Friday, June 11, 2010

Sideways (1): Publishing direct to tablet, Sideways LLC launches monthly digital magazine for the iPad

When I first launched Talking New Media and word came out that Apple would be announcing a new tablet, I speculated about the medium. I warned that, like all new mediums, it would be best dealt with on its own -- that if publishers simply ported their content over they would be making a major mistake -- the same mistake many made with their first web efforts.

I also remember thinking (and possibly writing) that the best new magazines and newspapers would probably come from start-ups -- technology companies that would arise to experiment with the form.
Probably the first tablet-only magazine to appear on the iPad, Sideways 10.06, was released yesterday, the product of a Cleveland area start-up Sideways LLC.

This is the first of three posts today that will look at the company, its initial magazine effort, and the business model implications for publishers who wish to launch iPad-only publications.

Sideways LLC is the product of Charles Stack, the founder of (sold eventually to Barnes & Nobel). Eliza Wing, formerly president of CEO of was brought in to be president and COO last month. The combination of books and newspapers explains a bit about where the company is going. While the new iPad magazine release may be grabbing out attention today, other activities proceed on the book publishing side.

Sideways bills itself as a software company first, one that is developing publishing platforms specifically for the iPhone OS. Currently Sideways is listed as having four iPhone apps in iTunes, including on for BookExpo America, and two for what appears to be their first two publishing clients.
Early in May, the company also launched a iPhone-only magazine, TapTilt, with former Advanstar and Plain Dealer editor James Sweeney guiding the effort.

While flipbook vendors see their role as to provide a monthly service for publishers, Sideways is taking a bit of a different approach, planning to license their new platform to other publishers.

I asked founder Charles Stack if the reason the company has now launched their iPad magazine was to demonstrate their services, the same way VIVmag serves to showcase the capabilities of Zinio.

"Well, you know, it's never as simple as that," Stack told me this morning. "But that is certainly in the top three reasons."

"We're really interested in experimenting with the form, what this medium wants to be when it grows up," Stack said.  "The iPad medium wants to be something, like when sculptures talk about letting the sculpture out of the wood. It's the same kind of model,  we're trying to figure out what this hardware platform is really good at, or best at."

Because of this desire to experiment with the form, Stack wants to see the new magazine evolve, issue-to-issue. "I would hope that every issue we publish is as different from the one before it as we can possibly make it," Stack said.

Besides experimentation for their own knowledge, though, Sideways will be want to show their clients -- those that will be licensing their magazine and book publishing platform solution -- what the platform is capable of doing.

The third reason for launching a magazine? "You know, one day might make some money at it," Stack said in a hopeful tone.

Stack said that when or if an Android tablet appears in the market that his company will adapt to support that platform, as well. But Stack seems firmly committed to the iPhone OS, and especially Apple's iPad tablet.

In the second of three posts, I will look at the iPad magazine itself -- its features, navigation, etc.

In the meantime, here is a demonstration video posted by the company itself: