Home First Looks: Magazines on the iPad

First Looks: Magazines on the iPad

Last week, a video of online magazine VIVmag’s iPad app made the rounds on the web. Featured in The New York Times as a taste of digital reading’s future, this extraordinary, interactive video-infused ‘zine was beautiful to watch, but left many others questioning if the expense of creating tablet-ready content like this was actually feasible. For some, that answer – surprisingly – may be yes. According to Jeanniey Mullen, CMO of the magazine’s distributor, Zinio, the cost was not as expensive as you may think – it was “not even $100,000,” she said. But $100 grand to create one copy of an online magazine? That’s far beyond the reach of many micro-publishers. And yet, for them too, the iPad introduces the possibility of reaching a wider audience than ever before.

According to the Times article, the VIVmag iPad version will continue to feature interactive content and video in every issue. For them, it’s less of a problem to do so than it would be for other publishers. Although the costs of hiring models, filming against a greenscreen and editing video may seem exorbitant, VIVmag was already an “all digital” magazine from the start. Creating their digital content costs approximately the same as creating a normal print magazine – they just employ different people to do the digital version of the analog jobs. Much of the magazine is templated, too, allowing the company to reuse the same basic structures to display new content in later issues.

VIVmag received quite a bit of press – almost as much as Wired did for their so-called “iPad app.” But Wired’s app isn’t iPad-ready just yet. Built with Adobe AIR technology, the app won’t run on the iPad in its current state due to Apple’s policies. Still, both of these high-end creations demonstrate the potential for all-digital magazines on the new form factor of the tablet PC. However, incredible tablet-based magazines like these won’t be limited to publishers with big budgets.

Magazine with Music Downloads and More

Take, for example, Digital Americana, an interactive literary and culture magazine made especially for the tablet experience. Like VIVmag, Digital Americana will also mix in video with their other content. In fact, they’ll offer articles, graphics, videos and music plus extra, downloadable content included in the per issue price.

Part of the magazine’s content lineup for their first issue will include exclusive author interviews, a featured musician with playable music tracks, a filmmaker interview and their award-winning short, a featured animator with exclusive commentary, a playable cartoon, five pieces of chosen fiction-reading from American writers and “bonus extras.”

From the interactive table of contents, accessible from anywhere in the magazine, you can navigate through the available sections. A quick layout view lets you hop from page to page and you can choose to scan the magazine in landscape mode, too, if desired.

Not Just a Magazine, a Tool Too

The online designer community, Mobile Love, is also turning their niche resource into an iPad “magazine” app. Not only will their iPad app include video alongside the magazine’s text, it will offer an included iPhone wireframing tool, which can be used to create iPhone applications. After designing an app, there’s a button at the top which will allow the designers to request a quote from a developer if they want to have their application built. (You can see this in action in the video demo here.)

Blogs Become Mags

Video-enabled, highly interactive magazines aren’t the only types of new magazine experiences coming to the iPad, either. Another developer has the idea of turning your favorite web blogs into your own, custom digital creations. Called “Blogazine,” this new iPad app will let you virtually flip through blog articles in chronological order.

The concept is easy to grasp – blogs become magazines. From a centrally located button, you can tap to change from one blog to another. Another feature lets you quickly share an article on Facebook or Twitter. The app will soon arrive for the iPhone too, but it’s on the iPad where it will really shine.

Can’t Build Your Own iPad App? Zinio Does It for You

For publishers big and small who, for whatever reason, can’t or don’t want to build their own iPad or tablet application in-house, digital magazine distributor Zinio will be introducing an iPad application which provides readers with easy access to digital subscriptions and an online “newsstand.” The company, which has been around for a decade now, got started by offering magazine reader software for desktop computers. Now that the mobile revolution has taken hold, Zinio has expanded their offerings to include subscription and reading experiences for magazine customers which are accessible no matter what device you use: Mac, PC, iPhone, web or mobile web and soon, iPad, plus – who knows? – maybe one day Kindle, too. Zinio’s goal is to make it simple for publishers to get their content out there on any form factor, screen size or platform.

To get an idea of what these iPad mags could look like, check out National Geographic’s latest issue: “Water: Our Thirsty World.” According to the NatGeo website, this edition features the “complete content from the print edition, plus extra photo galleries, rollover graphics that animate features like maps and time lines, video profiles of photographers who contributed to the issue, and other interactive features.” When the iPad launches, it will also have the same interactive content as is available now in this digital edition, explains Mullen.

Another Zinio partner preparing for the iPad is Sporting News, a multimedia company catering to sports fans. Their newly announced iPad app will have interactive full scoreboards, stats, rotating image galleries, sports video highlights from CineSport and guest columns from athletes, coaches and industry executives. Other benefits of the iPad platform include search, bookmarking, clipping and social sharing to sites like Facebook and Twitter.

iPad: Magazines Transformed?

While these iPad magazine demos are exciting to look at, there’s one big question hanging over everyone’s head: can the iPad save the flailing magazine industry? For companies like Zinio, the hope is to encourage advertisers to buy across multiple magazines based on categories, instead of just sticking with the most popular print titles. Kia recently did just this and placed their TV ad in 45 copies of Zinio’s digital mags. This cross-platform digital buy was the equivalent of one print buy in a physical magazine. But this makes us wonder: will this be enough income for digital publishers to thrive? It’s too soon to tell, but in the meantime, we’re about to discover a whole new way of reading.

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The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

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