Version Reviewed: 1.0
Reviewed on: iPad
iPhone Integration Rating:
User Interface Rating:
Re-use Value Rating:
I've written a lot over the past couple of days about magazines for the iPad (the roundup is here). Each time, I found myself wondering why none of the established publishers could find an effective way to harness the iPad's capabilities and create a new, immersive, revolutionary iPad magazine experience. I was excited to find out about Sideways, a new iPad-exclusive magazine by an accomplished team of web and publishing veterans.
For the iPad, About the iPad
The team behind Sideways created TapTilt, an acclaimed only-for-iPhone magazine that's been around for a little while. I have to applaud Sideways' developers - they are among the first teams to even attempt to tackle the challenge of journalism on the iPad. Established magazines and newspapers have done a pretty good job so far adapting their content (I'm a big fan of the Financial Times app), but each simply takes content designed for paper and puts it on the iPad in new and engaging ways.
TapTilt's application, demoed above, includes multimedia and more, just like Sideways' iPad application. Interestingly, although the two apps are created by the same people, they contain different content. I wonder if TapTilt will remain exclusive to the iPhone and if Sideways will stay iPad-only.
A Step in the Right Direction
Sideways includes a lot of great features that tie into some of the iPad's strengths. There are video features, great map content, music, and more. A lot of the content feels natural, as if it was meant to be included in that format. While this may seem like something that should happen in all iPad applications, a lot of the slideshows and media content in some of the other magazine apps feels as if it was put there just as an extra that doesn't tie directly into the app's content itself. The reading flow also works nicely and isn't as convoluted as the interfaces included in apps like Wired's or Pop Sci+.
[caption id="attachment_39216" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="Sideways\' Table of Contents"]
Content to Make You Content
The inaugural edition of Sideways includes lots of World Cup content in preparation for the big soccer tournament that's currently happening in South Africa. The content is divided into a series of sections including articles on the World Cup, summer music, triathalons, grilling, art, iPad app reviews, and some random odds and ends. While all of the content stands as worthy on its own, there isn't much that holds the magazine itself together thematically. This isn't a problem for the first issue, but future issues will definitely require more polish and content to keep people interested. I understand the concept of a general purpose magazine, but much of the content covered in Sideways applies to somewhat niche demographics - triathletes, for example. There are some great pieces in there, including a particularly good editorial by Cody Brown on the future of books, a topic I've written about as well. This issue also includes some small typos and capitalization errors which should not appear in a polished end product like Sideways'.
The Sideways Platform
The Sideways team aspires to be more than a simple magazine as well. Their software is a platform for other magazines, just as Bonnier has planned their Mag+ platform for all of their publications. While it's definitely small, tipping the virtual scales at a little over 2MB, the app does nothing when not connected to the Internet. There's no mention that the app needs Internet and it doesn't display a warning when it's not connected. Instead, it leaves the reader with a screen devoid of content. While I dislike the size of Wired's 500MB app as much as everyone else, it's nice to have the multimedia and content offline for those who don't have always-on connections on their iPad 3Gs.
[caption id="attachment_39214" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Sideways Without an Internet Connection"]
I'm also curious about the future of advertising in Sideways' applications. There aren't any ads in the current edition, but I'm sure that's on the agenda for future editions of the application. This seems to be an area where iAd could really help out the developers of Sideways in adding advertisements that are just as engaging and interactive as the content itself. The app doesn't include an in-app store either, like Zinio and several of the other magazine applications do. Each issue appears to be a self-contained application for $3.99. I've maligned other magazines for not including this feature, and Sideways is no exception. It's unfortunate that an app designed to take advantage of the iPad's capabilities couldn't harness the power of in-app purchasing for subscriptions.
[caption id="attachment_39215" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Sideways\' Sharing Tools"]
The app includes the bare minimum of sharing tools, allowing users to share articles on Facebook or email them to friends. The problem, however, is that the email sharing tool doesn't work at all. It includes a link that, when read on a desktop, leads directly to TapTilt's homepage. It's hard to read a great article and not share it with friends in the same manner as other publishers (ie the NYT).
Sideways was definitely a pleasant surprise after the spate of poorly designed iPad apps I've looked at before. Sideways, however, needs to think a little more about their content - it's pretty good on the whole but not centered around any sort of topic. They also need to deal with the offline content problem. The magazine includes great tie-ins with the iPad's core feature set and is a good sneak peek at where magazines may go when designed for new media platforms like the iPad.