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NatGeo Today Dazzles on iPad By Not Being a Magazine
Friday, April 13, 2012
National Geographic Today understands the tablet user by dazzling her with full screen images. They had us at ‘hello.” Every day the app leads with a stunning splash page and a modest selection of content like a news article, video clip, gallery of photos. The art of this app is that it doesn’t overwhelm you like the site with a torrent of content. It is highly curated each day to give the user a taste. And this seems to us a novel and thoughtful way to come at the tablet.
Understanding that the evening tablet user is in lean-back/lean in mode, the brand gives her a glimpse of the NG brand’s offerings that doesn’t require serious investment but can reward the ambitious content digger. The site lets you track back over previous days of NG content from the app, parse the full catalog by four categories: videos, articles, galleries, featured photos. Or you can view the back catalog by a calendar interface. The daily content is sometimes highly topical (North Korea testing nukes) and often just interesting and random (using magnets as brakes). Each of the content pieces is surrounded by social tools, including making a Facebook comment and posting to your wall.
Our main gripes with the app are more technical and design oriented than conceptual. Slideshows play within a player that reduces the size of the image. The photography is just too good not to have a full screen mode. Also the app should cache images more effectively so there isn’t such a noticeable pause when swiping through a slide show.
Still, we think the National Geographic app for iPad is a great brand advertisement for NG. It reminds tablet users about the treasures to be found among the magazine’s reporting and photography troves, and it likely will pique interest in its other revenue-generating products. But most of all the app succeeds by pulling the brand out of its magazine and Web site formats and creating an experience that is aligned both with the tablet device as well as the tablet use case. It is an open invitation to other magazine brands to consider how they can leverage carefully curated free content into unique tablet experiences that promote the brand’s strengths. EW did it long ago with its “Must List” app for iPad. But we think this is a great opportunity for magazine brands to think outside the usual print and Web boxes to use tablets as a way to merchandise their brands.
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