Why Skiing Made a Magazine App ... for Your Desktop Computer

Q&A With the People Behind the New Skiing Interactive Edition

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Bonnier's Skiing magazine has introduced a new app that runs on your regular desktop or laptop computer. And yes, the people behind it have heard of the iPad.

They just don't think the frenzy over magazines on iPads is all that justified yet -- and do think Skiing and its sibling Saveur have more immediate digital potential in this format than on the iPad.

The debut of Skiing Interactive.
The debut of Skiing Interactive.
It's not that they've got anything against tablets. Skiing Interactive will actually also run on any Android tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab. But because the app uses Flash, it won't, at least for now, run on the iPad. And that's OK with them, because they think the untapped market is on the desktop or laptop you're very likely using to read this article.

They also think magazines' iPad editions aren't interactive enough. So most editorial and advertising units in the debut issue are interactive in some way, beyond a "press play" button on a video that's been added to an article. Many ask consumers about themselves, then provide a tailored graphic, particular advice or a certain recommendation. One ad unit, for example, asks users to tell it how many days they might ski each of several resorts this winter and tells them which package of passes might be best for them. An interactive editorial infographic displays total acres, vertical drop and peak elevation at various mountains.

The Skiing Interactive app doesn't include content from the print edition; it's almost all about snack-sized items and graphics. And it doesn't follow the monthly print schedule either; it comes out twice a month.

Here's their take on app editions, lightly edited.

Ad Age: Didn't you guys hear this is the year, the decade, the era of the iPad? Why are you releasing an interactive Skiing app that runs on regular computers and doesn't work on the iPad?

Tom James, editorial director for Bonnier's enthusiast titles: Much of the media-consuming world has a bad taste in its mouth from the digital desktop magazines that have existed over the last four to five years because they were PDF-based replicas and that's not really the way to do a product on the desktop. Desktop digital editions can be done much better. It's just that the iPad myopia has diverted attention away from it.

But there are a billion desktop computers, just an obscene number, out there and I think we can put something really compelling on desktop, and laptop, computers for our consumers. Why do we want to do ignore that market?

If you ask someone what they think magazines will be like in the future they'll say personalized and interactive and engaging, but I don't think anyone will say it necessarily has to be on an iPad. It'll be on whatever you consumer it on. Right now it just so happens that the best experience is a Flash-based product that works on the Android system but on the desktop as well.

I am not by any means anti-iPad or anti-tablet. I got my iPad on April 3. I just think they caused the magazine world to ignore these million desktops out there, which is kind of silly. Let's figure out a better way to use that as well.

Ad Age: So what are the iPad plans for Skiing and Saveur, another title in Bonnier's lifestyle and luxury group?

Merri Lee Kingsly, VP and group publisher of the lifestyle and luxury group at Bonnier: I don't believe magazine apps are doing themselves justice on the iPad. I went through some of the competitive stuff. It's just simply reading a magazine on a different platform. Tom's whole philosophy is having a personalized conversation with a product and everybody gets a differ experience from it. If I click on something from the interactive unit that's important to me and you click on something different, we're reading two different things. When we're reading the iPad we're reading the same exact article.

I want to do something different. When we're looking for something highly engaging, this is a great way to go.

Mr. James: A lot of people don't have the time or interest to read 1,500 or 3,000 words on a digital product. Give them something that tells them something visually -- that's a better way to talk to them on a digital product.

Ad Age: An app on the web might sound limiting to some people. Why does an interactive edition, with a certain set of capabilities and content, make sense when we've got the whole internet in front of us?

Mr. James: Because the beauty of this is that it's curated and it's finite.

There's just too much out there. Our editors are the finest curators of information. We put together a finite, digestible product that gives the enthusiast what he or she needs.

Ad Age: Aren't magazines' iPad editions -- with long-form articles to suck readers in and extras like video to let them interact -- pretty engaging?

I think there's a difference between passive engagement and active engagement. Engagement is a buzzword but we're starting toward active, personalized engagement where you describe yourself and get answers that relate to you.

To your point, many things can be engaging but I think we have to acknowledge that people have less time to consume all the different forms of media, that their attention is more dispersed among renting movies and playing video games and being on Facebook and all these things. So I want to create things that have higher engagement in snacks and bites rather than meals.

Many people talk about the lean-back experience that a magazine offers and try to duplicate that with an iPad or digital product. I think video is very much a lean back experience. You press play and let it come at you. We're trying to create a lean forward experience that the user is driving. I think lean forward is more engaging. It's like the difference between driving a car or being a passenger in a car.

Ad Age: What's your approach to ads in the interactive edition?

Mr. James: Ads are a key component. I couldn't in good conscience create this highly engaging, lean forward editorial experience and not try to do the same with the advertising experience.

All my advertisers have great compelling content. I don't think they can put static content in and have it buried in an interactive edition. It has to be equally interactive and equally engaging.

Right now there's only one platform in the world where the ads are as engaging as the content and that's the Super Bowl. Let's make another one. Let's help the advertisers really create some great stuff.

Ad Age: The Skiing Interactive app is free, while magazines' iPad versions sell for pretty much cover price. Is charging readers something you could, or would want, to charge readers for?

Mr. James: We think they will pay for it, but to get this started we want to get a lot of them out there at first. Then we'll be able to study the usage habits, perfect the product and then probably move toward a paid model.

Follow Nat Ives on Twitter.

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