Success Stories

MEI’s Tablet Experts Build Powerful iPad Content for Reader’s Digest


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Familiar partners help a familiar title achieve state-of-the-art innovation

When Reader’s Digest editors began planning their first iPad edition, they looked at what was out there and decided on an approach that would take advantage of the staff’s familiarity with Adobe InDesign and the vjoon K4 Cross-Media Publishing Platform. They also called on a familiar partner: MEI.

MEI’s extensive first-hand knowledge of Adobe’s new Digital Publishing Suite™ and years of experience with vjoon K4 workflow management made it a no-brainer for Reader’s Digest to tap the company to project-manage the inaugural effort.

In addition, MEI’s creative team pitched in on a couple of the iPad edition’s specialized features — including an interactive version of the venerable “Word Power,” which debuted in Reader’s Digest in 1945.

“By signing MEI up, we knew we had the ‘cool’ factor covered,” said Reader’s Digest Managing Editor Ann Powell. “I felt like I was working with a partner, like they were even doing some of the thinking for us when we needed it.”

The project kicked off in October 2010. The result, in January 2011, was Reader’s Digest’s first iPad app, showcasing an interactive version of the iconic magazine’s February 2011 issue.

Condé Nast’s success with the Adobe tools was also a major factor leading Reader’s Digest to opt for the Digital Publishing Suite.

“MEI really understood what we wanted. I felt like they were very invested in the creative process,” Powell said. “Overall, it was a great experience and a good value. It was a great investment for the company, and I look forward to expanding it.”

“There are a lot of vendors out there offering iPad solutions, but once I saw Wired’s app, I immediately thought it demonstrated a natural progression for magazines,” Powell said. “Cost and creative control were also factors. By using K4 and Adobe DPS, we could leverage our print workflow and design, which allows a sustainable production of future issues.”

Reader’s Digest had been an early adopter of the vjoon K4 Cross-Media Publishing Platform, the optimized-for-multi-channel-publishing update of the preeminent design and editorial workflow management system integrating InDesign and Adobe InCopy.

MEI, the exclusive distributor of K4 in the Americas, worked with Reader’s Digest in 2009 and 2010 to install the new system, so managers there were well aware of MEI’s capabilities when it came to training and deploying new publishing technology. They also knew that MEI’s experience with complex, large-scale publishing projects would keep the development process on track.

In addition, MEI was already ahead of the pack with the Digital Publishing Suite by virtue of its ties with Adobe. MEI is an Adobe premier development partner and the only Gold-level DPS reseller.

“Our close working relationship with Adobe allowed us to participate in the early stages of DPS development,” said MEI business development manager Brett Kizner. “As challenging as it can be to roll out a product while development is still going on, this allowed us to provide real-world feedback to Adobe.”

“We want tablet publishing to be an accessible and realistic option for all creative teams, no matter their size or industry,” said MEI president and CEO Dennis McGuire. “As soon as Adobe was ready to try out some of the concepts that turned into DPS, we jumped right in.”

On site at Reader’s Digest, MEI solutions specialist Bruce Frausto helped the magazine develop new production processes to optimize use of the new Adobe tools, then refine them through the length of the engagement. User training and documentation completed the package.

“We wanted to make sure RD would be able to continue producing their iPad issues effectively once we were gone,” Frausto said.

Meanwhile, MEI’s experienced designers and technologists worked with a combination of the tools inside DPS, including the interactive overlay creator and content bundler, and custom HTML programming to build dynamic versions of a couple of Reader’s Digest classics:

  • An interactive version of “Around the World with One Question,” including a globe that displays fun facts as the user spins it.
  • The transformation of “Word Power” into a touch quiz with instant graphical feedback on the user’s vocabulary prowess.

“It was important to leave the layout design to the Reader’s Digest team, so we focused on working within InDesign as much as possible,” said MEI art director Will Steuber. “However, for Word Power, we wanted something special, since it’s such a classic feature of the brand.

“After experimenting with different solutions, we decided the best way to handle it was as an HTML article. By working with HTML 5, we were able to create an interactive experience that the RD team could easily repeat in future issues.”

Reader’s Digest was pleased with the results — pleased enough, in fact, that other MEI-Reader’s Digest creative projects were ordered up or are in the works. For example, for the May issue, MEI used HTML 5 to help develop a Daily Digest feature that automatically pulls fresh content from the Reader’s Digest website, with no production intervention needed.