Peter Kafka

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Game On: Time Inc. Shows Off a Tabletized Sports Illustrated

sports illustratedLast month, Condé Nast played show-and-tell with its concept of a digitized magazine. Today it’s Time Inc.’s turn: The publisher is demoing a concept version of Sports Illustrated it says will be able to run on whatever tablet Apple (AAPL) or any else has up their sleeves. Eventually, the publisher imagines that it will port all its titles into the new format, which it says will be ready for primetime by the middle of next year or sooner.

The show part will work better than the tell, and the Time Warner (TWX) unit will be releasing some photos and videos that I can embed later in the day. But for what it’s worth, the demo looks as nifty as, and quite similar to, what Condé showed off. Except that in this case, I actually got to play with it for a couple minutes, and it was quite a bit of fun.

UPDATE Here it is:

Both publishers are thinking along the same lines. They imagine that their digital magazines will replicate the print version, including advertising, and will include add-ons like multimedia and links to the Web.

But they’re supposed to be distinct–and more valuable–than simple Web versions of magazines, and both publishers expect consumers to pay for them.

“Nobody reads the magazine on the Website,” says Sports Illustrated editor Terry McDonell. “That’s a firehose. This is the opposite of a firehose.”

One distinction between the publishers is that Condé has aligned itself with Adobe (ADBE), which is working on software to create e-editions and reader software to consume them. Time Inc.’s take is more conceptual: It worked with design shop The Wonder Factory to build a prototype, but isn’t committed to any particular platform.

This may mean Time Inc. will need more time to get the magazine ready for consumption next year or it may mean the publisher has more flexibility than Condé and Adobe. Given that magazine-friendly e-readers don’t exist yet, this is all sort of vaporware for now.

On a related note, the “Hulu for Magazines” joint venture I’ve been telling you about for a couple of months may finally be ready to step out in public next week. Though as I’ve noted, I’ve been hearing that for many weeks.

Still, the broad strokes seem set: Time Inc., Condé Nast, Meredith and Hearst–and perhaps News Corp. (NWS)–are creating a separate company designed to let them sell and distribute their digital editions, regardless of platform.