By June of this year we will be having a very different discussion about interactive magazines. By then, the behind the scenes work going on in several areas will come together enabling the printed magazine to evolve into its inevitable digital form. Soon content publishers, content distribution companies, and hardware technology companies, working on different pieces of the puzzle, will have their pieces on the table. Once connected, a new way to look at magazine content and how it is delivered will emerge and the skeptics of digital magazines will need to reconsider their views.

The activity is everywhere:

■ Apple is quietly working behind the scenes to lineup publishers for rumored digital magazine distribution through iTunes alongside the release of an Apple tablet reader.
■ Hearst just announced an e-reader to support their magazine content at the Consumer Electronics show.
■ Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corporation and Time Inc. announced a "Hulu for magazines" to distribute their digital magazines.
■ At the Consumer Electronics Show, which just ended, e-readers were so prominent some reporters to called it the year of the e-reader.

The pieces are coming together. Let’s connect the dots:  

First: What the experience will look like.

Two publishers have animated the concept on videos showing what interactive magazines will look like on the next generation of digital readers. The readers are responsive to the users touch, and highly interactive as they intuitively create a dynamic reader experience. The first video shows the anticipated edition of Sports Illustrated with a play by play of what that publication will look like in digital form:

The second is a concept video is from Bonnier Corp, the publisher of Popular Science, and offerers a detailed look at how content for interactive magazines will be created and delivered:

Science fiction? Nope. The digital Sports Illustrated edition will be out in June, and as for Popular Science, they have been publishing interactive editions of the PopSci Genius Guide since last year. In addition there are already dozens of interactive magazines published around the world.  What will be different six months from now is that the next generation of digital readers will be making their way into the hands of readers. Which brings us to the next piece of the puzzle…

Second: the digital readers are coming.

Here is a video report from the recent Consumer Electronics Show where a wide variety of notebook computers with specialized e-reader features, as well as dedicated e-readers were shown. In this video Associate Press reporter Haven Daley predicts that 6 million notebook computer and e-readers will be sold in the US this year.

Third: Digital distribution technology is moving ahead.

Several digital magazine service companies are not waiting for the digital readers, they have launched applications to deliver a magazine reading experience to smart phones that are available now. Look at these three videos: 

Zinio’s CEO Rich Maggiotto explains how his organization’s iPhone app delivers both a high end graphical experience and readability to a small screen:

Nxtbook Media’s marketing director Marcus Grimm shows how his organization’s smart phone app creates ad revenue opportunities for publishers:

Finally, a demonstration of Texterity’s iPhone version of Elite Traveler magazine:

Magazine content, e-reader hardware, and distribution technology are all coming together. When the three are finally in place be prepared to rethink everything you know about magazines.

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