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Wired and GQ magazine publisher Condé Nast is amongst those now seeking a cost-effective cross-platform tablet production workflow for the…

Scott Dadich
photo: Mugshot: Conde Nast

Wired and GQ magazine publisher Condé Nast is amongst those now seeking a cost-effective cross-platform tablet production workflow for the blossoming number of new devices, after earlier implementing an iPad-specific strategy.

The publisher pioneered tablet magazines when it built out an early iPad design on Adobe Digital Publishing Suite in 2010. But now Nook, Kindle Fire and multiple Android tablets and mobiles of various shapes, which would compel additional production investment, are requiring a re-think.

“Bringing it all together in to a cohesive workflow has been a real challenge for us. It’s been tough – there’s a lot more work,” Condé’s content innovation VP Scott Dadich said during a briefing in which the publisher courted London advertising buyers on Wednesday.

Frankly, the technology really hasn’t caught up to that notion of a high-fidelity design that is adaptive. The adaptive web is teaching us a lot about what that’s going to look like. We’re working toward liquid layout with our friends at Adobe (NSDQ: ADBE). It has springs and cushions in it so it can fit on different screens with the same kind of experience.”

Several media operators have been here before. Having built out its iPlayer video service for a dozen unique platforms by 2010, the BBC, fed up with the investment required for each new device, re-coded the service as a one-size-fits-all HTML product, carryable by any web-enabled gadgets.

An upcoming upgrade to Adobe InDesign, the software many publishers to use to lay up pages for print and for tablets through Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, helps magazine designers make pages that adjust for different device sizes by leveraging “liquid layout rules” through HTML5. They no longer have to redesign for each separate platform.

“Every one of our Adobe magazines has to have new staff to help us design that,” Condé’s UK digital director Jamie Jouning told paidContent. “As the number of tablets grows, we’ll have to increase our investment. Our aim is to publish once and distribute everywhere.”

It’s not just about tablets; mobile, too, could get the same flexible repurposing treatment.

“We haven’t had a platform for creation of content for the three-inch screen,” Dadich said. “We’ve been working closely with our partners at Adobe to move the platform we use for tablet devices on to the small screen. It’s a whole different set of design considerations.

“Instead of building a product and a workflow to support, we’re trying to flip that to build a workflow and a system to support these multiple design outputs… adaptive content.”

In the end, Dadich wants to bridge the gap between print and tablet products.

“Ultimately, magazine design will go to a hybridisation of those two things,” he said.

“Our goal is to compress those two together, so that we have ultimate flexibility and we’re able to take a piece of content and put it on 15 different screens and still have a very consistent look and feel. Print considerations are really being heavily influenced by design conventions in tablet.”

In their briefing, Condé Nast executives told advertisers that readers of its tablet and mobile editions exhibit the same demographics as in print. That was a part of a heavy pitch from the publisher for advertisers to buy cross-platform ad campaigns.

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  1. “Frankly, the technology really hasn’t caught up to that notion of a high-fidelity design that is adaptive”
    This is what happens when a buzzword-spouting design guy has dominion over technology (and one whose cred came from building complex and bloated tablet apps that has since been proven to be impractical). Responsive design utilizing HTML5/CSS3 can accommodate 90%+ of the use cases that publishers can throw at it. Development tools are a little wonky and performance can be better, but it’s definitely doable from a tech standpoint. It’s a matter of developing the processes to support this. And doing this does take more time than just doing one platform version, but it’s more efficient than building separate products for separate platforms.

    1. 90%??? Try using even such simple things as drop caps and multi-column together. It only kinda works and it is certainly not high-fidelity. 

  2. Let’s remember this device launched less than 2 years ago, and has sold over 55 million units.  It’s impact in Publishing is, and will continue to be, huge. 

    Ideally, it’s the savior of quality content, for Brands and content craftsmen.  Worse case is the ‘desktop-ization’ of Mobile and crap display advertising. 

    Brand dollars will turn into digital dimes.

  3. Jeremy Bergstein Thursday, February 23, 2012

    I agree with Dadich for the most part.

    It is not there yet (Definitely not 90%).  See: Page transitions and animations, pinch – zoom, double finger swipe and interactions, and there are many more.  A good command of design, html, CSS3 and javascript libraries are getting us there soon.

    For the moment though, the most beautiful graphics, transitions and interactions are tied into the local hardware and yes are app-based.

    PS:  “…High-Fideltity design” sounds pretty non-buzzwordy and pretty cool to me

    1. But what publishers are finding out is the expense of augmenting digital publications with the stuff that HTML5/CSS3 doesn’t do so well may not be commensurate with the cost (or the value to users). Duplicating the magazine experience on a tablet may require an app now, but is that really going to be the path publishers should take? Just sounds like electrification of an old paradigm. And with the more recent WebKit releases, the only things that are off-limits are some device APIs that magazine publishers frankly don’t have much need of now (for gamers, much different story).

      1. I hear you Reykjavik.
        Obviously hoping for the ultimate victory of the web here. Lots of variables and considerations in the critique you and I have cracked open.

        You know that Conde Nast and Adobe are going to push hard and advance the thinking either way and affect these standards.  They have the power to potentially mature this thinking with brute force, which … well I dont (you could be Sergey Brin for all I know:)

        I am for this.

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