Top 5 iPhone Mag Apps That Should Be on a Tablet

By Steve Smith

Even devoted Apple fan-boys have to be a bit embarrassed at this point. The hype and expectations surrounding today’s announcement of a new Apple media consumption device (OK, we’ll call it a “tablet”) has reached the kind of celebrity fervor usually reserved for the really important things in life…like a Tiger Woods sex rehab tale or a Kardashian doing something really stupid just to entertain us all. 

While the fan-boys play the game of hardware speculation over what features will go into the new device, publishers are better advised to start thinking about what content could and should go there. Clearly, a number of publishers have their hearts set on some kind of print world revival directed by media savior Steve Jobs.

We say it is better to consider which of your apps is already primed and ready for a larger video treatment. Here then are our top five candidates for magazine-branded apps that should graduate to the Apple tablet.

Time Mobile: If for no other reason than that Time’s current iPhone app already has a cover-flow interface for navigating stories, it seems prefabricated for a larger canvas in landscape mode. The beauty of the Time app is that it lets you visually triage stories. A larger screen would have room for lede graphs that can be superimposed in the bottom third of the image or simply run in a box beneath the images. Time Inc. made a smart move in emphasizing its own history of providing great photography across all of its publications. This value should map well on a color mobile device.

: Once you get beyond the obvious, Playboy’s app layout could look better on larger screens than it does on the iPhone. Our favorite part of the app uses multiple panels to convey information and to let the user navigate into image, text and other links. It is quite possible that panels will be the tablet equivalent of Web site buttons. The larger screen lets the user scan much more data than on a phone, but it needs to be more polished and less cluttered than a Web site. Panels of content that click into other portions of the app make sense when you are using a touch screen. This is the approach that Sports Illustrated seemed to take in its recent demo of a tablet-ized magazine.

GQ: It is quite possible that the full-issue mobile treatment of Condé Nast’s men’s book really had the tablet in mind all along. We love how this app switches from mobile-friendly text formats in portrait orientation to full reproductions of the print product in landscape. The problem is that like a lot of digital magazines, the facsimile view is pretty much useless, especially on a small screen. Tapping and zooming to your content is a non-starter. Notice how the early iPhone ads emphasizing the full Web browser were dropped quickly. On a 10-inch display, however, some magazines may be able to get away with pouring their print product onto a tablet app. It wouldn’t be our preferred solution, but it would be feasible for some titles.

Highlights Hidden Pictures: The kids’ entertainment magazine has a great object-finding app that is going to be a parental godsend in a tablet version: “Here, kid, stop whining and play with the tablet.” Early reports suggest that Apple has high hopes for the tablet becoming a game and entertainment device. Magazines need to think outside of their usual box and embrace the fun: puzzles, multimedia trivia games, etc. Get in the game!


TV Guide Mobile: One rumor is that Apple will pitch the tablet as a family device for multiple users, one that might sit on the coffee table. Having an interactive TV Guide on hand is a no-brainer. Many of us already use our living room laptop this way. Ideally, we want video previews of the upcoming shows embedded on a tablet device for the coffee table. But this is a lesson other publishers should embrace. If adopted, the tablet offers a second screen suitable for personalized parallel viewing.

Publishers need to start thinking less about how the tablet will “save print” or offer a new palette for their traditional talents. As Ken Auletta said in his SIIA keynote yesterday, media innovation is being inhibited by the understandable but ultimately disastrous reflex to salvage your old models. App developers need to think more about mobility. Where will a second screen be used, for what purpose and in tandem with what other life and media experiences?

Put another way: The new age of fragmented content and consumption is not just about the same old content being available “on demand.” It is really about what new demands your brand can satisfy as they have access to anyone’s content at a particular moment at a particular place.


More From min