One of the main selling points of the iPad, at least initially, was that it could become a digital magazine or newspaper. However, a year-and-a-half on and there's still no electronic edition available that has interested owners enough to be termed a runaway hit.
Perhaps that's because, in these modern times, people are less willing to shell out their hard-earned cash on subscriptions when a vast amount of similar, quality articles, pictures and journalism is available online for free. So that's where content aggregators and personalised social magazines, such as FlipBoard, come in. They offer the stories and pieces of interest that you choose, essentially cutting out the chaf.
However, such applications in the past can end up looking like the websites they draw the content from, which is kind of missing the point. We want an aggregator of personlised content, but one that actually looks like a real magazine. And we've found one...
Editions by AOL
Editions by AOL is not exactly a new or unique proposition, but is so nicely put together that you don't mind some similarities with other products. Essentially, it gives you a daily magazine based on criteria that you set, while learning along the way what sort of material you favour. It taps into web RSS feeds and offers all manner of different authorised sources (including Pocket-lint) in a magazine format that reminds us of The Daily electronic newspaper in the US (sort of).
Immediately upon starting up Editions by AOL, you are asked for the log in details for all of your social media accounts. You can connect to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, AOL/AIM (obviously), Instapaper and Read It Later (in order to save pages for future reading).
This is primarily to offer the option to share interesting articles with friends and family. However, it also draws some cursory information about your likes and the stuff you actually care about from those profiles, in order to build an initial magazine it believes you'll be interested in. You can opt out of it peering into any of those accounts, if you like, and even sign up for them later, but it's a good way to give it a nod in the right direction.
The other thing the application does on first load is ask what colour scheme you'd rather and what categories you'd like to include in your "Edition". These take the form of sections and are quite far reaching. We chose Technology, Sports, Top News (which covers international real-world news stories), Entertainment, Gaming, Music and Men's Style, but there's plenty of others, including Automotive, Food & Cooking, and, even, Fashion.
These sections are then supplied by some of the predetermined partners, which, it will come as no surprise, are mainly AOL websites and properties. However, you're not locked into this company's content exclusively. Editions by AOL also allows you to add other sources, buzzwords for products, or, even, company names. For example, want to read Pocket-lint's biggest stories? Just type Pocket-lint.com into the source settings and you'll receive a daily dose. Want to find out everything Samsung is doing? Type Samsung into the company settings and it'll create a flag for that word.
In addition, each and every source, buzzword or flag can be removed, liked or disliked (in a TiVo way). You'll be presented with the option every time you click to read further on a story, as the option to modify and tell the software of your wants and otherwise appears above the web page of the story in question. Some longer articles do appear in their entirety in the app, so can be read completely offline, but they're from AOL sites only (such as Engadget and Huffington Post). It is that company's app, after all.
Basically, while you might find that the first few weeks of Editions may not be entirely to your taste, stick with it and ensure that you like, dislike, add sources and subjects that interest you, and you'll end up with a very slick, easy to navigate magazine that will suit you down to the ground.
And for free, to boot. You can't say fairer than that.