Posted September 16, 2010on:
I’ve been guest editing the iPad version of Sports Illustrated for the past couple of weeks, which is giving me a great opportunity to experiment with stuff. The issue that came out Wednesday is a case in point: For the first time, we’re offering the SIpad Edition in landscape (horizontal) mode only. If a reader flips it into portrait (or vertical) mode, he’ll get a message telling him the page is only offered in a horizontal layout.
Why are we doing this?
A number of reasons. We’ve been doing iPad versions of our magazines here at Time Inc since the device launched on April 3. While I was excited about the possibilities of offering our magazines in both views—ideally, a reader could have two very different experiences, depending on how the pages were viewed—I’ve come to believe that, for now, and for photo-driven magazines like SI, the horizontal view is the optimal experience. In fact, by concentrating on that one view, we’ve already been able to innovate: We’ve created a new way to view extraordinary photos that we call the “Super Looooong View.”
Check out the picture of Novak Djokovic serving in the U.S. Open if you want to see the SLV in action. The photo, a gorgeous, full horizontal, is uninterrupted by page breaks (as it would be if it were a spread in a paper magazine) and it scrolls down for at least three screens. It starts high up, in the stands, and ends at Novak’s feet—it’s a photograph with a “reveal.” It’s such a cool effect—akin to a centerfold, or poster view. Needless to say, we can create SLVs that scroll horizontally as well. So far, we’ve only done this across two pages, but the possibilities are endless.
Other reasons we like the horizontal-only approach for this magazine: The download is about 30% smaller. I just downloaded SI at work and it took less than a minute. While users haven’t been complaining that much about long download times, many magazines have approached, and even exceeded, 500 megabytes in size. But who wants to store media that big on a 16-gigabyte hard drive?
And last, but not least, doing away with the vertical view allows us to economize on resources. The brunt of the iPad issue falls on the shoulders of our designers—they’re the folks who, in one magazine after another here at Time Inc and elsewhere, are the people who suddenly added an extra day to their already busy weeks. (They’re also the ones, by the way, who continue to be most excited about the endless possibilities of designing in this medium.) This reduces their work load by a third, minimally.
Why not add more designers? Well, if we were able to build a real business, with subscriptions that offered our iPad versions to readers at a reasonable price, that would be a no brainer. But we can’t yet, so the best approach for us is to experiment with the format, marshal our (human) resources and start building products on other platforms that will allow us to scale up as our business grows.
In the meantime, if readers tell us they don’t like this, we can always go back to two views—that’s the beauty of the current, experimental period in new media. There are no fatal mistakes.