It is no surprise or secret that video is a killer medium on the iPad. From the time I first fired up my Netflix app on this platform, I admit I was in love. Even at 9.7 inches, when sitting in your lap, that black slab has the feel of a well-resolved HD screen.
The early-in iPad publishers have used video as a kind of eye-candy that demonstrates they are in fact enhancing their print brands on the platform. Yahoo's iPad app features a nicely curated wall of recent video clips across multiple topics. AP's news app compiles a considerable pile of video content. And now the magazine apps are trying to convince their paying customers on iPad that those exorbitant per-issue fees they pay for Vanity Fair, Wired, Popular Science, etc. are worth the price of admission. There has been a lot of user unrest in the App Store comments about the silliness of having existing subscribers pay twice for their favorite magazines. Some publishers have devised new subscription models, to be sure, but generally the publishers are trying to fill a value gap. And so they pour on the video, because, the thinking goes, everyone likes video, no?
In the first run of iPad magazines, the editors performed as app hosts who outlined the issue's content. There was a lot of stilted delivery of bromides like 'we're entering a new era of publishing' yadda yadda. They were as tiresome as they were gratuitous.
Demonstrating how to use a magazine app actually is no small thing. One of the ways print publishers are trying to impress readers and add value is to dazzle them with "rethinking" the traditional magazine. Not only do pages fly by when you swipe, but magazines like Wired and Popular Science have also been exploring uncharted territory in navigation and organization. Everyone now uses a "scrubber" of page thumbnails through which a reader can quick-flip through the entire issue and locate a page visually. But some other magazines use a two-finger drag to pop-up navigational menus, and others make all of the text on a page disappear when you tap the screen. When I showed all of these variations to my 78-year-old father, he scoffed widely, "I already know how to read a regular magazine -- I just pick it up."
Using a magazine app is not always a straightforward affair. And so we get the new convention of the video tutorial. And the magazines have gotten smart enough to realize that monotone monologues from editors just don't cut it anymore. People magazine started using celebrity tutorial instructors when they hit the platform earlier this month. After all, who is going to ignore Katy Perry demo-ing the app as he bosom seems to heave from her bodice. This week Tommy Lee has the honors, and the hard rocker has some fun choosing which finger he will use to demonstrate the iPad swipe.
All of this is by way of introducing what is the new bar set for iPad magazine tutorials. For this week's introduction of The New Yorker on iPad Condé Nast recruited Jason Swartzman to vamp it up. Schwartzman doesn't just swipe and explain. He walks through multiple comic scenarios, visual effects and cool scene changes. I have to admit that I wasn't expecting much from The New Yorker iPad app in terms of bells and whistles. After all, the magazine de tutti magazines proudly ties itself to the resilience of language in a multimedia age. And Schwarzman's deft video production is all the more important and effective. It actually does what more video marketing should do, show and tell about a product in a more effective way.
And anyway, some new media content probably should be left to the actor. Do we really want to see David Remnick jump backwards out of a pool or levitate?