Friday, September 3, 2010

Mac|Life releases killer tablet edition; iPad app includes live Twitter feed, commenting; built by B3 Publishing

What was old will be new again. I will try and remember that as the years go by and tablet publishing really takes off.
Swamped with interviews, reviews, errands, personnel business and more, I have avoided the iTunes store the past couple of days, instead depending on other sites to learn what new media apps have been released. A couple of days ago the first iPad app from Mac|Life, the Future US owned magazine, debuted in the iTunes store. Finally getting around to downloading it yesterday I noticed that it had shot up to number one in its category -- pretty impressive, something must be going on.

Then I opened the app and immediately said to myself "hold on there".

Ever have that feeling of deja vu, or feeling like you immediately know something you shouldn't? That hit me like a ton of bricks.

I quickly did a search to see if could learn more and found a video on YouTube -- you can see it below. The video was posted by Ken Balthaser, and if that name rings a bell it may be because you grew up in this business around the same time I did.

Balthaser Studios was launched in 1998 and it created a legendary Flash site that took hours (it seemed) to load using the then-standard dial-up Internet connection. But once it starting playing the site was a revelation.

(The original site is still online to see -- here -- but I think the original sense of discovery is lost in this modern era of web animation and broadband Internet speeds. I wrote about this all back in April when discussing the death of Flyp Media.)

One of the brand names associated today with Balthaser is B3 Publishing, and this Mac|Life app shows they still are producing interesting things. (The company is also working with Zinio, according to its website.)

The Mac|Life Tablet Edition is a free app that has already been downloaded 63,000 times by iPad users in the first week of its release, according to Kate Byrne, Vice President of Technology and Active Groups, Future US, who is also the publisher.

{Background: Mac|Life's latest BPA shows a bit more than 136,000 copies are in distribution, with a rate base of 130,000.  The magazine changed its name from MacAddict to Mac|Life in early 2007.}

Editor's Letter page with embedded video.
Left: Kate Byrne, publisher
Right: Paul Curthoys, editor-in-chief

The new app is also enjoying considerable promotion from Apple: it is currently the first app displayed in the New & Newsworthy section of the iTunes app store. It is also still showing up on the first page of new free apps in the News category, though by the end of this weekend it will probably fall off that first page.

There is no question that this app deserves its success. It contains some nice animation (that I'm afraid is hard to capture for you), as well as incorporating live Twitter feeds. The tablet edition also allows readers to provide feedback throughout, encouraging readers to give their feedback to the editors and writers, and to give their own ratings of products seen inside the tablet edition.

User feedback inside iTunes has been very positive. "This is how you make a Magazine App,' wrote Steve Gary inside iTunes. "What a wonderful revolutionary way to experience the magazines. Well done guys, and keep them coming!" wrote Preston McClay.

"Reading some of those reviews puts a smile on my face," Byrne said yesterday. They would make me blush.
"This is only just the beginning," Ken Balthaser wrote me late yesterday. "Once they develop the technology to 'build once and publish everywhere', you will start to see a lot more custom curated digital content and not just print replication -- more evolved Lean in/Lean back and depth/density of information in a Rich digital experience."

"We wanted to do something different with this version of Mac|Life than what other applications are doing," Neil Balthaser, interactive director at Balthaser Studios and B3 Publishing, is heard to say in the YouTube video. "We wanted to do something that recognizes that the iPad both can grab and send information, and we wanted to mix the strength of the Mac|Life print magazine with what the modern Internet today does very well which is to provide for interactivity, participation, and immediacy."

The tablet edition is being promoted as a special edition, and appears to be being sold that way. "We’re calling this initial free app “Issue Zero” and we’re asking you, loyal readers and curious newcomers alike, to take this app for a spin and tell us what you think," the magazine states in its iTunes description.

Before talking more about advertising (after the break), here is the video from Ken Balthaser:

The Mac|Life Tablet Edition contains about a half dozen ads, and as you would expect from a publication that is taking the iPad seriously, they were able to secure ad copy for both portrait and landscape modes. If you want your advertisers to be enthusiastic about tablet publishing this seems essential.
A good example of this can be seen at left with the ads from Element Case --  and ad for the company's new iPhone 4 case (pretty spiffy) can be seen in portrait mode, and an iPad stand can be seen in landscape mode.

This first edition, by the way, was 73 pages in length -- try getting your printer to produce that!

Publisher Byrne and I had a great discussion about advertising strategy and rate models which I'm afraid I can't share, but suffice to say that this is an area that I wish more media news outlets would discuss.  While conferences are held all-the-time on the future of journalism -- absent ad people, of course -- publishers are dealing with the issues of rate card building, selling technique, etc.

For now the Mac|Life ad is free, though according to the publisher future versions of the app will cost $1.99 each -- a discount off the cover price of the print edition.

Byrne is confident that users will continue to download the Mac|Life app when it becomes a paid app. "Now we're in a pretty good position because we've earned our stripes."

More iPad apps are on the way, but Byrne said that Android apps are definitely in development, as well.

"Absolutely," Byrne said.

The next magazine apps we'll see from this division of Future US will apparently be for Maximum Tech, which Byrne said will be hitting the newsstands on September 21. "And then our title Maximum PC -- that's the one where we're looking at possibly building an app for the Kindle, and then of course Android."

1 Comment:

Tablazines said...

Mac Life is probably the best iPad magazine that I've seen thus far. Must say that I really enjoy reading your blog.