Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tablet advertising: Fast Company splits the difference with its approach to its tablet edition for the iPad

The iPad app for Fast Company initially had some bugs that prevented some readers from logging into their accounts (and some recent reviews seem to be saying the issue continues), but the most recent issue of the magazine inside the app offers enough goodies that many readers would be wise to persevere and download the issue.

The May issue of the iPad edition features some of the work of Joe Zeff Design (see interview with Joe Zeff) and the digital magazine provides an interesting example of one approach to both tablet advertising and native tablet design.
The Fast Company Magazine iPad is to be found inside Apple's Newsstand where individual issues can be bought for $4.99, while an annual subscription will cost $12.99.

The app takes a hybrid approach to design in that it is a replica edition as far as advertising is concerned, but a native tablet edition as far as editorial content is concerned. The mixed approach leads to a modest download for the May issue of 198 MB.

I have to assume that the advertising is all exactly as would be found in the print edition (I don't have a print copy to compare it to – my local bookstore was a Borders).

As the tablet edition can only be read in portrait, this leads to both the smaller file size and the ads fitting the display (though they appear slightly short of full screen). I did not see any digital enhancements to the ads at all, which some readers might find strange – after all, once the reader sees that the issue will have embedded multimedia and animations, the reader may expect to see the same approach taken with the advertising.

The upside to taking this approach – replica edition for advertising – is that the publisher is basically saying that when you buy advertising in our magazine you get both the print and digital editions. So, it would be argued, if the print distribution goes down, but the digital goes up, the rate base would stay the same, and the publisher can say they are delivering what they promised. The next question would be whether they charge for swapping out ad copy for the tablet edition, which I think more progressive agencies would insist on.

Replica advertising becomes an issue when one looks at digital ads with small text and 2-page spreads. The Jaguar ad below (left) features small text, and while the issue as a whole has been optimized for the new iPad's higher resolution display, the Jaguar ad has not. Frankly, it looks terrible on my iPad, with text that looks bad even before one zooms in.

The next ad is a 2-page spread for Dow (middle and right) that makes little sense when one had to read in portrait.

As for that editorial content, I think it works perfectly and is a welcome relief from the replica editions I've been looking at lately.

Hopefully the developers of the Fast Company app will work out all the bugs readers have mentioned in the App Store. It would be a shame if all those one-star reviews scared off readers to the digital edition of Fast Company.

Here is a three-minute walk through of the May issue of Fast Company as seen on the iPad: