The Tablet Strategies of 5 Top Publishers

Having a tablet strategy today is like having a laptop strategy several years ago. The most successful publishers have dealt with tablets by creating tablet editions to make use of tablet screens and address the wants of tablet users.

People love their tablets, and they love publishers that offer tablet editions of their publications.
People love their tablets, and they love publishers that offer tablet editions of their publications.

Successful magazine publishers know that a page from their magazine website requires pinching and zooming on a tablet or phone, and that many people simply won’t bother. Also, cluttered designs of regular websites just don’t work well on tablets. With some web-based sources, an actual article may take up less than 10% of the real estate on the screen, and this does not translate well to the tablet. Here is how 5 top publishers are dealing with the increasing popularity of tablets as media consumption devices.

1. National Geographic

National Geographic built its interactive tablet publication using Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, which allows them to use an InDesign workflow and showcase amazing photographs by integrating them with text. The result: cutting edge reporting on cultures, geography and science brought to tablet users in a very engaging manner. National Geographic‘s tablet app includes features that allow users to view images in map contexts and in sequence as educational animations. HTML overlays push current content into the app seamlessly.

2. Wired

Wired‘s tablet edition was also created using Adobe InDesign, just like the print version. They used many of the same designers, but turned them loose to add interactive features like animations and photo galleries. Wired also takes care to adapt designs to work well whether the user is holding a tablet in landscape or portrait orientation. Simply re-purposing print content into HTML causes magazines to lose a lot of visual context, and Wired has avoided this fate. Using Adobe AIR to combine HTML, JavaScript, Flash, and other technologies means the result is rich visual features and full interactivity.

3. Time

Time, Inc. put all its titles (including the remarkably successful Sports Illustrated, discussed below) on tablets in 2011, and it did things a bit differently by controlling distribution itself rather than selling through iTunes. Though Time gave up some of the revenue it would have had from selling via iTunes, by not acquiescing to Apple, they felt as if they gave subscribers a reason to keep getting print editions. Vivek Shah, former Time executive, said, ”Maintaining the print rate base is an absolute goal in that exercise. It’s the magazine equivalent of TV Everywhere.” Readers give the tablet version of Time high marks for content, graphics and interactivity.

4. Vogue

woman using ipad
Publishing a tablet version of your publication gives people access to your terrific features no matter where they are.

Vogue‘s photography, fashion coverage and iconic photography is now available to tablet readers, and it can be purchased one issue at a time or annually. Subscriptions to Vogue‘s tablet edition grants readers access to parts of the Vogue Archive, a searchable historical resource dating back to the magazine’s first issue from 1892. Print edition subscriptions grant access to the tablet app, or the app can be purchased without the print edition.

5. Sports Illustrated

Sports Illustrated jumped on the tablet trend early, cranking out weekly interactive editions of its print magazine even before tablets were everywhere. It was a big investment, but it appears to be paying off. Every Thursday, SI‘s editorial department chooses stories for the print edition and comes up with creative extensions for the tablet version. The print edition is put to bed on Mondays and tablet versions are released on Tuesdays.

What can we learn from these tablet strategies and success stories? Putting reader experience first is critical, and interactivity is expected. Tablet usage patterns show that tablets are overwhelmingly used at home, and that users choose native apps rather than trying to read magazine websites on their tablets. While tablet users do more in the way of administrative tasks like checking email during the week, they kick back on weekends, watching videos, reading, and playing games. Such usage information can help publishers determine the best production schedule for their tablet market.

In conclusion, if you’re not designing for mobile, you should be. Having a tablet version of your trade website gives it an advantage over the competitor without one. It’s definitely an investment of resources, but tablet usage is expected to continue its strong growth in coming years.

If you’re interested in monetizing all versions of your site, check out what they’re doing with custom job boards at – tablet & mobile friendly, of course.

Photo Credits: Ambro /, adamr /

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