The Next Web failing to understand Android and general repose

This post was written when I was a child, I’m only keeping it here for archival purposes. All of these words should be only taken in context.

The Next bad app

Have you heard? Android users not using X are once again the cause of Y dying.

This time, it’s The Next Web and their magazine. They state that because of low intake on Android, it simply isn’t worth it to keep publishing for that platform. Fair enough of a point, I certainly wouldn’t want to be pushing a product that isn’t going anywhere.

I personally didn’t even know they had a magazine until this article was published. Bad marketing is my first issue with them blaming users. If no one knows about your product, how can you blame them for not using it? The Next Web isn’t on my most frequently visited list of sites, but your magazine is big enough of a venture to feature on the front page.

My second issue with them blaming Android users is the fact that they used the iTunes stores for all of their content linking on iOS. They obviously didn’t care to make this truly cross platform then, because that makes no sense if you are trying to scale it across multiple platforms. While yes, interlinking content in iOS is lucrative in theory, it only works when you are trying to keep it within the garden. This is their fault, and this issue was most likely one of the biggest time wasters in porting each issue over to Android.

What they also don’t state, is that the magazine itself was compatible with a hodgepodge of devices, not including the Nexus 4, nor the Nexus 10. And on the devices it did run on? It was a buggy experience, with taps not being rendered and scrolling, if ever, being smooth. The Play Store reviews are half and half on this, some stating that the experience is great, others having the same frustrations that I did. Regardless, there are only 56 reviews, which just shows the lack of discoverability. If there is one thing Android users love to do, it’s comment.

While i’m discussing discoverability, I want to point out that searching for “The Next Web” in the Play Store does not, show your magazine in the results list, even when magazine is appended to it.

Users do not know the app exists, those who do cannot find it, and it’s slow and buggy. On top of that, The Next Web has an iOS first approach which makes publishing an issue for Android a chore.

Yet somehow, this is all users fault.

The Next ironic native experience

Android users aren’t into the native app to replace everything that isn’t an app idea. More specifically, we like substance over presentation.

Joe Wilcox on Google+ puts it better than I:

+William Reichard offers superb response to The Next Web’s decision to stop publishing an Android version of its weekly magazine. He writes:

“Perhaps it’s just that iPad users tend to be people who prefer real-world ‘equivalents’ (calendars that look like desk calendars, etc.). The future, though, is on the fly and ad hoc. I.e., not ‘magazines’. Even Flipboard drives me nuts — turning pages is so slow — so old-fashioned. Even Apple is about to take a big turn away from the skeumorphic. I love TNW; I didn’t need a magazine version when there’s a perfectly good website and a thousand different ways to get your feed”.

It’s my experience that reading magazines on iPad is considerably more immersive than Android. Whether or not that’s good depends on several perspectives — one of which: What’s — and how ironic — the next web? Google’s platform, leveraging from search, is all mashup. Information coming in from different and disparate sources. That’s also the trend driven by social media everywhere.

During the web’s early days, magazine publishers sought to maintain the print experience via tech like PDF. But the approach failed. The web platform’s hyperlinking fostered something more dynamic. That characteristic isn’t changed on tablets any more than it did on PCs. If anything, mashup style is more the future web, something TNW editors seemed to have missed. The past lesson still applies.

iPad, by contrast, is more Gangnam Style, appealing to a seemingly trendy set that clings to presentation over substance. Or, using the #hungergames analogy, the Capitol (iPad) versus the Districts (Androids).

I don’t see much long-term future for magazines on any tablet, not as long as they take so long to download or remain so static. On Android, where users get info from feeds, Google Now, widgets and so much else, there’s not even much short-term future. Given Android’s escalating install base, TNW would be better off figuring out the market rather than abandoning it.

This isn’t to say that the archaic system of managing magazines is necessarily bad, I’m sure it fits into the methodology of iOS quite well. And new users who were magazine readers before their purchase surely appreciate this system. But on Android, where the norm is streams of data that becomes presented to you in purely digital ways, this doesn’t make good sense.

The only ones who were making noise about this issue were iOS users and bloggers. This story hit the Android subreddit almost a day after publication, this story only got onto the what’s hot list on Google+ because The Next Web is in the suggested user list.

Publishers, developers, writers, designers, take note: We do not care about your magazine.

This magazine failed because of Apple centric folks not understanding how Android works, and how Android users behave. Android is not Google’s iOS, and it never will be. Whenever you try to blatantly port a product over like this, it will fail. Even if the users want it, you still have to think.