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Sports Illustrated's Digital Magazine: A Beautiful Package That Few Will Buy

Sports Illustrated, via the YouTube video above, became the second major magazine in recent weeks to show what a digital version of the magazine might look like, unveiling a prototype yesterday of a tablet computer version of the Time Inc. sports magazine. (Conde Nast's Wired demo-ed a digital version last month.)

The result is cool. It's as though the magazine itself were suddenly clickable, shareable, and re-sortable. Advertising benefits as well, since, unlike the print version, it isn't static and is trackable. But what it offers is exactly the problem; It's not all that different than the Web -- the difference is that this time around the content is packaged in a better fashion, as it's clear the magazine teamed a kick-ass user experience expert with a great print art director. But, if the content itself isn't absolutely revolutionary and isn't something you couldn't get in approximate form elsewhere on the Web, will people pay for it? I doubt it. And let's also not forget that the market for tablet PCs doesn't yet exist.

To make this work from an economic standpoint, you'd have to pull a lot of content off the SI Web site, and while you were at it, strip sports content off of other Web sites as well. That's what would make this an exclusive experience that people would pay for. Otherwise, this prototype, even as it bets on yet-to-be birthed technology, is just a wistful voyage in the wayback machine, taking us to a world where the magazine industry gets a do-over and people haven't already been trained to think content should be free. Sorry, guys. It's too late.

(Thanks to AllThingsD for posting the video, thus making life a little easier for a late-night blogger.)

Previous coverage of digital magazines at BNET Media:

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