Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Cinema Show: an entertaining tablet-only publication that can't quite shake off the legacy of the print magazine

You can take it to the bank: the launch of Apple's iPad, along with the slew of soon-to-be-released Android tablets, will spur on the creation of tablet-only magazines as publishers embrace the format and enjoy the lack of print bills. But as this is happening, iPad owners will be presented with a wide variety of visions of what exactly is a tablet magazine.
Case in point: The Cinema Show, an Italian tablet magazine that is focused on Hollywood films and stars.

Despite its name, The Cinema Show is not an English language magazine (and, yes, it takes its name from the Genesis song of the same name). The magazine is completely in Italian except for its headers, which are all in English. While claiming to be an International film magazine, the iPad product is clearly obsessed with Aerican movies and their stars. The first issue, for instance, features Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz on the cover, and has a feature on George Clooney.

(As someone who loves the films of Fellini, Antonioni and Bertolucci, it would have been nice to see this magazine be about Italian cinema -- but this is certainly a better business model.)

The magazine is the creation of Alessandro De Simone and Federica Aliano of Alphabet City, and is directed by Boris Sollazzo.

"This project is a gamble," said De Simone, in Google translation. "The idea of creating a magazine for Apple's new platform stems from the desire to discover immediately the enormous potential of the system developed by Steve Jobs -- (we see this as) the prototype of a new editorial that allows you to create a quality product at manageable costs and even raise the quality."

The app will set you back 0,79€ (99 cents), but for that small price you get a tablet magazine that weighs in at 141 MB and a bit over 70 pages (they promise that the next issue will be 100).

The app has a few minor problems, but the publisher already has a free update ready to go.

The reaction has been nil in the U.S. iTunes App Store, as you'd expect. But the Italian App Store shows that readers are impressed:
Dopo aver visto mille altre app che propongono gli stessi contenuti delle riviste in edicola, finalmente un magazine pensato per essere letto con l'iPad.

After seeing many other apps that offer the same content of the magazines on newsstands, finally a magazine designed to be read with the iPad. Excellent work. I really hope other numbers come out ... maybe at that price.
Compared to Sideways, this magazine has a clear center of gravity. It also, of course, feels more like a commercial magazine. (I won't judge the quality of the writing as my Italian is . . . well, a bit lacking.)

Left: An ad for Alphabet City, with a live link to their website; Middle: the TOC which, for some reason, exactly duplicates print design; Right: a feature story, again duplicating print, though still well done.

The app has a lot going for it, but also a lot of faults, as well. Unlike Sideways, this magazine seems to want to be a print magazine. It lacks a landscape mode, and most importantly, multitouch features like pinch-to-zoom. And crazy as it sounds, the e-magazine even numbers pages as if it were a print magazine (even putting the even numbers on the left and odd on the right) Finally, the tablet magazine even comes with a two-page TOC that would fit right in at any print magazine.

Maybe this is being done to show off their capability to convert print magazines into tablet publications, but the idea of designing a tablet publication to appear like print will seem very old fashioned soon, I'm sure.

On the other hand, the magazine feels like something the public will want to read -- it has great layouts (despite duplicating print) and incorporates little elements of animation throughout that constantly reminds you that you are reading this on an iPad.

What the app lacks, though, is trailers, which would have seemed a natural. There is some video in the app, including two videos in an ad for Biografilm Festival in Bologna (which freezes the app when played, probably one of the reasons an update will be released soon), but it is strange that the app wouldn't have had more.

The Cinema Show, despite it's rather silly print legacy issues, may find an audience (in Italy, of course) because it enters a market dying for good magazines designed for the iPad. This is a product that can't work on the Kindle because of all the color photograph and the occasional video -- it truly is iPad-centric. But it approximates a print magazine very closely, which some readers may find comforting.

Of course, this is only the beginning -- for The Cinema Show, Sideways, and all the other iPad-only magazines to come, as well as for all those print magazines that want to have good models to follow as they launch their own first tablet publications.

Update: I would have loved to reviewed the new myFry app for Stephen Fry's new book but unfortunately the app has been launched in the UK App Store only -- and for now, only as an iPhone app. Part of the problem may lie in the fact that right now the iPhone and iPad are using two different versions of the OS. November can't come quick enough! (That is when iPad owners will get an OS update that will give them multitasking and a host of other features currently available on the iPhone.)


Ultimi della classe said...

Thank you for your review of The cinema show. I'm Alessandro De Simone and I want to give you some explenations about our first issue and some previews about the coming issues.

First of all, The Cinema Show is an italian magazine, but the title and the headers are in english because it will become gradually a double language magazines. In the second issue, that will be on App Store from 1st october, there will be some articles in english too and every month we will increase this features. We hope to have a full double language magazines for the new year's issue.

In this first number there are many american movies because of Venice Film Festival, where the italian productions are used to show they're new features. In the long article about the festival we talk about italian movies and world cinema as well. In the second issue there will be three interviews with major italian directors and actors.

About the App: we wanted to create a classical magazine for the iPad. We thing is very elegant, charming and innovative as well, and yes, we want it to be iPad-centric.
We are working on multitouch features and the landscape mode, but most of all we are working on our contents, because we want to write and publish a beautfiful movie magazine. I'll be glad to know your comments on further issues, it's important for us to chat with readers and critics, because it's the best way to understand how to create a better product. Thank you very much.

Douglas Hebbard said...

Thank you for commenting here.

I know of one magazine that handles publishing languages in two languages by having the first article in the original language and layout, then following it with a text page in English -- probably not a good solution for the iPad, however.

One thought I had, though, was to have one language in portrait, and the other in landscape.

Yet another solution would be to have a button that when pressed brings up the English translation.

I think at some point we will all use Google's solution that they have built into their Chrome browser. When a page comes up in, say, Italian, the browser recognizes it and asks if you want the page translated automatically. This is the primary reason I use Chrome in my work instead of Safari.