NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- There are a lot of uncertainties about magazines on the Apple iPad -- how great is the public demand for them, can publishers make money on them? But there's an equally important logistical question that has to be addressed before publishers can do anything else: How do you build it in the first place?
Three of the magazine world's early iPad adopters -- Time Inc.'s Time magazine, Men's Health from Rodale and Bonnier's Popular Science -- walked us through their processes.
1. Men's Health converts content from print to iPad by using the PDFs of the print pages, once they're through production. It compresses the PDFs to the smallest file size it can -- without losing image clarity -- so they load faster.
2. Staff uploads the PDFs en masse to an "admin" tool that renders them as iPad screens. (Ad pages are uploaded separately and slipped into their proper slots among edit pages.) The admin tool was built for Rodale's entire portfolio; while that helps it get all of its titles on the iPad more quickly, it doesn't have features customized to Men's Health. Women's Health already has an iPad edition and Prevention is coming next, followed by Runner's World, Organic Gardening and Bicycling.
3. The magazine's staff works in the admin to layer on digital extras and add the little blue crosses that tell readers where they can touch pages to bring up web links, answer poll questions, post to Twitter or Facebook, e-mail an article, see more photos or watch video.
4. Where Time magazine reformats its content to display on an iPad screen, Men's Health runs replicas of every print page. If readers find a particular element tough to read on the iPad screen, they can spread two fingers apart or double tap to make the element bigger or they can use the app's "article view," which displays items as plain text.
But the team still needs to format the text to display in the article view mode. "We have to take a text rip of the issue and reformat all that text so that the word breaks are pretty and we like the fonts," said Matt Bean, brand editor at Men's Health.
5. Time for the final review. If it looks good, the iPad edition of the new issue goes to Apple for approval, then becomes available to purchase within the Men's Health app. When people buy the new issue, they automatically download the main magazine file and advertiser video; other video starts streaming on demand when users touch the screen to play it.
The whole process takes two or three people one to two days. "The beauty of it is it's a relatively low-bandwidth process that allows us to free up editors and staffers to build the brand in other ways," Mr. Bean said.