In December I posted a blog about the future of magazines as touted by people at Time Inc via an imagined video of how a copy of Sports Illustrated might figure on a tablet. I was swooning at not just how easy and user-friendly it would be to navigate around the content, but also how much of the design and aesthetic of a magazine it captured.
This for me was an important breakthrough, much like when publishers began arranging their online content in a web friendly way – i.e. complementing and adding to their their print content, whilst presenting it with a new visual approach unique to screen. It was only natural that they couldn’t duplicate a print layout on a computer screen in the exact same way as they usually did, the rigidity of screen, keyboard, and mouse wouldn’t allow it, and furthermore the navigation system of computers and web pages were more about scrolling and clicking than flipping. So, abiding by the new rules, newspapers and magazine like the Guardian, Telegraph, Esquire, and GQ, played around with ideas for a while, and eventually came up with computer-friendly and successful models of web publication, all of which have since afforded them success online.
However, despite the pleasant design and organization of such websites, print aficionados like myself feel lacking, unsatisfied, and even guilty to be engaging with news in this way. The success of online news is largely due to the convergence of different media – newspapers act more like general media organizations these days – and the ability to publish content as soon as it is filed/edited – breaking news in the most literal sense – but the fun and ease of sitting back with a magazine or newspaper comfortably held in our hands cannot be replicated by the generally hunched-position at a desk one adopts when browsing. It feels too much like work to be a pleasure, let alone being a relaxing pursuit, and as such, one doesn’t feel inclined to sit down with an online ‘publication’ for any stretch of time.
But the iPad is going to change that. With the recent launch of the Time Magazine iPad app, the fantasy of the Sports Illustrated prototype has been imagined for real by the very people behind the aforementioned magazine, and my oh my, liberty is on its way. Although limited in some respects, it is an exciting example of how the concept is actually panning out, and from here on in, things can only get better.
This means, I hope, a new way of publishing content that is evocative of the virtues of print, which will, I believe, coexist with static versions of online content – i.e. from a desktop – or perhaps with the growing trend of touchscreen computer screens, the future is potentially the visually appealing digital-print layout, and not necessarily what we now have in the shape of online news today. It will be most likely be best suited to a weekly publication as in the case of Time magazine, allowing, I suppose, for there to time to upload and design content in such an engaging way, but equally so, a monthly publication could deliver something far more in-depth with the currency of time they have. Whether a newspaper can style their daily output in this style is contentious, given that they make their trade by publishing breaking news as it happens, a system that is more about quality of content than it is serving a visual function. It is, therefore, increasingly likely that the iPad will be the playground of magazines, whose emphasis on features will make it a success.
So, as long as the content is of a high quality and accessible in a fun and easy way, then there’s real value for what readers can expect of a magazine designed for the iPad. And judging by how things are looking, I would be indeed be willing to pay for a digital-print magazine.