Time Inc’s Tablet Magazine shows publishers which way is up

December 3, 2009

We all knew something was brewing, but quite frankly I didn’t think it would be as cool as this. Time Inc along with New York based The Wonder Factory have been working together developing “the Manhattan Project”. Little was known except it was being developed specifically for touchscreen tablet computers such as HP’s or the upcoming Apple Tablet/Slate/MacThingy.

Erick Schonfeld on Tech Crunch has got a first glimpse into their first digital solution magazine; Sports Illustrated. Full article can be found here it’s really worth a read.

It’s a real touch screen experience, and seems to bring the physicality of magazines back to life but in a digital form. It’s something that has always been lacking in current eMags. Tapping with two fingers reveals page thumbnails, swiping gestures will turn a page and there’s a navigation wheel that lets you share content with social network sites in a really neat way.

The concept was designed by David Link, co-founder and Creative Director of The Wonder Factory and built using Adobe Air. The Wonder Factory have today posted this video of the SI Tablet in glorious action:

So, a few points to ponder whilst you knock back that cafe latte and optional muffin. Adobe Air. Pretty obvious choice since there’s a fair chance the Mac Tablet won’t support Flash, it may also mean magazines can be downloaded, with only optional content being supported online and thus supporting off line reading.

I know first hand how supportive Adobe have been in regards to eMags. I’m an Adobe Advocate myself having bigged ’em up on video in support of InDesign. I also know how much effort they are putting into the future of publishing. They understand the need for these types of magazines even if most publishers do not.

From what I know and have used, Air is a stable and fluid programme and is perfect for these types of interactive experiences. What I would be very interested in seeing is the process behind the finished issue; their workflow, design methods and how exactly it’s all put together. I wonder how much it differs from my current practices on iGizmo and iMotor? If this is to work as well as they hope, it needs to set a standard in both quality of titles and working practice.

What kind of infrastructure would be needed to pull something like this off? Once you get past the developing costs and general learning curve, how does it all fit in? Ideally, I believe it would need a complete restructure of editorial. Web working alongside print and Tablet magazine divisions. Having XFL and RSS feeds coming out the shazzoo in order to keep content time sensitive and dynamically changeable.

It should bring about a whole new change in publishing, if companies are brave enough. And it looks like Time Inc may just be.

Another big problem could be wi-fi, not so much for the US but the rest of the us. For these magazines to be suuuuuper popular we need more wi-fi.

A large number of people have wi-fi at home or at work. Starbucks have wi-fi of course, unfortunately you have to listen to the songs of Burt Bacharach being murdered by the Illinois String Quartet. A few other random hotels and bars have wi-fi but that’s about it really. Where are these free city-wide wi-fi networks people used to promise us back in the day?

If you’re going to offer support for video content, information feeds or up to date galleries you need widely available internet and with a good bandwidth capacity.

The other factor to their success is also the sale of Tablets. I personally believe there will be a trend in Tablet computers for at least a few years, maybe even longer as technology advances and computers get to the stage where by we can roll them up like paper. However it’s going to be a while before Tablets are wide spread. First we need Apple to release one, and for it to be well received. Then, as usual we need everyone else to copy them and produce versions a third of the price. Then they’ll be wide spread enough for mass markets to really appreciate what these magazines are capable of and the immersive experience you can have with a magazine.

Hopefully by this time someone would have eventually launched a “digital news stand”. And no, I don’t not include any current website to be even close to a digital news stand. Think iTunes for publishing, not Board Room book shelf.

The demo above looks fantastic. Absolutely hands down the coolest thing I have seen anyone attempt with an eMag. Good design, forward thinking and innovation have created an excellent looking product.

The big question is, can it make money. Because after all that’s what it’s all about for some people. We know eMags are viable financially, look at Dennis Publishing and Redwood Publishing to name but two. Both companies have had great success with eMags and Dennis’ iGizmo, iMotor and Monkey consumer titles have proved hugely popular with readers and advertisers alike. However, no one charges for eMags yet.
According to Mr Murdoch people will pay for content if it’s from good writers. I don’t think that is enough. I think people will pay if it’s good content done in a good way. A new way. Why go to one website and pay when you can go to one of a thousand others for free?

But I would pay if it was a unique package, something like what Time Inc have shown above. That looks worth paying for doesn’t it?! It’s waaay cooler than a website and it offers the same information, just better and more marketable and more personal.

Time Inc are such a massive company, and with backing from the likes of HP, Adobe and hopefully Apple, maybe they can lead the way into an exciting new era. Because at the moment they just ran past the rest of us, manically giggling.

In the meantime, go buy yourself a Sony Vaio L Series, check out the current issue of iGizmo and touch away to the cows come home. It works pretty well.