Interview's iPad Demo Is the Future of Magazines [UPDATE]

Last Updated Feb 10, 2010 12:00 PM EST

As anyone who's read my bouncing back and forth on the Apple (AAPL) iPad will have noticed, I've found myself sunk into complete ambivalence. On one hand, there are huge holes in the proprietary technology. On the other, I've argued that the potential for the device in niche markets is enormous. I had mentioned a number of areas, like painting and drawing or audio and video editing. Well, add another one, because a video preview of the iPad version of Interview Magazine shows a dominating and brilliant rethink of what magazines -- and by extension, other media -- can be for audiences.

Before you read further, you should go check this link to a video sample of the results. (Unfortunately, I can't find an embeddable version.)

I'm far from a fanboy, but this is simply un-freaking-believably amazing. For some time, publishers have been approaching electronic media like an early 1990s web site -- a place to dump what you already had on hand. For some time I've been saying that publishers must find a native version of telling stories on the web. Interview doesn't have the last word, certainly, but what an incredible conversation starter.

Notice how the app manages to keep a tie to the paper version, with a normal article layout available and paging. But it goes from portrait to landscape views as necessary. Images can easily be expanded from being embedded in text, and an image can be the opening frame of a video. None of this is new technology, but it's the way Interview is handling it that is so remarkable. It wouldn't be hard to imagine additional refinements:

  • web resource links
  • explanatory graphics
  • data visualizations and context, perhaps from a source like Wolfram Alpha
  • connections to contextual searches and even e-commerce
Not only does this become a compelling way of presenting information, but it presents the opportunity for publishers to see additional revenue. For example, Salon.com CEO Richard Gingras mentioned to me last fall that his company was using product sales from the site to help create additional revenue streams.

In another post today, I said that Apple is showing signs of fear regarding the iPad. It's partly due to mixed reactions and partly due to its desire to hold on to customers its obtained with the iPhone and iPod, but who aren't traditional Apple loyalists. Well, Steve Jobs could relax if he would recognize that if he does see tablets as a new category of device, it's likely going to be the third parties -- companies ultimately not under his control -- that will ironically be able to sell the iPad.

The scary part, of course, it putting your existence into the hands of another. For every Interview, there may be a Wired that creates an iPad app that -- oops! -- doesn't work because it's based on Adobe (ADBE) Air. Oh, well, there's always a Windows tablet. And that's an example of how the limitations of the iPad are starting to appear like an Aristotelian tragic flaw, and how, right now, no matter how slick something like this on the iPad looks, it's still not enough to kill competitors. Because you can't knock off pretenders to the throne if you can't delivery everything they can and more.

[A BNET editor pointed me to this interesting take on electronic magazines from Bonnier:

It will be fascinating to see how things develop.]

Image courtesy Interview Magazine, via Huffington Post.

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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.