Rodale’s Men’s Health, which launched a PDF replica for the iPhone in June, has significantly stepped up the mobile edition to be, in a sense, a mini-iPad version of the magazine with greater interactivity and navigation. But rather than squeezing the tablet edition into the iPhone format, the mobile version has been reimagined specifically for the small screen.
Sean Bumgarner, Rodale’s interactive design director, says the company’s history with developing branded spinoff apps, such as Jimmy the Bartender and a variety of magazine-branded exercise and recipe apps, has helped prove the market for a full Men’s Health brand introduction for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
Plus, when readers download a tablet version of the magazine, they automatically get the iPhone version as well. Of that audience, Bumgarner says usage went from six percent to 16 percent on the iPhone since June—a market of users that Rodale believes is very different from the iPad. "It’s a separate market opportunity from the tablet," says Bumgarner. "In addition to the tablet, people want the latest iPhone, too. They are significantly different experiences."
Men’s Health’s enhanced iPhone edition uses a color- and icon-coded system to help readers navigate the content using standard scrubber and swipe motions. With the notion that readers tend to interact with content on the iPhone while doing other things, like waiting in line, Bumgarner says a premium was placed on quickly conveying a section’s meaning on the first page.
iPhone usage, he says, tends to mimic the flipping and browsing habits readers have with the print magazine. "It’s not a lean-back experience like the iPad. They need a quick flash and dive in and out of the content. We decided to use the full screen and then use a tap to show the text. We wanted to maintain a sense of scale and maximize what you’re getting in the screen space," he says.
Despite the screen limitations, the full content of the magazine is available in the iPhone version—except for the ads. Gillette is the exclusive sponsor for the first enhanced version and Bumgarner says that if there isn’t a single sponsor for the issue, advertising will be limited.
"People want to use their phone for everything," says Bumgarner. "So it’s not as much about replicating as much as finding a way for telling the stories. The tablet is such a great way to showcase content and photography, but from a design point of view this was a much more conceptual challenge to figure out how people were going to use this content."
A pull-out exercise poster that appears in every issue, for example, was recast as frame-by-frame animations for the iPad. On the iPhone version, however, a video shows the content with a fitness editor providing instructions with a voiceover. Again, the iPhone version leverages its take-along characteristic for the gym. "If you’re in the gym, you don’t want to be noodling around using the scrubber on the tablet to go frame by frame," says Bumgarner.
An essay written by Garrison Keillor includes an audio version narrated by the author, with a slideshow featuring images of subjects noted in the essay for further interaction.
Plans include a Women’s Health version to launch in October, but Bumgarner is taking a wait-and-see approach on the other Rodale brands.
A single issue is priced at $4.99 and a one-year sub is $23.99. Rodale says Men’s Health has sold about 60,000 digital copies, with more than 51,000 digital subscribers.