Thoughts on Time's Tablet Magazine Concept

by Luke Wroblewski December 3, 2009

Time Inc. recently released a video demo (below) of their Sports Illustrated magazine designed for a touchscreen tablet. Though such a networked consumer device platform is not yet widely distributed, it seems there was enough speculation and early attempts out there to convince Time Inc. to invest in exploring.

The demo includes a lot of what you'd expect in a digital magazine: rich multimedia experiences with photos and videos; real time content updates over the network; multi-touch controls; and even a bit of gaming.

However, the entire concept might be too rooted in how physical magazines are constructed and designed today. From the literal representation of the magazine's cover (as it appears on news stands today) to the magazine-style article layouts, a lot of the printed format is front and center in this vision of a new digital format.

Perhaps that may be necessary as a bridge in the short term, but ultimately I'd like to believe we'll see more uniquely digital models win in this space. Such as:

  • Journalism as Software: digital devices can turn news into an application people can interact with. Instead of reporting in a linear narrative format, software enables people to interact, remix, and explore news as data. Early examples include services like EveryBlock.
  • Snippet-based content experiences: On screen, information is scanned more often than read. Digital content experiences would do well to embrace this behavior and opt for short snippets and scannable presentation formats over the long columns of text you find in a physical magazine.
  • Deeper integration of multimedia: On many Web sites today, audio and video is presented as supplementary to a written article. Personal media readers enable this balance to be flipped putting audio and video representations of content front and center.
  • Social Engagement: While the Time Inc. demo highlights being able to share content to services like Facebook and Twitter, rich social interactions are missing. A networked tablet enables audio, video, and text conversations to happen alongside content and opens up new forms of social sharing and connecting as the device is portable across a number of different environments.