Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Sports Illustrated Tells iPad Readers to Turn Around

Magazine publishers keep adding bells and whistles to their iPad editions. But Sports Illustrated’s newest tweak goes the other way, and takes an option off the table.

The magazine used to give readers the ability to look at the app in “portrait” or “landscape” modes, but now it only offers the latter. If you’re holding the iPad vertically while using the app’s latest issue, the page won’t rotate like it used to. And you’ll get this odd error message at the bottom of the screen:

What gives? Josh Quittner, who has become Time Inc.’s digital/iPad guru, explains the publisher’s thinking on his personal blog: They think it’s a better way to look at big pictures, and it makes for a smaller download. But perhaps most important: It saves the magazine’s designers some work, since they don’t have to lay out two different versions of the iPad edition.

But wait a minute. The iPad is just a few months old, and iPad magazines are just barely off the drawing board. Is it cost-cutting time already?

Well, sort of, Quittner says, and here he gets around to his real point–Time Warner’s (TWX) magazine unit is still sore at Apple (AAPL) about subscriptions. (And boy oh boy is it excited about working with Google (GOOG) on its tablet platform):

Why not add more designers? Well, if we were able to build a real business, with subscriptions that offered our iPad versions to readers at a reasonable price, that would be a no brainer. But we can’t yet, so the best approach for us is to experiment with the format, marshal our (human) resources and start building products on other platforms that will allow us to scale up as our business grows.

Interesting approach, and I’m not sure it’s the one that’s really going to sway Steve Jobs. If I had to guess, I’d think he’d be much more likely to help out Time Inc. executives if their corporate cousins at Warner Bros. start renting out TV shows for 99 cents a piece on iTunes.

But we’ll see, I guess. Maybe the in-the-works Apple newsstand will be enough to appease the Time Inc. folks. Meantime, here are some detailed instructions about how to read the SI iPad edition:

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus