Wednesday, November 28, 2012

First look: Panna, a video cooking 'magazine' for the iPad

It has been my position for the past couple of years, since the launch of the original iPad, that food magazines (as well as music, film and other genres) would be dramatically changed by the tablet platform. So far the changes have been minor and incremental. Many publishers have simply created replica editions of their print food magazines, others have added some interactivity.

The future, of course, for the category is video. This is probably obvious to many editors, who know obtaining good video will be a challenge. But the web has demanded video, so tablet editions simply will reinforce the trend.

This has created an opening for start-ups who launch tablet editions from the ground up, unencumbered by the legacy of print. One of those start-ups is Panna, a food magazine that is all about video, so much so that some magazine editors might question whether this really can be called a magazine at all. The app description, is pretty sure it is: Panna is the first-ever video cooking magazine for the iPad and iPad mini.

Launched earlier in the month, the app was recently updated to fix some video issues – obviously no bug would be as annoying as one concerning video with this app. Created by David Ellner, a 49-year-old veteran of the music industry, Panna requires an annual subscription of $14.99, though individual issues can be purchased for $4.99 (a $1.00 discount over what the app says the regular issue price will be).

Both the app and its video are very well done. The video is professionally shot and edited and feature very well-known chefs. The actual video player is getting some criticism, however, as users of the app can not scrub the video, only move forwards and backwards a set amount of time – some users have complained about the player, though I think in practice it works.

If I have an issue with Panna it is simply that I don't think it really understands what attracts people to food magazines. The obvious answer, many would say, is recipes. But that is a simplistic idea of the format. Home chefs have an endless supply of recipes online, what they need from a food magazine is what they need from any magazine: an engaging, entertaining read. But any editor of a food magazine in print should definitely check out Panna and be familiar with its premise and the way it delivers its content.

I think there is both a need and room for a food app completely focused on video. But I think that innovative editors who can combine the best elements of their print magazines with smart, instructive, entertaining cooking videos will do great on the platform.

(I continue to think that Saveur is in the best position to create an exciting tablet edition, though their current one is a major disappointment.)

Creating a video of tablet magazine that itself contains video is difficult because of technical issues associated with streaming the iPad and recording its screen. So this short video will introduce you to the navigation and general layout of the new Panna iPad app, taking you right up to the point where one needs to subscribe: