Tuesday, November 30, 2010

App-oplexy: Magazines on the iPad

New technology, same stupid question.

When it comes to iPads and other tablets, the magazine industry seems to be making the same mistake it made with the rise of the Internet and of electronic editions. The erroneous thinking showed up in a recent  promotion from the usually forward-thinking Idealliance for a session that was all about “delivering magazine editions to multiple digital devices in addition to print.”

Yep, magazine-industry executives seem to be looking at the iPad and saying, once again, “Cool technology. How can we put our magazine onto that?”

A more sensible question would be, “How can our brand be translated to this new medium?” or, more crassly, “Can we make money with this thing?”

The result of asking the wrong question is that magazine-industry apps are, for the most part, boring.

“Having spent much of the past week downloading (or sometimes struggling to download) book and magazine apps in the search for design gems, I've come to the glum conclusion that most were designed with little or no imagination,” Alice Rawsthorn of The New York Times wrote yesterday. “All the designers seem to have done is to have shunted the original printed products on to the screen.”

But there are at least two signs of hope that the industry can learn to translate its brands onto tablets: Cosmopolitan mined its extensive investigative reporting on the Kama Sutra to create its Sex Position of the Day app, and Guitar World showed how to do a logical brand extension with its new (and well received) Lick of the Day app.

(Mr. Tree wants to know why none of the women he dates are Cosmo readers. Answer: He needs to spend less time hanging around in bookstores and more time hanging around on street corners.)

For those of you wondering about the difference between the Cosmo and Guitar World apps, only the latter will show you how to use an instant flanger.

Well, come to think of it, maybe those naughty Cosmo editors have found a creative use for instant flangers as well.

Other articles about the magazine industry:

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