28 March 2010

Future of Magazines

Attention directed by Nicola Griffith. Is this the future of magazines?

Obviously, it's something I'm curious about as an editor of an online magazine. We sorted through new options during last year's revamping, wondering if we should add stuff like video links, serialized novels, graphic novels, and comic strips. We decided to stay close to our traditional format (though it's much easier for us to publish on the back-end now - easy enough we were able to add an issue per year, going quarterly). For now. Never say never. But how will Electric Spec look on an Ipad, or the variations sure to follow?

I have a couple of thoughts about this, mostly in the #zinefail catagory.

One thing I'm not down with are the countless embedded videos currently on blogs, news-sites, and magazines. I know, I know, YouTube is all the craze with the young'uns. And I get it. I do. All the cool kids watch everything on their laptops. It's the ultimate in multitasking: you can do homework (lol), report your dinner on Facebook, follow twitter, blog, and watch last week's Supernatural all at the same time. But now much of print content is moving to video, spurred by YouTube's popularity. CNN is a great example of an offender in this. They've gone to nearly all vid onscreen. I used to check headlines there once a day, maybe read an article. Now: never. Two problems. Decent video is dang expensive to produce. Constantly using that format could price folks right out of production. Also, I can read about ten times faster than I can watch a video. Even most slide shows move way too slow for me. And don't even get me started on the ads...

Another problem is readers succumbing to the lure of endless links, which is something the article brings up. Ever go into Wikipedia to start (not finish!) a fact finding mission only to putter from link to link for an hour? Yeah. Me too. In the same vein, magazines have the capability to just get so dang big, via re-purposed content. One reason I read magazines is the sheer finish-ability built in. I can run through my Rolling Stone and then throw the dang thing in the recycling bin. There's a sense of accomplishment.

Magazines have long been biased. But it's getting increasingly difficult to find clear reporting any more. From the stories chosen to the actual coverage, many online magazines have become no better than well-produced blogs. News outlets have gone this way, too, spurring polarization. I wonder if we might be losing the capability of hearing the other side's story.

Even with all these problems, though, the thought of reading magazines on an electric pad (though I believe Paid Content's point about not simply reforming the page onscreen - we're conditioned to a blingier experience), even getting catalogs electronically, is exciting. Makes me suddenly kinda want an Ipad. I just wish it didn't have such a dumb name.

*reprinted at Sex Scenes at Starbucks

8 comments:

Greg M. Hall said...

My first thought was a John Varley story where most people were illiterate because all content was available in audio or video. But you can't scan audio or video the same way you can in print.

I'm in favor of Electric Spec, and similar zines, keeping the current format. If I want video, I know where to go for it. If I feel like reading, honestly I still prefer paper, but if I'm on the road my laptop is the most versatile means of entertainment, and an online magazine is portable and involves no waste when I'm done reading it.
Then again, I'm 40. But I think my High School-age kids, being literary, share similar sentiments.

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