Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Econsultancy WilsonFletcher launches its own digital magazine, The Human Layer, and gives digital magazine publishers some food for thought with its approach

If you want to present a new idea, it is best to explain things simply and clearly. With their new iPad magazine, The Human Layer, the digital agency and consultancy WilsonFletcher taken that thought to its logical conclusion and designed a simple, clear and altogether engaging new digital magazine.

(The London/Sydney agency lists its clients as such companies as The Times (UK) (and News Corp, in general), the Associated Press, Capgemini, Discovery Channel and others.)

The app description is consistent with this idea, simply stating at the start "perspectives, ideas and analysis."

The Human Layer is a bimonthly publication about the digital service experience. Each issue looks at the digital world through the lens of a different topic, providing challenging perspectives, conversations and analysis of all aspects of service experience.
What the digital magazine presents readers are relatively short reads on a single topic. The latest issue, number five, is called Disruption and is described as ten steps to disruption-proff your business.

The app and its contents are free, and the library comes filled with four issues – for some reason issue number two is missing. Each issue lists a size that is a bit hard to believe – Disruption, for instance, says it is 1.1MB in size. My iPad would disagree, saying it is 9.5 MB in size. But no matter, that is small, very small.

The reason, of course, is that the page design and presentation takes a minimalist approach. But the digital magazine can be read in both portrait and landscape, making it a very easy and enjoyable read. What I especially like is the idea of presenting the topics like a short story. It got me thinking that this approach could be used in other areas, as well. For instance, rather than being a slave to a monthly publication cycle, a tablet edition could decide to chop up its print magazine into smaller digital bits, launching the short versions of the magazine weekly.

Coming from outside the world of magazine publishing, the app can do things differently. For instance, the app opens up and immediately asks you if you'd like to submit your email address – I don't remember what you would receive in return, but the mere fact that the publisher did this signaled that the app would be different. Many publishers have complained that Apple is not sharing customer information, yet don't include any feedback mechanism inside their digital editions that would encourage their readers to share their information.

Another feature that is different is the table of contents: the digital magazine does not take the reader immediately to the TOC but let's them dive right in, though the TOC is only a double tap of the display away.
Top Left: the app opens and immediately asks if the reader would like to give them their email address; Top Right: the library; Bottom Left: a rare use of multimedia material in the digital magazine, a video which uses Vimeo to deliver the content; Bottom Right: an interesting and unique way to handle a TOC