Netly: The Third Screen

On building a dream tab rag

Posted on: September 6, 2010

Why hasn’t anyone launched a brilliant, native tablet magazine yet? The opportunity is obvious, and yet no one’s done it.

My dream tab rag would cost 99 cents an issue and occupy the space between blog (low cost, small staff, low-production value, given away for free) and legacy print/iPad magazine (high cost, large staff, high-production value, sold for $3-5 an issue or by subscription.)

Some things it would do:

Be right scaled. Employ a half dozen people—edit, business and tech included—if you want to get to 100,000 paid copies a month. Launch for free and start charging after you get 150,000 users.

Do it in HTML5. Find a lowest-common-denominator design that looks gorgeous on Safari, Chrome, Firefox and IE and keep pushing. HTML5, despite its current shortcomings, is the only answer for a variety of reasons:

  • Your magazine ought to behave like a downloaded app, but it’s really a website. That means the “front porch” is free, daily, bloggy stuff. The rest (i.e. the magazine itself) is published periodically as if it were a pay app.
  • HTML5 can do about 60% of what we can do in a downloadable app. But it’s already good enough to use as a publishing platform and will rapidly improve.
  • You can easily design a small-format version, stripped down for smartphones and a large-format version for tablets (and laptops and desktops.)
  • HTML5 gives you all that crunchy web goodness—it’s searchable, shareable and not controlled by anyone.

Use a lot of video. The iPad, and other LCD tablets in the wings, are much better to look at than read. That’s why Netflix is the killer app on the iPad. While I’m not saying you can’t read stuff on tablets—I’ve read scores of books on both Kindle and iPad—but neither is easier on the eyes than paper. Until we start seeing transflective screens like those being designed by Pixel Qi, video and photos ought to be the bigger part of the mix.

Get the pacing right. No one’s done this yet on a tablet—legacy publishers, for a variety of reasons, are too faithful to the print counterpart. But a page of print turns into 2.5 pages of 10-inch tablet—that changes the rhythm and timing of a publication radically. A native tab mag could be paced naturally.

Be wildly entertaining. Until displays improve, tablet-based entertainment will usually trump information. (See 3., above.)

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  • Steven Baker, PMP (@STEVEPMP): I just read your comment about wanting an artist to be a part of the resurrection of Netly News sometime. If you ever want to try, I have a very tale
  • Magda: If you're looking to buy these arceilts make it way easier.
  • Mikel: Such a deep ansrew! GD&RVVF
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