A Look at the Sports Illustrated Tablet Concept


Check out a video of the SI Tablet concept in action at the bottom of this story.

SI’s tablet-sized issues will include the full complement of each print issue’s content, plus additional website content, and enhanced advertising with video-plus functionality. It is meant to leverage and add to the magazine experience, and not function like a website. “It’s curated. It’s not a fire hose. We want a hand in all that because that’s what we think people will pay us for,” says Terry McDonell, VO host of the video demo and editor, Sports Illustrated Group, in an Advertising Age article.

The Wonderfactory, worked hand-in-hand with SI to develop the prototype. The collaboration began in September when a small, dedicated team of about a dozen designers, programmers, techies, design and branding experts set their sights on developing a prototype unlike anything out there.

DMB spoke with David Link, founder and creative director.

Where does the SI Tablet fit in the digital print food chain?

It’s got iPhone usability but with a bigger screen. Unlike the Nook, there’s no underlying black and white e-paper.* It is platform-agnostic and will work with Apple, HP-tablet, Samsung, Sony – anything that accommodates color.

*Electronic paper, e-paper or electronic ink display is a display technology designed to mimic the appearance of ordinary ink on paper.

What’s the underlying technology?

Adobe Air plus Flex in a Windows 7 environment. This was just for the working prototype – for the real product we may use Adobe Air or HTML5 or when available, the Apple SDK if/when they release a tablet.

How is it different from an e-Reader?

It’s not just a copy of a website, nor is it a print magazine, it’s a third product. It’s 100 percent of the magazine, 30 percent of the website and 25 percent new features. For instance, you can play a game while watching a real-time game, you can access 10,000 photos vs. 100 photos, and you have extra video and editorial content. E-readers like Kindle are black and white with picture and video. This prototype is built for color, plus TV and video and motion.

Is this a Hulu for magazines?

Sort of. As with books and music, the creators want to own the store and the information and the data in it. The idea at Time Inc. and elsewhere is to get into that position. That’s the thinking behind the digital storefront being planned by a consortium of publishers.

What about the ads in the prototype – can a user skip them and are they interactive?

Yes — they can be skipped over. However, an interesting phenomenon emerged in testing. Users would skip over them at first, but then go back and explore the ads. Since they are full-page ads, not embedded as in a website, they are more artfully produced and thus more engaging. The tablet phenomenon can bring a renaissance of good design.

Kevin Roberts, CEO, Saatchi and Saatchi, coined the term Lovemarks — products that transcend brands and have consumers fall in love for life.

Could the tablet become a Lovemark?

Yes, perhaps. The Web removed all emotion from the user experience. It’s all about hits and views and clicks. The tablet is an emotional experience that restores touch. It’s the Web plus emotion.

What will we see next along these lines of product development?

Voice activation – as with iPhone music. People will place the tablet on a counter, or an easel, and it will become a hub of activity … like storing recipes, then gathering around at dinnertime. It will be used for entertainment and not just for work. It is mobile and location-based.

What’s the general reception been?

The demo received 300,000 hits in the first week and one-half. Unlike the Web, which is locked into HTML, the tablet is an open interface with no standards yet. There’s enormous creative potential — customization, creating tactile, physical interactivity — no clicks, no mouse, but rather touch. And this is still just a prototype – we figure we’re only half-way there!

Drew Wehrle’s blog sums it all up nicely: “I’m unapologetically old school when it comes to my taste in periodicals. While I’m certainly no Luddite, I still prefer the tangible, tactile experience of paging through a newspaper or magazine. But this conceptual Sports Illustrated tablet … certainly causes me to reconsider. The aesthetically keen and intuitive user interface, customization and social media integration displayed in this video demo hint at some incredible possibilities … not to mention the potential for some rich advertising.”

This prototype is the missing link in the print to digital food chain. Leveraging technology and the interactivity of a touch platform, which restores the emotional connection, the tablet promises new thinking about what both magazines and digital can create … touchingly, together.

Sheila Shayon is president/founder of Third Eye Media, third-eyemedia.com, multimedia production with core competencies in broadband production, creative design and execution, and social media. Shayon has several decades of multimedia experience working for companies like Time Warner Cable and Home Box Office.