COSMOS Magazine – Science on the iPad.

I haven’t written an app review since leaving my last job, but after downloading COSMOS Magazine on my iPad the other day, I felt compelled share my thoughts with you.

For several years now I have enjoyed reading the print copy as often as I could. I’m a lazy subscriber (which means I never actually got around to to signing up – sorry guys); but when the iPad was released in 2010 I knew it would only be a matter of time before I let the moths out of my wallet. Today I did and frankly, the result is awesome.

The meticulously researched and well-written articles from the print edition are still there and have been enhanced with audio and video content that was previously available only online. Surprises exist on almost every page no matter which way you rotate the tablet device, beginning with a rather disconcerting wink from the half man, half ape on the cover.

COSMOS Magazine provides a visual feast for their readers with hotspots on many of the pictures and illustrations, as well as slideshows to further stimulate your optic nerve. Although much of the photography has been sourced from image libraries, the selection is excellent and the photos themselves are incredibly detailed. The growling grass frog’s antimicrobial slime practically dribbles from the corner of the iPad as the South American hummingbird pauses mid-flight to take a sip of nectar. The skin of the Rancophorus nigropalmatus is bound to give you warts and I’m not quite sure I want to touch the venomous spines on the puss caterpillar’s fluff as I swipe my fingers across the screen to turn the page 😉

The ‘Events’ page features a monthly roundup of scientific exhibitions from the Royal Institution of Australia. Tap on the link and the event is automatically added to your calendar. There is also an interactive ‘Trivia’ page for the true geek. Do you know what the gap between people’s front teeth is called, or what shape the carbon molecule buckminsterfullerene resembles?

The live newsfeed from the COSMOS website allows the reader to access the latest stories, comment on the content and subscribe to the eNewsletter. You can share practically every page on FaceBook, Twitter and email; and bookmark articles for future reference.

Volcanoes erupt in the background as future humans evolve right before your very eyes. Even the advertising has been enhanced for the iPad, yet they haven’t gone overboard with the animations.

From the exceptional illustrations by Lucy Glover to the neat little features such as the ability to follow Editor-in-Chief Wilson da Silva’s twitter stream from the Forward on page 3, COSMOS is a marvelous mobile magazine and a fantastic read for all ages.

Please note: Although I am friends with two of the founders of COSMOS Media, this is not an advertisement for their magazine and I am not affiliated with the company in any way.  I am a subscriber of the iPad version of COSMOS Magazine and the views expressed here are my own.

Give iDad an iPad for Fathers Day

Last December I contacted Molly, my friend from the Net, who has a very interesting craft blog called Charlotte’s Fancy. Molly had designed a greeting card for Fathers Day called the iDad. With her kind permission, and Fathers day just around the corner, I have reproduced the steps to create the iDad greeting card below and provided a link to Charlotte’s Fancy for those of you with more talented hands than I.

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To create the card you will need the following supplies:

  • Black cardstock
  • White Cardstock
  • X-acto knife
  • Cutting mat
  • Spray Glue
  • Markers

Step 1: Take two pieces of 8.5 x 11″ black cardstock, and sandwich a piece of white cardstock in between, then cut rounded corners. You may want to take out the white piece and cut it down a little further, so that it doesn’t show along the edges. Use spray glue to secure the white cardstock to the bottom piece of black cardstock and set aside.

Step 2: Find some iPad/iPhone icon images online and print them out on cardstock (you will have no trouble finding these on Google). In a Google image search, look for medium or large images, so that the resolution is decent. Once you print them out, cut them out.

Step 3: Arrange the images on your top piece of black cardstock, then glue them down in the order you want them with spray glue. Let dry for a couple of minutes.

Step 4: Using a cutting mat and X-acto knife, carefully cut along the sides and the bottom of each icon to create lift up flaps.

Step 5: It’s time to glue the top piece to the bottom piece. Spray glue very carefully on the back of the top piece, being careful to avoid the areas where the lift up flaps are (you don’t want to get glue in the area where you will be writing your messages).

Step 6: Once you glue the top and bottom pieces together, draw the little button at the bottom (I used a silver Sharpie), and trim the edges to make the whole presentation neat. Then you can write whatever messages you like under the flaps.

Finally, I printed “iDad” onto a piece of paper, cut it out with an X-acto knife and glued it to the front of the presentation envelope.

My Interview with Publishers Australia

For those of you who don’t already know, my company, Creative Folks, specialises in workflow solutions for printers, publishers, ad agencies, graphic designers and video production companies throughout Australia and New Zealand. This includes print, online and iPad app creation tools used to produce all the magazines on display in this post. Back in October I was interviewed by Ms. Jill Park from Publishers Australia about digital magazine creation. With kind permission from the PA Board, here is a copy of the transcript for your enjoyment.

What makes a good/bad iPad app?
The iPad is all about maximising the end-user experience. A good iPad app should offer the consumer more than just a digital replica of the print copy. When gathering content for an article or story there is likely to be several photographs and extended text other than the few hundred words allocated to the page. There may also be historical content, video archives and audio files that offer relevancy to the subject. Print does not allow the publisher to take advantage of this extra material but the iPad allows you to present it with your own creative style.

Why should magazines create their own apps?
There is an art to magazine creation. The combination of photography, typography, design and editorial skills defines the quality of the product. With the right tool set in place, publishing companies are more than capable of producing their own apps and therefore controlling their own creativity.

However, internal app creation is not going to be a suitable business model for every publisher. Small teams on tight deadlines may find it easier and more cost effective to outsource the app creation to third party companies that offer these services at reasonable prices.

Is there a great demand for iPad apps for magazines?
Definitely. A quick search for the word ‘magazine’ on iTunes will deliver the user hundreds of results in various languages from niche titles to major brands such as Time, GQ, Wired and People.

How should the content differ for the print and iPad version?
The iPad offers a whole new level of creativity for designers. Photographic slideshows from the red carpet, video of the latest Lamborghini test drive, celebrity interviews, live sport results, social media interaction, even a dynamically updating TV guide are just some of the examples of how the content can differ from the print version.

The iPad has thousands of funky apps already available from astronomy to some very addictive games (have a look at Angry Birds and you’ll see what I mean). The point is, there is a lot of eye candy on the App Store so if you want the consumer to continue purchasing your product over all the other options available to them, then you need to offer them more than a high-resolution jpeg of the printed page.

What do editors looking to create their own apps need to consider?

Editors need to think beyond the page, which is something they should be used to doing considering that a lot of magazines have their own web site. A food magazine may want to include a step-by-step video of the featured recipe. A music title may want to include snippets from the cover band’s latest album or concert. Fashion shoots will want more than that ‘one good shot’. Gather and collect as much content as you can because that gives you more choice.

Don’t to it halfheartedly though. No video content is better than a few links to some low resolution YouTube clips.

Are these considerations different for apps for other devices?
Not really. The big difference will be the ability to use Adobe Flash in the other tablet devices.

How does the WoodWing app software work?
WoodWing believes that good app design comes from good designers. They provide plug in tools for Adobe InDesign to enable the user to create the layouts and make best use of the available content. WoodWing Content Station allows the designer to adjust page positioning to ensure that the app flows smoothly for every swipe and tap; and provides an overview of the publication before the app is created. WoodWing Enterprise manages the collaboration within and between the design and editorial teams; and their Digital Magazine Server creates the app once the final design and layout has been approved. It is a simple process that involves very few steps, but one that gives control over the creativity of the app back to the designers, which is where it belongs.

Does it work across non-iPad devices?
It will as soon as the other devices become readily available. (postscript: WoodWing announced on October 6th that they had a cooperative agreement with Samsung to bring digital publications to the Galaxy Tab. Click here to read more.)

Is it suitable for publishers of all sizes?
WoodWing is an inexpensive modular solution. You don’t need to be a large publisher to use their products.

Which iPad apps for magazines do you think work best? Why?

Apps are continuously evolving and what works best for some may not be right for others. The original Time Magazine still offers video content, extra photos, extended editorial and engaging advertising. It is available to be purchased through a digital storefront and much of the extra heavy-duty content, such as audio and video files, is accessed as required when the user is online. WIRED, on the other hand, gives you absolutely everything in one humongous download. Both solutions work well. Sports Illustrated gives their readers access to a live scoreboard whereas Net-A-Porter provides a fashion shopping experience complete with product descriptions and editor’s recommendations.

Recently released apps have become more of a hybrid solution that incorporates HTML5 technology to provide breaking news or animation for their covers and internal pages. For examples of these have a look at the Dutch apps Veronica and Auto Week or the Russian version of Cosmopolitan. Veronica launches with an up-to-the-minute TV Guide and the current version of Auto Week has a Lotus Evora winking at you with its halogen headlights.

Cosmo uses a lot of animations within the pages of their magazine to create a unique and highly-engaging end user experience. Scrollable text columns in transparent overlays keep the photography visible underneath the article without impeding the readability of the story. Fashion hotspots provide the reader with extra product information when they tap on the models boots, skirt, accessories, etc. Even the advertisements have been upgraded with extra content. There is one article about Autumn fashion, I think – my Russian is not too good :-), where pastel coloured leaves fly around behind the text as if blowing in an invisible breeze (pictured). Cosmo really is one of the most creative pieces of magazine app design I have seen so far.

Some publications however have opted for a more simplistic approach. Jaguar Magazine has only a small number of pages but its content is laid out in a very stylish and elegant manner. The Guardian Eyewitness app offers the end user beautiful photography with tips on how the image was captured.

There are also some excellent examples of newspaper apps from the Australian, the New Zealand Herald and the Malaysian Star, to name but a few.

My advice to publishers is to research what’s available on iTunes already. Download titles that are similar to yours, and some that are vastly different as well. That will help you to get a feel for what features are available and what works best. Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you should.

Is there anything editors could learn from non-magazine apps? Please give examples.
Oh sure. Apps like Blogshelf and Flipboard present content in a clean and easy to read environment. Discover by Cooliris gives Wikipedia a makeover with article searching, rotatable pages that offer extra information such as maps and statistics, historical bookmarks, and daily cover changes. Apps such as the ABC and NPR bring news feeds to life with audio and visual content as well as the ability to share articles via email and social media. The Guardian Eyewitness app, as I mentioned before, demonstrates the iPad’s ability to display dazzling photography.

How can people monitor subscriptions?

Subscription management is the current hot topic for iPad publishing. Apple don’t offer a subscription mechanism at this stage so the best way to manage it is probably to emulate People Magazine. They have linked their iPad app to the print subscription so their customers can input their user ID and download the iPad app for free. If the user is not a print subscriber then they can buy the issue from iTunes and transact the purchase through Apple’s systems.

Creative Folks are a Strategic Partner of Publishers Australia.

About Publishers Australia

Publishers Australia is a non-profit trade association that represents the leading B2B, specialist B2C, custom and digital publishers in Australia.

We currently have over 120 publisher members who produce more than 800 consumer, business and customer publications in total.

We have developed a powerful network of national and international alliances across the creative industries to keep our members up to date on matters that affect them.

We inform our members of industry trends; defend them against unnecessary regulation; and promote the editorial and financial health of our industry.

We have a strong interest in training and development through seminars, workshops, event keynotes, Excellence Awards, and an annual conference as well as access to a range of learning resources.

As publishers are becoming multimedia, cross-platform brands, we aim to guide our members into the future by providing advice on the digital revolution reshaping our industry.

Social Media Commentary

Should you be embracing social media?

There’s no argument that social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WordPress etc are growing in popularity day by day but to what extent are Australians getting involved? According to Nielson’s 2010 Social Media Report released in March there were 9 million Australians interacting regularly via social media with Facebook as the main platform. Twitter’s audience expanded by more than 400% in 2009 but perhaps the most important statistic to come from this report is that nearly two in every five online Australians are interacting with companies via social networking sites.

So who’s out there?

The ABC News site reported in February that Australians were leading the world with an average of seven hours per month spent on social media sites. Source ABC News

Nielsen’s online site NielsenWire noted in March 2010 that mobile social networking was predominantly used by the 35 – 54 age group (36%) and the 25 – 34 age group (34%) with a further 16% of participants in the 18 – 24 bracket. Source NielsenWire blogsite

That’s a lot of disposable income investing their time online.

Print budgets shift to social media.

AdNews reported in April that almost half (47%) of businesses have shifted marketing spend from print to social media. The online survey of 347 Australian businesses found 70% intend to conduct some form of social media activity this year, compared with just 40% in 2008. And it is not only print taking the hit. The survey found significant proportions of businesses are diverting funds to social media from direct marketing (33%), online/digital (26%), TV (15%) and radio (14%). Twenty-one percent of big businesses and 40% of SME’s will expand their marketing budgets in 2010 specifically to fund social media. “In the past year, there has been substantial growth in the number of consumers engaging with companies via social media,” Nielsen online research director Melanie Ingrey said. Australians lead the way in social media adoption with 86% reading online consumer product reviews and 75% belonging to some form of social media. Two-thirds (61%) of businesses already use social media to achieve brand building, however, 29% do not measure ROI from social media activity or don’t know how to. This lag in measurement is a barrier to entry for many businesses, however Ingrey said it is an “easy fix” and predicts a huge rise in adoption rates of social media in the next year. Source: AdNews Online, 21 April 2010

Social Networking On The Road

The Australian newspaper reported on June 8th that global smartphone shipments are tipped to more than double in the next four years from 246.9 million in 2010 to 506 million in 2014. Apple reported on June 22nd that they had sold over 3 million iPads in 80 days. Source Australian IT and Apple.com

The exponential uptake in mobile technology will have a profound effect on the way products and services are researched and consumed.

“Incredibly, nearly nine in ten Australian Internet users (86%) are looking to their fellow Internet users for opinions and information about products, services and brands, and Australians’ engagement with online word of mouth communication is going to increase in coming years as social media plays an increasingly important role in consumer decision making” states Melanie Ingrey, Research Director for Nielsen’s online business. Source NielsenWire article Australia Getting More Social Online as Facebook Leads and Twitter Grows.

The proliferation of smartphones has lead to a surge in mobile social networking. Nielsen’s report found that over one quarter of social networkers (26%) participated in mobile social networking in the past year. Facebook is the most popular site accessed via a mobile (92% of mobile social networkers have visited Facebook), followed by YouTube, Twitter (18%) & MySpace (9%). However, Twitter sees the most frequent mobile usage, with half of its mobile users visiting the site daily. In comparison, Facebook saw 36% of its mobile users visit the site daily, while 22% of MySpace users and 16% of YouTube users were making daily visits.

Back to the question, should businesses be embracing social media?

With almost 7,750,000 wage earning Australians currently engaged in some form of social media the answer for most people should be a resounding ‘yes’. Like all marketing activities though, you need to develop a strategy. Make sure you ‘tweet’, ‘blog’ and update your Facebook status regularly. Set measurable objectives such as increasing traffic to your website or improving your ranking in search engines. Share your news, views and knowledge with your audience, don’t just go for the hard sell. Most importantly, be honest. The global social network is an incredibly large organism and the old adage that ‘bad news travels fast’ is especially relevant.

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