Pharmacy Times Writes New Prescription for b2b on iPad

By Steve Smith

While consumer magazines are falling all over themselves to rush onto the iPad platform, b2b media brands have been much more cautious about the level of investment and development time an ambitious iPad app requires. In most cases, b2b brands are leveraging third-party turnkey solutions from the usual digital magazine suspects like Texterity and Zinio.

In the case of Pharmacy Times, however, publisher Intellisphere has created an ambitious, customized experience that certainly tries harder than most business publications to optimize the magazine experience for a touch screen with multimedia extras.

The app opens with a video animation of the Pharmacy Times logo that drops you into the library of back issues available for download. The issues are free and thankfully are lightweight enough to download quickly. PT uses some of the conventions of most iPad magazines: side swiping across articles, vertical scrolling through single articles and a double tap to bring up the navigation rails on top and bottom of the screen. A drop-down table of contents offers a thumbnail index of all articles, and a star icon lets the reader add any article to his favorites. The sharing tools link to Facebook, Twitter and email.

The most noticeable thing about this b2b mag app is the time the editors clearly invest in giving the digital version its own character. Almost all of the columns are reproduced from print but also have audio comments from the writer. Many articles include video clips and slideshows.

There are even highly interactive editorial elements. In the most recent issue, for instance, a set of case studies poses a problem to the reader for which a tap reveals an answer. A fun “Can You Read these RXs” illustrates a physician’s hopelessly illegible scrawl and provides the actual translation with a tap.

PT is also leveraging the technology for products. Most of the full-page ad units are reserved for the brand itself and the online resources and continuing education products the company offers pharmacists. But there are also product news pages that contain nine tiles that pop up with additional product information and manufacturer contact data.

While PT on iPad is ambitious in its custom design, it also suffers some buggy and halting behavior. We experienced several crashes. The navigation rails are temperamental and too often pop into view without rhyme or reason. They are thick enough to block the content at times. All of the page loads are sluggish, so the actual experience of thumbing through the magazine app is less than smooth. There is an RSS reader embedded in the app, but much of the news in the feed seems rather old. And none of the multimedia plays in the page. Video and even audio kick over to a new page.

Despite the many glitches and overall lack of polish, Pharmacy Times for the iPad does demonstrate how business information can be enhanced by the touch interface and multimedia tools the iPad offers. The experience of reading a trade pub is simply more entertaining and compelling when the editors go out of their way to mix up the content and engage a wider range of senses. We hope the basic engine gets better over time, but this is a good first stab at reaching beyond the typical b2b experiments in mobile.