40 apps in 40 days
What's more important for tablet editions: time to market or custom design? If you have a broad portfolio of magazines, the answer is probably both.
Source Interlink Media, which publishes 60 enthusiast magazines, entered the tablet space in 2010 with iPad editions of its two biggest titles: Motor Trend and Automobile. Those custom apps were built with WoodWing's digital publishing software.
The company wasn't ready to invest in custom apps for each remaining publication in the portfolio, however. Instead, it opted for a rapid-fire rollout of digital replicas.
"We challenged ourselves to create 40 apps in 40 days," said Dale Bryson, prepress director at Source Interlink Media. The 40th app - Lowrider Arte - went live in the iTunes app store on April 10.
Because custom apps require a significant investment in design and production resources - Bryson estimated that a digital edition increases design time for each issue by about 50 percent - the process was not practical for all of Source Interlink's publications, particularly the smaller titles.
"We didn't think all of our brands could undertake the design process specific to the iPad, so we challenged ourselves to think about other ways to do it," Bryson said in a phone interview. Replicas made the most sense, since they require little additional input from a brand's editorial and design staff.
Bryson's team worked with Adobe to create an automated process that can be managed by a centralized production team. A custom script takes the PDF files for each print edition and loads them in InDesign, from where they are uploaded to DPS, prepped and then submitted to Apple.
An evolving process
The replica is not the end goal. Bryson expects each publication to add more interactivity to its digital editions over time. "Advertisers want to enrich their ads for the iPad edition," he said. "Certainly we can do the same for editorial as needed. We can build that in pretty easily."
Part of this evolution involves getting the production staff up to speed on digital publishing.
"A lot of the skill set around traditional pre-press still applies," said Bryson, "but we're also branching out well beyond that. We have to be able to receive a video file and troubleshoot it if it won't play on an iPad or an Android device. We have to understand emerging technologies like HTML5."
Source Interlink is adding those skills through a combination of new hires and training for existing staff. A lot of the learning, he acknowledged, is trial and error. "The attitude is, let's figure it out," he said.