My iPad should appear in just under two weeks’ time, and with news that tablet editions can count as audited circulation, magazine and journal publishers are working hard to create tablet editions that take advantage of this suddenly mainstream device format.
Of course, publishers are way too smart to repeat the pre-2.0 mistake of shoveling their print product online, creating that vaunted category of shovelware.
That would be so 1999.
In 2010, publishers have another pile of assets to shovel, namely their Web sites. So while they may avoid shoveling from print, will they make their tablet editions shovelware versions of their .com, .org, or .net?
Or will they repeat the print shovelware errors of the past?
For a few reasons, publishers may be tempted to shovel from both print and current online sources given the current environment. And that creates a conundrum.
Rules being put in place may make print an attractive pile to shovel from. For example, the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ stance is that:
. . . a replica digital edition must include a print edition’s full editorial content and advertising, but no longer needs to be presented in a layout identical to the print version. Replica digital editions will continue to be included in a magazine’s circulation guarantee, or rate base.
That position could severely limit both the commercial upside (tablet ads become an extension of print ad sales, not a new channel) while constraining the design of the replica edition by so closely aligning it with print. Of course, there are loopholes in that the replica edition can contain more ads and more and different content — it seems it just has to have the print shoveled over, then it can be dressed up.
The temptation to shovel from Web sites may stem more from user interface (UI) design conceits and technocentric attitudes. But first, they need to recognize and reconcile their own shovelware origins. In an article entitled, “Don’t Let Your Website Ruin Your Magazine’s Tablet Edition,” Nat Ives at AdAge.com notes that first of all, many Web sites are shovelware from print:
If selling tablet editions is going to work, companion sites probably have to diverge from their print forerunners more sharply than ever.
In designing for the tablet, it may be tempting to think that UI conceits from your own Web site should be carried over for the sake of “consistency” and “familiarity.”
But I’d argue that perhaps you should leap to the tablet afresh, and then design back to your Web site from that new vantage point. After all, if tablets like the iPad take off, your site could be viewed more often on tablets in the coming years.
Dig anew, and shovel back.
In fact, the more complicated media landscape makes designing for the tablet a new challenge:
Tablet editions will have to occupy a sweet spot between traditional print issues and all the interactivity and the internet, neither duplicating print and underwhelming tablet owners nor becoming websites and losing their magazine identity.
. . . it’s not a magazine; this is another new medium, with its own native experience. A tablet edition will be–or should be–different from a print edition and different from a companion website.
In addition to navigating the current media landscape, publishers might want to think about new titles for the iPad, ones that take full advantage of the device. Maybe they’re shorter, more frequent, more digitally enhanced, more interactive. There is more going on here than a mere migration of existing titles to a new device.
To avoid the mistakes of shovelware, we’ll have to reconceptualize our media profiles yet again. Those who do it well should benefit both in the tablet realm and otherwise.