Thursday, April 7, 2011

Brazilian publisher Grupo Abril releases first tablet edition for its consumer magazine Arquitetura & Construção

For those who have not moved into tablet editions, either through contracting to use WoodWing's suite of publishing tools, Adobe's suite or those being offered now by Mag+, there are good examples now of magazines that have ported over their print magazines to the iPad without resorting to creating replica editions. Some try to create a virtual tour-de-force: throwing everything including the kitchen sink into their tablet editions. Others, like this new iPad app from Brailian media conglomerate Grupo Abril, are simpler, but create a great reader experience.
Arquitetura & Construção is a free app from the Portugese language publication of the same name -- a consumer home design magazine. The app creates a library into which future editions will be accessed. The first issue found inside can be downloaded for free, but future editions will cost $6.99 (a bit steep, maybe?).

As a reader, and as someone who doesn't read Portugese, I can look at a tablet edition like this from an interesting perspective: how easy is it to navigate? is it intuitive? do I feel comfortable in the platform and with the product? am I enjoying the experience?

Since Abril is listed as a WoodWing customer we can assume the production team here used their tools to create this tablet edition. The look and feel is familiar and fairly common to those magazines using this method of converting their print editions to digital. The first thing to look for is whether we will have a landscape mode here -- and we do.

Translation of the credits: Welcome to the first edition of Architecture & Construction for the iPad. Here you'll navigate through the content published in the printed version, as well as extra features such as videos, interactive photo galleries and interviews. Download this edition at no charge. The contents of the next issuer will be available in the App Store, Apple's application store for $6.99. Below, the team that brilliantly put this project on its feet: Julia Lima, Thiago Barcelos, Marize Sciessere, Manoel Vitornino Jr., and Celia Renata Rise Hanashiro (absent on photo).

There is only one ad in this edition, making it feel like a prototype issue. The ad, like the editorial, has both portrait and landscape creative. Since the app description says that this is the April 2011 issue, it appears that the production team chose to leave out the rest of the advertising -- it wouldn't have been paid for anyway, right?

I don't know if that was so smart, though. I would assume that at some point ads will start appearing in future issues, and since readers will have to pay to read those issues they may wonder why the free issue had no ads, but the paid ones do.

I asked Pedro Monteiro, Digital Art Coordinator at Impresa Publishing, and a contributor here at TNM (see his post on the financial crisis in Portugal) for his input on media app development. His perspective is far different from my own. For one thing, he is much futher along than many when it comes to designing for tablets.

He thought this specific app was well done, focusing in on the content.
On the other hand, one senses a growing boredom created by the limitations of the tools. "My thoughts are that if you have the same technological platform and the people that are designing the magazines are print designers and print editors, you'll get a print magazine with some added interactivity," Monteiro wrote me in an email.

Monteiro said he is looking forward to new tools to assist independent publishers in creating tablet editions, and I think he is absolutely right.

I also think that these same tools could help non-publishers become tablet publishers. Without the burden of having to translate print pages for the iPad, new ideas that are native to the tablet could be created.

Even tablet-only publishers such as Christopher English of Hoodgrown Magazine are coming from print backgrounds, using the same print templates and tools and then porting their work over to the iPad. He's done an outstanding job publishing a digital magazine, and I would argue that the publication is moving slowly away from its print roots. But the look and feel of the print platform still dominates (and there is nothing necessarily wrong with that, mind you).

Nonetheless, a lot of tablet publishing advocates are looking forward to more native tools -- ones that are first and foremost cheaper, and also assist in exploiting the mobile OS underlying the platform. Maybe Apple realizes this, as well.

One day, right? One day.


Carlos Pedro Sant'Ana said...

As commented in my blog about Digital Publishing

"Just found today in Talking New Media that Arquitetura & Construção launched their title for the iPad using the Woodwing platform. Being an architect and developing myself a title for the iPad, I downloaded the App and made a test run…

First of all, the contents were a positive surprise. I stopped reading Arquitectura & Construção (their portuguese sibling from Grupo Impresa) because I disagreed from their approach to architectural contents and lack of editorial criteria — this is something common to Brazilian architecture magazines as Projeto and AU — but I was amazed to see interesting articles such as the one about Container Houses or the one about Marina Acayaba and Juan Pablo Rosenberg.

About the application itself, I can say it is what we can expect from the Woodwing platform. I'm no fan of their App UI which I see as a reminiscence of the the 80s CD Rom — ugly and dated — but it gets the job done.

Obviously the biggest problem that all these magazines face when porting their titles from print to the iPad is that it leads to an almost replica of the paper content, using interactive stuff like this annoying scrolling text inside mini-boxes and multi-state objects to show different content, trying to mimic web interactivity to the new media.

I don't agree with Pedro Monteiro (from the portuguese group that owns the same title) when he says this "specific app was well done, focusing in on the content". I don't think this app is well done but it is what we expect from a corporation such as Abril group, but I completely agree with him and with Talking New Media on another thought that "without the burden of having to translate print pages for the iPad, new ideas that are native to the tablet could be created" and this leave us with a great question:

Why the big corporations don't learn from software developers and stop trying to replicate their print titles into the tablets, and start exploring this new media with revolutionary titles?"

Douglas Hebbard said...

Thank you for the comment.

Just to set the record straight, I was paraphrasing Pedro Monteiro, I wouldn't want to give the impression that the comment you included was a direct quote from him.

I asked Monteiro to look at the app and give me some feedback -- and that feedback centered on the platform more than the app.

Anonymous said...

"Monteiro said he is looking forward to new tools to assist independent publishers in creating tablet editions"...
So, is that it?
The "new tools" do not yet exist?
Any in development?