Oprah Opens the Curtain on ‘O’ for iPad

By Steve Smith

You know that when Oprah comes to the iPad she will bring to it her video persona, and that is precisely how the new $3.99 tablet iteration of O opens. In a full-screen video Oprah draws a long blue curtain to the side and introduces her app. Published by Hearst, the Oprah Magazine for iPad App follows the recent lead of Esquire on the tablet. Rather than render the December issue page by page, the app features much of the content of the print version, highlighting the features that are conducive to enhancement on a touch interface.

The issue opens with a holiday “O List” of gift ideas from Oprah herself and her usual cast of characters (Drs. Oz and Phil, Suze Orman, et al.). These product pages offer a good helping of tap and show functionality as well as sharing tools and a buy button that brings you directly to manufacturers’ e-commerce sites. There is some clever interactivity with the product shots. Some items offer a 360-degree view and some books flip open with a swipe. In most cases, these are just touch gimmicks that enhance the tactile experience without adding information.

A feature on best books of the year does include extended excerpts from each and links to buy from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. The lushly illustrated feature on homemade foods for the holidays have pop-up full page recipes. While charter advertisers Lexus and Disney embed videos in their respective ad units, there is not a lot of emphasis on multimedia in this app. An Oprah interview with Tyler Perry has a behind-the-scenes clip, but much of this app seems to be about text and images nicely formatted for the iPad platform.

The folks at Hearst have tried to deal with usage rates in digital magazines by creating a sweepstakes feature to encourage regular returns. The "12-Day Holiday Give-O-Way" lets app users (along with Web site visitors) enter a contest daily by typing in a code that is generated on each of 12 days starting November 29. 
While unremarkable in most respects as a magazine app, O does include one interesting wrinkle that Hearst has been adding to the digital magazine ad model is its recent releases. This magazine limits the number of advertisers in the issue, but the ad units for Disney and Lexus are interruptive rather than passive. While they appear in a specific place in the pagination of the app, the units also appear as interstitials when the user navigates to some pages. This is an interesting way to ensure that an advertiser gets seen and even guaranteeing a set number of impressions per user.

Overall, Oprah Magazine for iPad is a pleasant enhancement of key content elements from the holiday issue of the magazine. There are some bugs. The opening video does not always load as expected, and we got kicked from the app on occasion. Page loading also can lag behind navigation, which intrudes on the fast swipe-through experience. Nothing innovative here – just a few nice touches.