, stripping out all the noise from the page.

I dearly hope that distracting ads like this don’t become more common, as I’ll have to start using Reader mode all the time, or investigate using an alternative browser that can block ads (on Android, I believe Firefox can do this through extensions).

Thoughts on consistency in tablet news apps

A few months ago, I finally had what I’d been dreaming of for years – digital delivery of every single magazine and newspaper I read. No more stacks of New Yorkers and Economists lingering on tables waiting to be given away (or more likely, recycled); no more hunting for all the bits of subscription forms hiding in The Atlantic. I was free and the iPad did it all. Even better, I discovered that the New Yorker made far more sense as an actual reporting magazine when you received in on time rather than one week ‘late’ in the UK.

Of course, it hasn’t all been perfect. Each magazine has a completely different method of operation and user interface that conspires to frustrate me in big ways and small. Before a recent trip abroad I dutifully opened up every single content app and synced everything, but The Atlantic proved too wily and when I tried to read the magazine while offline, it sniffily informed me that another update was required. Thanks for nothing. It turns out that because the app delivers both web content and magazine content, it’s often confusing whether you’ve actually downloaded the whole magazine or not.

I shall refrain from going too much into The Atlantic app’s failings (powered by Rarewire) as a reading experience; the fact that it delivers magazine pages as images that are just-about-but-not-quite readable without zooming in; the practically non-existent navigation; the weird text-only mode that is missing images (at least when offline). The short story is that it has very little in common with other iPad reading experiences – apart from, presumably, other Rarewire apps – which is more than enough to cause irritation.

The Atlantic 2

The Economist has been cited as one of the best magazine apps out there. I can’t disagree – it’s simple and it works well. I don’t understand why it isn’t on Newsstand yet, since auto-downloading would be nice, but otherwise I can’t complain. It’s worth noting that you have to swipe left to read the next page though, which sort-of makes sense given its two column layout but is nonetheless at odds with many other apps (other The Atlantic, which doesn’t count).


The New Yorker is an interesting one. It has the usual Conde Nast engine so the download takes forever and frequently hangs (although last week it downloaded itself automatically, which was great). Despite this, I personally think that the New Yorker has one of the best reading experiences out there. The font size and layout is very agreeable and I like the way in which you flick up and down to read through articles. There are plenty of adverts, but it’s easy to skip them and the multiple navigation options allow me to get to where I want to go quickly (i.e. skip the entire first half of the magazine). If only it were faster.

New Yorker 2

The problem with The New Yorker app, though, is that it has all sorts of weird UI quirks. Articles rarely have genuinely interactive elements, and when they do, they behave in all sorts of strange ways. I gather that red links to supplementary material require you to be online, but I wish they were downloaded at the start. I also only realised last month that you could actually tap the ‘buttons’ on the Cartoon Caption competition page to see the nominees and winners; the buttons just don’t look like buttons. I imagine that a lot of other readers have the same problem of just not knowing what the hell is going on. Continue reading “Thoughts on consistency in tablet news apps”