Sports Illustrated Readies Digital Version for Tablets

Print, Web, Live Alerts, Tweets and Video Ads All Part of Offering

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NEW YORK ( -- Time Inc.'s Sports Illustrated is developing a tricked-out digital version of itself designed for display on the tablet computers that print publishers, among others, hope and believe will arrive next year.

The tablet-ized issues of SI will include all of each print issue's content plus a selection of content from the website and ads enhanced with video and extra functionality. It is meant to build on the magazine experience, not work like a website. "It's curated," said Terry McDonell, editor of the Sports Illustrated Group. "It's not a fire hose."

Readers will have options they don't get in print, like re-ordering and sorting the contents of the magazine, posting comments, pulling up related content from previous digital issues, getting alerts on live sports events, seeing tweets on the subject at hand and summoning relevant stats. The issues may even include games people can play that are tied to live sports events they're watching on TV.

But SI intends to remain the editor. "We want a hand in all that," Mr. McDonell said, "because that's what we think people will pay us for."

Ads that include video, store finders, price guides and other elements, meanwhile, should command premiums from advertisers, Mr. McDonell said.

SI, whose approach Time Inc. intends to adapt for all its magazines, is following Conde Nast's GQ in the effort to develop killer digital apps for print. Two weeks ago, GQ started selling a $2.99 version of its December issue tailored for the iPhone; Conde Nast Digital said it's too early to talk about sales. Although GQ started with an iPhone app that gets it ready to play on tablets, Time Inc. and SI's effort to digitize issues revolves around the anticipated tablets from the start.

SI has been showing its working demo, developed by the Wonderfactory, to focus groups; next it plans to bring in advertisers and agencies. It intends for its system to be fully ready by next summer, when it anticipates that there will be three to five tablet computers on the market. We'll have to see about that, of course; Michael Arrington's CrunchPad just imploded before launch, while recent rumor mongering on the anticipated Apple tablet suggests it won't arrive until the second half of next year and will start at $1,200.

But the idea at Time Inc. and elsewhere is to get into position. That's the thinking, too, behind the digital storefront being planned by publishers led by Time Inc.

"To the degree we knew the great new digital appliances were coming, we wanted to be ready," Mr. McDonell said.

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