Two Become One: How Magazines Will Ape Their Apps

In a reversal of today’s content publishing model, print magazines pretty soon could start looking a lot like their app equivalents.

“The next redesign of our titles will see them redesigned with our tablet versions in mind,” magazine publisher Future’s tablet editor-in-chief Mike Goldsmith told an industry forum this month.

As publishers extend their print titles to iPad, they can choose either to repurpose the paper originals, which can seem lazy and ill-suited to the touch screen, or to custom-produce interactive apps with a native interface in mind, which is expensive.

If he did that for Future’s 60+ titles, he would “bankrupt the company”, Future’s Goldsmith said. So, today, only three Future titles have the shiny iPad treatment.

But re-imagining today’s disparate print and tablet production workflows in lock-step from the start, making tablet requirements less of an extension, could cut costs. And that could make it feasible for publishers to out their entire portfolio as full iPad editions, as well as in their core printed form.

Already, one Future title, Tap!, is sized to match iPad dimensions. That was a no-brainer (after all, Tap! is all about apps). But many other magazines, too, are now published in a secondary, miniature form factor that increasingly references the tablet’s own.

And upcoming revisions at Future will borrow further stylistic conventions, as a recent iPad-inspired refresh to Future’s flagship gadget magazine T3 suggests. T3 has begun conceiving some editorial in fragments – swiped through on screen to satisfy readers’ fingers, as well as broken up in short, boxy segments in print. Nowadays, print must satisfy the shorter attention spans of a generation hooked on fragmented and intimate, tactile engagement.

This ironic repurposing of apps back in to print could, in time, significantly re-shape the discipline of magazine design. But that’s something many readers may now be ready for. So potent is the agency users feel when controlling their screen with their fingers, growing numbers of them are catching themselves pinch-zooming a printed leaf in the expectation of interaction.

Other publishers are approaching the same possible solution, but weighing up factors. “Tablet engagement metrics almost perfectly mirror what you see in magazines,” Hearst president David Carey tells paidContent. “We’re looking to do tablet and magazine as efficiently as possible.

“How much interactivity and enhancement is right for the reader? In the first wave of devices, every page had something (interactive). That got a little tiresome. So we’re looking to find the right balance. If they (Future) are trying to design their magazine to fit this screen, those are pretty dramatic differences.”