There’s been a lot of coverage of a research report by the Pew Research Center and The Economist. One of the key findings from the survey of American news consumers was that 60% of readers under the age of 40 prefer a “traditional, print-like” experience when reading news content on tablets.
I get this in relation to news; readers want to access information quickly without the distractions of interactive elements like animation, audio and video. But is the same true for digital magazine readers?
More than newspapers, magazines have to entertain readers as much as inform them and immediate access to information doesn’t always trump design. I’m no designer, but magazine pages in print can be every bit as complex as on the tablet. Print doesn’t move or talk, but a sophisticated page layout can pack a mindbending array of graphic and text elements.
Thinking about magazines, the term “print like” isn’t really helpful. I’m not sure what the right term is – accessible, intuitive, legible?
Having just finished judging the 2012 Digital Magazine Awards, I have first hand experience of publishers that have overused interactive elements in their iPad publications: Spinning stuff just sometimes gets in the way.
I suppose the mesage for magazine publishers from this element of the Pew/Economist study is that technology has to be used appropriately. If your readers want information quickly, you need to design to that. Simple layouts, clear typography, job done. But if they want an enhanced media experience, video, audio, animation can really add value.
The bottom line in all of this is that we are still in the very early days of digital magazine design. As one of the winning editors at the DMAs put it to me, digital magazine publishers are experimenting in public and they don’t always get it right. But playing it safe and reverting to print formats just won’t cut it. Readers need a reason to buy tablet magazines and giving them print products on a digital substrate isn’t likely to cut it long-term.