The future of magazines?

December has seen some exciting visualisations of ‘the magazine of the future’. This morning, a Bobbie Johnson piece in the Guardian embedded the following video of Bonnier’s Mag+:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

This follows hot on the heels of the Sports Illustrated digital magazine concept earlier in the month:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

And thus, an isolated incident begins to look like a chain of events. Magazines seemed destined for the dustbin of history – indeed, their glossy incarnations probably still are – and yet suddenly it seems like a reimagined version could play a real part in the media landscape of the future.

The perks add up:
• For the publisher, the wasteful, expensive practise of glossy print production goes out the window, replaced by a neat, albeit complex, uploading system.

• The platform is in step with the zeitgeist. These tablet magazines are, essentially, the iPod’s older brother. Touch-screen interface is fast becoming an expected norm.

• Nothing exites advertisers like a new platform on which to display their wares. Especially a platform that, in its early stages, will inevitably have a niche, high-income audience.

But we’re not quite there yet. As Ben Hammersley astutely points out in a recent post, there is a missing link in the means of production:

[W]hile BERG’s work, and other pieces like it, are beautiful to see, they leave me very frustrated. The client-side development is very exciting to do – especially the systems-thinking that you need to do to take the entire customer journey from browsing to buying to backing-up – but the harder work, the more fundamental work, isn’t done. I’m talking about the editorial workflow….

With e-books, and especially with e-book concepts, the stories are published with the implication that the system knows a whole load of stuff that a print magazine doesn’t. The articles are written in hypertext, they have location data and subject cataloging, there is associated video and audio and additional photography, and so on. For a magazine title that is made entirely and exclusively for the e-book format, that’s not a problem. For an existing title trying to make the transition from paper through web to specialised digital device, it’s a show-stopper: the workflow at British Vogue, say, can’t handle it today. Neither could WIRED.

My friend (and erstwhile business partner) Daniel Dower is a keen consumer of magazines, and in a guest post, he explains why he thinks there’s life in them yet, why these new platforms seem to understand the inherent value of the magazine, and why platform wars are a not-to-distant possibilty.

2 responses to “The future of magazines?

  1. Pingback: Daniel Bower on magazines « Benji's Blog

  2. Benji,
    The future of magazines is certainly a current issue. Personally I can’t remember the last one I bought. The interactive possibilities of online versions simply make them ideal. As tablets etc continue to eveolve I’d be feeling pretty nervous if – was a magazine publisher!

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