AOL Unveils ‘Editions’ iPad Magazine: Hmm, This Looks Familiar

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AOL took the curtains off their newest project, a customizable iPad-only magazine dubbed Editions, yesterday. The free download allows users to cultivate content across several news fields and arranges stories into an attractive magazine format, complete with photos.

The entire presentation is quite lovely: The grid structure is well-spaced out, and attached photos are blown up and overlaid with text just like a real magazine. Shortened versions of the articles are aggregated, which then open up as larger pieces on their native sites. You have access to AOL’s properties like the Huffington Post, TechCrunch and Patch local news, too.

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How new! How innovative! This is what the iPad was built for!

…are things you’d probably be saying except, well, we’ve seen this before.

Editions does look an awful lot like Flipboard, which, at least on the surface, may not be a bad thing. But there are a few critical differences between the two platforms worth pointing out.

Social Media Integration
Flipboard draws in a lot of its content by syncing with a user’s Twitter streams. Facebook, too. In that way it’s extremely customizable: Just follow the writers and publications you want to read about to have their work show up in Flipboard’s interface. From there, you can use the service to retweet articles or share them on Facebook.

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On Editions, however, the way you customize your content is a tad different. For starters, Twitter has only one direction: Outbound. In other words, you can’t cull content from your stream to read as you please, but you can share it. So how exactly do you get articles in the thing?

Customizing Your Content
It took Flipboard some time to get the cooperation of publishers to buy into their service. With Editions, AOL’s still in the process of adding publishers outside of their content umbrella (for instance, you can’t add Techland), all of which must be inserted manually.

A new feature, however, is that Editions allows you to customize your content based on particular keywords. Tired of reading about Apple news? You can click the header at the top and X-out “Apple Inc.” as a tag.

Flipboard constantly refreshes and is a never-ending stream of news. It’s just like the internet, except prettier.

But Editions is delivered to your iPad one time per day (!!!), which in all honesty is kind of surprising. You’d think AOL would be keen on taking advantage of the 24-hour news cycle, but as it stands, you have to choose what time you want your customizable magazine to be downloaded. (Though there is a cool little delivery stamp on the cover… JUST LIKE PRINT!).

When you download your daily Editions, you can scan it without any sort of connection (Wi-Fi or 3G). However, you won’t be able to click into articles to read beyond their introductory paragraphs, so the whole downloading thing seems kind of pointless.

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Basically, Editions is kind of like if The Daily and Flipboard had a love child that may or may not have Arianna Huffington as its favorite aunt. It’s a sleek aggregator, yes, but is it better than Flipboard? Debatable. However, at only one update per day and without very much social media integration, it leaves something to be desired.

Chris Gayomali is a writer-reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @chrigz, on Facebook, or on Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.