While the print magazine industry is hanging its hopes on the iPad to lead it to the digital promised land where people actually pay for digital editions, it is still stuck with adapting a product designed for paper to the screen. But what if you threw the paper out to begin with and started with a magazine meant to be read only on the iPad? If you do that, you get Sideways, a mag app that claims to be the first iPad-only magazine. Its first issue is on sale now in the App Store for $3.99.
Sideways is an iPad magazine that covers, well, the iPad. There are articles about apps for the iPad and music for the iPad and training for a marathon with the iPad (my tip is you leave it at home). “You have a built-in demographic,” says CEO Charles Stack. “Who are the readers? The people who own an iPad.” There are also other articles which would appeal to that affluent, techy demographic. The first issue has a lot of World Cup themed articles, including one on World Cup apps, a guide with venues and dates, and a primer on how to fake your way through the World Cup.
So what makes it different than Wired‘s successful iPad mag or Time‘s. “It was ground-up designed for the iPad, not an adaption of a print magazine,” says Stack, who founded Books.com in the early 1990s before he sold it to Barnes & Noble. The articles are laid out in a familiar magazine format, taking advantage of the iPad’s large screen and lovely fonts. Video and audio is also blended in where a photo or graphic might be in a print magazine (still, nothing too radical here—Wired and Time are doing the same thing). You scroll through pages up and down like on the Web, not sideways, which is silly given the name of the magazine and the fact that side-swiping is becoming the norm for iPad magazine apps.
Where it starts to be different is when it departs from the printed word and starts to feel more like an app. For instance, the article on World Cup stadiums and dates pops open a map studded with all the stadiums across South Africa. There is an interactive timeline of the entire iPhone product family in another article. And there is a photo gallery app which shows large, full-screen high-res photos from events that occurred over the past month. It is kind of Life 2.0.
Sideways has six full-time staffers, a lot of freelancers, and is based in Cleveland, Ohio. It is self-funded. For now there are no ads, but the music reviews all have affiliate links to the iTunes store. And you can imagine similar arrangements with Amazon affiliate links for reviews of other types of products. Stack sees Sideways as a flagship product for a publishing platform he will eventually license to other magazine and book publishers.
New ideas are more likely to come from people like Stack and others outside the industry. Still, I think charging $3.99 a pop for a digital magazine is going to be a hard sell, especially once we start getting the same experience on the Web.