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AN APP I LIKE

The Talks

There’s much to be said for simplicity. The Talks has a clear proposition, is executed brilliantly and eschews unnecessary bells and whistles. David Hicks wonders why larger publishers haven’t taken the hint.

David Hicks

Posted on: 03 February 2017

 

The Talks is a free weekly interview magazine, online, and via a beautifully-crafted native iPad and iPhone app. Every Wednesday, The Talks publishes an exclusive interview and portrait with a well-known individual. Inside the app, and online, you’ll find an eclectic selection of interviews with personalities from the worlds of art, film, fashion, music, sports and more.

The Talks, based in Berlin, was founded in 2011 by journalists and best mates Sven Schumann and Johannes Bonke. The pair had previously been writing for Vogue, GQ, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, W Magazine, Rolling Stone and many others. After learning that more often than not, some of the best stuff from an interview gets edited out, they went through their archives and discovered that they had quite a chunk of work to do something with. As a vehicle for all their unused content, they founded The Talks, dug through their archives of interviews, and profiled one individual a week with the aim of providing an ‘in-depth but brisk’ read. Pretty much in every interview, Sven and Johannes manage to get whoever it is they are chatting with, to relax and open up – and that’s the real value of this project.

I discovered this fantastic app in 2013 while researching for new apps to promote as part of an online and social media company I’m involved with. Content apps have been struggling of late – and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to work out exactly what is it that makes them fail, or work, or be successful – and The Talks is one of the latter. It’s sponsored by Rolex, and is free online and via the app. Yes, I said ‘sponsored’ – but it’s all done really elegantly, and the ad spots and Rolex mentions are not intrusive in any way… if anything, Rolex’s inclusion actually benefits the overall experience.

On opening the app, you are greeted with a simple contents page of all the latest and most popular interviews – currently they are showing Lars Ulrich, and Johnny Rotten (the editor’s picks), and the most-read is a chat with world-famous designer Yohji Yamamoto. Inside the most-read section, you’ll be able to read conversations with Jack Nicholson, Tom Ford, Julianne Moore, Morgan Freeman, Bill Murray, Meryl Streep, Woody Allen, Leonardo DiCaprio and David Byrne among other globally-recognisable superstars, along with an exclusive portrait, exquisitely chosen and cropped, of course.

The Yamamoto interview, for example, once opened, is headed up by a moody black and white shot of the designer, smoking. Perhaps that’s a nod to his smokin’ range of clothing, or perhaps he didn’t care? Either way, it’s just cool. The articles in the app are always Q+A format, another consistent quality I like, and take around five minutes to read. If I want, I can ‘Read it Later’ and the app secures the article for offline reading. And, because the content is identical to the online version, I can share the same article across social media and email – something that not a lot of digital magazines seem to be able to do all that well.

The great thing about The Talks’ collection is that these interviews are not available anywhere else. It’s unrivalled - when you think about it – and why aren’t the likes of GQ, Vogue, Esquire, Wired and co making apps like these? They have equally as good interviews and probably a larger budget.

Why do I like this app so much? It’s a magazine concept, but not a magazine format. It’s a breath of fresh air in a muddy world of print replica apps and overly interactive digital editions with buggy contents pages and a million adverts before you get to the good stuff. It’s free, and there’re no barriers in front of any of the content, which is all first class and identical to what you’d expect to read in GQ or Fast Company. The Talks is exceptionally well designed, with great care taken on typography, image crops, column widths and – most importantly – navigation around the content, something that many publishers fail at.

Back to the app: you can subscribe to an email update service, resize the text for easier reading, and the app sends push notifications to notify when any new content arrives. It’s incredibly fast, and quick to download, and has a fresh, clean design across all menu pages and articles. Many of the articles feature a gallery of additional images, and an ‘audio’ button where you can listen to a clip of the interview, giving you a taste of the voice, the mood of the interviewee and also a sense of the venue – Tom Ford sounds like he’s in a bar, probably his own. Just a shame that Morgan Freeman’s interview wasn’t recorded…

“It’s a breath of fresh air in a muddy world of print replica apps and overly interactive digital editions.”

The Talks can be downloaded from the App Store.

About David Hicks
(Details last updated: 22 September 2016)

David Hicks is a mobile product consultant and designer, working across London publishers and agencies, designing and advising on digital publishing products and app strategy.

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