The tablet market has been heralded as a savior to the magazine industry. This is still playing out, but what's more clear is that tablets are invigorating software producers.
Print-to-mobile software platforms are evolving quickly, ranging from established vendors such as Adobe and Quark to a handful of upstarts geared toward the app world, such as Zinio, Flipboard, and PixelMags.
Ifyou are a magazine publisher or producer of designed print content, youare without a doubt already migrating some "legacy" content such asmagazines or brochures to a tablet or iPad app. And if you haven't donethis yet, you are probably thinking about it -- which means a lot ofresearch about software tools, workflow and technology platforms in thetablet world.
The move presents many challenges and tradeoffs.First, there is the publishing challenge of the business model -- makingan app available, deciding whether or not to charge for it, whetherit's by subscription or app download. Then there is the actual process ofpicking the technology and setting up shop -- which can be dauntinggiven the number of solutions and approaches.
This obviouslyrepresents a huge business and operational challenge for publishers. Notonly are they already supporting multiple platforms (print, Web,email), but tablets mean they must add even more formats to the mix.
"Itis definitely a challenge," says Alon Koppel, Creative Director ofFusionLab, a design studio that also publishes a photography magazinecalled View on the iPad. "Business models keep changing and [software]pricing models keep changing."
According to a number ofpublishing sources, there are more than 5,000 magazines available fortablet platforms. iPads take the top spot, with more than 3,000 titlesnow available, according to Publishing Executive. Amazon Kindle is in second place with about 800 titles on the platform, followed in third place by Android.
Ifyou are a large publishing conglomerate -- say, a Conde Nast or a TimeInc -- you are going to want to adapt your existing publishing system.In theory, it should be as easy as pushing a button to take content fromone platform (print) and put it on another (iPad). With large printpublishing software providers such as Adobe and Quark constantlybringing their systems up to snuff for the tablet app world, this isbecoming easier over time.
But these large, integrated designsoftware programs are only one end of the market -- there alsodistribution specialists, conversion software providers, and otherplayers occupying specific niches.
Let's take a quick look atthese top tools and how they are differentiated in roughly three buckets:The traditional publishing tools, adapted for tablets; App-basedaggregators that are organizing existing content into digestiblepackages for tablet readers; and conversion platforms that easilyconvert existing print content into simple digital formats.
Pro Tablet Publishing Tools
Atthe top of the heap, you have the large, integrated publishing systemsthat are adding tablet and mobile publishing functionality.
Adobe'sDigital Publishing Suite (DPS) has become a leading industry standardand is used by many large magazine conglomerates. It's still regarded asthe highest-end and most complete solution for designers who want toleverage Adobe's InDesign program and put the richest, most fullyfeatured interactive content into an iPad app.
"We use DPS and sodo many of the companies in NYC," says Joe Zeff of Joe Zeff Design inMontclair, N.J. "It's become a standard. This platform gives us a lot ofagility. We can approach apps with a design-first mentality."
Adobegives designers lots of flexibility in adding interactive features whenthey move the content from print to digital. But this comes at a cost,both in terms of price and time. Adobe is considered an expensivesolution that may not be suitable for most smaller publishing houses.Its pricing scheme includes costs for each download and licensing seat.
So Adobe DPS, a solution favored by many publishing houses andintegrated with Adobe's popular design software, InDesign, sits at thehigh end of the market and is suitable for the more deep-pocketedcompanies that want a richly featured mobile app.
Some smallerpublishers are going with Quark, the Denver, CO-based private companythat competes with Adobe in publishing systems. Quark has its own tabletand mobile publishing solutions including App Studio for Quark, whichsome users say is a strong product.
Quark App Studio
FusionLab's Koppel said heuses App Studio after scoping out several alternatives. "Quark developedApp Studio and I like it," said Koppel. "AppStudio is small enough and flexible enough to make a nice magazine for iPad and it's not thatexpensive."
Tablet Publishing: Integrators and Aggregators
With Adobe andQuark leading from the area of magazine publishing tools, another bucketof technology for digital tablet and mobile publishing includes anumber of integrators and content aggregators who are trying to makepackaging, distributing, and marketing digital content easier throughtablet channels.
In general, these offerings might be consideredless sophisticated from the design perspective, as they often go for a"fast and quick" content distribution model, with the tradeoff beingcustomization and sophistication.
Zinio, one such provider, is apioneer of the mobile newsstands. It serves a wide array of publishersand claims more than 50,000 content brands and formats. Notable clientsinclude Rolling Stone, Bloomberg, and GQ. Zino has its own readertechnology based on Adobe AIR, but it's more like an integrator anddistributor for publishers. It offers a service to help connectpublishers and readers and faciliates the development of the mobileproduct.
Zeff, however, says Zinio's speed and ease of use comeswith a cost: less flexibility. It's a "walled garden," he says. "Insteadof having your own app you have an app within Zinio."
Flipboardis another content aggregator attacking the tablet world. Unlike Adobeand Quark, which are geared toward designers who are trying to convertand digitize print products, Flipboard is a more immediate solution thatallows users to collect, "curate," and integrate their own digitalcontent. It takes an optimized RSS feed and converts into a formatdigestible on tablets. Think of Flipboard as a sort of blogging tool formobile apps. It's part publishing tool, part social network. It claimsto have more than 50 million readers.
Zite, which is now owned byCNN, is another flavor of tablet-based content aggregator. Zite billsitself as a "personalized reader" that automatically learns what readerswant to consume on iPad, iPhone and Android devices. Publishers canalso introduce their content into the Zite system. It's geared towardproviding consumers with access to mainstream content from largerspublishers. But like Flipboard, this is more driven toward aggregatingexisting content than it is about re-designing print products fortablets.
Other Conversion Soutions
Yes, I've onlycovered few of the solutions. In truth, there are too many to cover here.In scoping out the world of print-to-mobile tools I've found there aredozens of them, all of them different. Below are a few more softwaretools that might be described as conversion systems for print-to-mobile.
- GTxcelowns the Rivista CMS and includes products called Digital Editions andMobile apps which allow publishers to create mobile versions of theirproducts. It is driven from the Web and HTML side of its Web CMS andsupports platforms including Android, Amazon, the iPhone and the iPad.
- Pixelmags offers a way for designers to publish apps by converting print editions into digital formats..
- Push Pop Pressis a software provider that allows users to create a "new kind ofbook." It was famously backed by Al Gore, and acquired by Facebook. Facebook plans to integrate the technology into Facebook to givepeople a richer publishing experience.
So, it's clearthere are many different approaches to publishing apps and convertingprint content for the tablet market. Approaches can vary whether you area high-end New York magazine chain or a mom-and-pop publisher. What'sclear is that this market is exploding and new technology is making iteasier and easier to publish and convert print content on mobileplatforms.
Designer Zeff says this will continue to make themarket dynamic and interesting, expecially as it moves into theenterprise market. "Think about what's happening with content marketing,all these companies want to take publishing and drive it into theenterprise," says Zeff. "There are some very interesting thingshappening."