AOL's New Reader Is Like a Magazine for the iPad

From the look to the way it works, Editions pays homage to traditional media

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Tomorrow, iPadsters will have another news e-reader app to choose from: AOL's Editions. The app pulls content from all over the Web and puts it on your iPad for your reading pleasure. Instead of updating constantly, Editions only refreshes once a day, making it feel more like an old school mag and less like the constant stream of information that we're used to. "We want this to be a guilt-free experience," AOL’s Senior Director of Mobile Sol Lipman told AdWeek's Ki Mae Heussner. "Less is more." But can this throwback to old-school publishing work on the iPad?

The app functions like a smart version of a magazine, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. AOL intended to create a digestible product--something you could finish within a sitting. (Unlike the never-ending Interwebs of info.) “We want to give people a sense of ‘I did something, I finished this,’" AOL's mobile head David Tempkin told AllThingsD's Fried. Hence the daily updates. But it does more than your average mag, which only provides content from one news organization explains Honan. "It's conceptually laid out like a magazine, but really it's more of a news reader with a pretty face, aggregating material from many different sources."

Not only can you get news from all over, but you can customize your experience,  explains Fried. "Unlike a traditional fish wrap, however, users can elect which sections they wish to receive and which can be skipped." As you read you can choose which areas of interest you'd like to receive. Along with your selections, Editions uses an algorithm to get you the best news.

But, unfortunately, Editions's algorithm doesn't always work the way you might like, as Gizmodo's Mat Honan discovered:

... while you can add sources to sections, I'm not sure you can take them out. For example, my local news section is full of garbage from Business Insider and the (Aol-owned) Huffington Post, and I can't figure out how to get it out of there. If there's one thing I never want to see in a magazine format, it's the Huffington Post. Come to think of it, I pretty much don't want to see the Huffington Post in any format.

Also, AOL only provides full articles for its self-produced content. For other content, it gives links. If you were reading a real magazine, this would present an issue--you can't click off. And for Editions, those not constantly connected will run into the same this problem, as Fried explains.

One of the challenges is that the app really needs continuous Internet service to be fully enjoyed, making it somewhat impractical for subway and train commuters whose Web access is inconsistent. Although headlines and some AOL-produced content are downloaded with the full magazine, users have to connect to the Internet each time they want to read a full article from another source, as the application loads a full Web page.

And not only does Editions work like a magazine, it also has the look of a traditional glossy book, which Bits Blog's Verne G. Kopytoff finds a bit weird.  "Editions, a free news reader for iPad that gets its inspiration – oddly – from the print world." From front to back, Editions feels dated. "The retro feel starts with the Editions logo that recalls a Sunset magazine, replete with a faux mailing label on the front page," continues Kopytoff. After flipping through that day's offerings, you again reach another homage to traditional media, as the back page features horoscopes, "for those of you who enjoy reading fiction," quips Honan--a "clever-ish customization," in his opinion. Editions looks like a magazine, talks like a magazine, and we bet AOL hopes it doesn't die like a magazine.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.