AOL launches Editions, a magazine for the iPad

The competitor to Flipboard and Zite takes the form of a free iPad app called Editions that lets you build your own daily digital magazine.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
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David Carnoy
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Editions is AOL's new free digital magazine app for the iPad (click image to enlarge). Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET

The tagline for AOL's just-released Editions iPad app is "The magazine that reads you," a nod to the concept that Editions builds a daily "magazine" based on your reading tastes. But in an effort to drum up a little buzz for the app, several weeks ago the folks behind Editions posted a YouTube video jokingly referring to the tagline as the "The app for when you crap."

Sol Lipman, senior director of AOL's Mobile First division in Palo Alto, Calif., and star of the video, says that it was all in good fun but that some people were offended.

All kidding aside, Lipman does admit there actually is some truth to the joke tagline. That's because Editions hopes to differentiate itself from competitors like Flipboard and Zite, which also scrape content from the Web and showcase it in an appealing, reader-friendly magazine-like format, by keeping things short and contained, "readable in one sitting."

While apps like Flipboard and Zite grab content and can be continually updated in real-time, the idea behind Editions is that you'll get a copy of your digital magazine delivered to you once a day (you can choose the time)--and that's it. In that sense it's a little more like Rupert Murdoch-backed The Daily, minus all the original content and huge overhead of having to pay a full staff of seasoned editors and reporters.

Editions can be personalized and has the requisite social media tie-ins (click to enlarge). Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET

"We wanted people to have a sense of completion," Lipman says. "You get the issue, say in the morning, and you read it all the way through on the way to work or at breakfast, and you're done. It has a cover and different sections like a real magazine or newspaper."

Like its competitors, you can select different areas of interest and add additional sections. In case you're wondering, you get articles from various sources, not just AOL properties (though they are certainly featured), and you can tweak your tastes in terms of the kinds of articles that will surface on certain subjects. There are also the requisite ties to Facebook and Twitter along with AOL/AIM. However, Editions does not build a magazine based on your Twitter or Facebook feeds like Flipboard does.

For now, Editions will be ad-free but AOL is working on an ad-supported model with content providers. It's also being careful to link out to full articles on content providers' Websites rather than scrape the whole article and bring it into the app (it's easy to click out of the full view of article and go back to the so-called magazine view of the app).

After playing around with Editions for a few days (we got an early look), we have to say the app seems pretty slick, and we like how there's a local news section based on the ZIP code you enter in the settings. (Lipman says Editions is the first app of this genre to offer a local news section) Right now the developers are sticking with the one edition per day concept but that could change down the road.

"We could certainly have it so you could get a morning and evening edition," Lipman says. "We're not ruling that out. Ultimately, we'll see what the users want."