The Future of Magazines

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Jon Reed is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Publishing Talk. Follow him at @jonreed.

With the arrival of the iPad, the Minority Report moment for magazines is finally here

When it comes to digital publishing, I’ve never been very comfortable with all that simulation of the physical reading experience: graphical page-turning ticks, even strange experiments with scratch-and-sniff e-books. It’s not a printed page. It’s an electronic device. Get over it.

It also shows a bewildering lack of imagination. Why slavishly copy the analogue reading model from print products when a much richer multimedia experience is possible? Is it because we don’t want to lose a perceived emotional connection with printed books? If so, I suspect that is much more of an issue for publishing staff who put “because I just love books” in their application letters than for today’s consumers who spend so much time on laptops and iPhones.

That’s not to say that user experience isn’t important – it is. User interface design is more important than ever. It’s just the metaphors that are wrong. In print, we open, turn and fold. In digital, we point, tap and scroll. We’re used to this now. Really. And it is still possible to create an emotional connection to a book or a magazine that exists in digital rather than printed form.

With the iPad just around the corner, one design company has come up with a highly intuitive conceptual model for how magazines might work on this and other devices.

Mag+ from Bonnier on Vimeo.

Bonnier and BERG’s vision is particularly far-sighted, considering this video was released at least a month before the iPad was announced. But they’re not alone. WIRED Magazine is, unsurprisingly, at the forefront of putting digital magazine technology into practice.

YouTube – Adobe and Wired Introduce a New Digital Magazine Experience.

Many have seen online magazines and newspapers as a threat – notably Rupert Murdoch, who has curiously named his paywall plans Project Alesia this week.

But what if you could create content and a user experience so compelling that people would willingly pay for it? We’re already seeing signs of this with iPhone apps. The iPad could take things a stage further.

Chris Anderson, Editor in Chief of WIRED Magazine, says: “This is what we’ve been waiting for for 15 years. We’ve been waiting for an opportunity to use all these visual tools at our disposal, to tell these stories in a way that is efficient that is multidimensional. But we also think it’s an opportunity to reset the economics: for the first time people may value this experience so much that they’ll pay for it.”

I talked about the Minority Report moment on this blog back in 2007. I also said magazines would get there before books. With the iPad, I’d say that moment is pretty much here. And the magazine will be WIRED – coming to an iPad near you this summer.

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About Author

Jon Reed is an author, screenwriter, publisher and social media consultant. He is the author of Get Up to Speed With Online Marketing (2e, Pearson Business, 2013) and the the founder of social media consultancy Reed Media, which offers social media management, training and consultancy. Jon started Publishing Talk in 2007 following a 10-year career in publishing, including as publishing director for McGraw-Hill. More...

2 Comments

  1. Samantha Vigliotti on

    One frustration that a lot of people have with the internet is that there is TOO much information to move through. In a book, you know you’re getting everything. You are NEVER getting all of the info on the internet. Read one blog and there are thousands of others on the subject that are not readily available. You can’t get the same sense of closure or satisfaction that you are informed that you can from a book. The LIMITS enhance the reader’s understanding of the experience. The internet leaves us fragmented which is why the current generation has the least identifiable distinguishing characteristics than any other. We’re all fragmented- just a mash up of everything we collect in a way that other generations weren’t.

    Yes, the drama of the images seems like it can be translated to the the IPAD but it disturbs me that there are so many little links. CUT?? Cut what?? Where are you pasting it? Why would you need to? That little bar tool that shows you how much reading you have left? It’s only going to further decrease our attention spans and our ability to process knowledge. People will find it nerve-wracking, like they are never going to get through all of it, like it’s not going fast enough. Essentially, it’s an INTERRUPTION in the reading experience which should be imbued with a natural flow, a consistency that lasts from beginning to end. You CANNOT engage in an article the way you can with a tangible page that you can hold. I don’t care if he SAYS you can. The little page markers on the side are only offer minimal comfort.

    I watched this video praying for enlightenment but it did not deliver. Do not tell me that I am only concerned because “I love books!” Yes I do believe there is a sensuality to tangible pages that cannot be reproduced through a multi-media experience. Ever. But, I’m foremost concerned with the fact that our technological capabilities are destroying our race’s attention spans and our ability to process information. They are making us more impatient, and extremely fragmented. We are destroying ourselves from the inside out. If you have children, watch how they emerge in the society. We are absolutely going to regret this.

  2. Pingback: Are ebooks still books? « Simon's Book Blog

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