These magazines with rich media and builtin games and other interactions look great, but who’s going to make them? From what I know assembling a publication is an efficient but quite messy proces. It gets the thing out the door before the deadline, but not much more.
The web part of the publication is usually bolted on and content is copy pasted from one into the other usually to the detriment of the web versions. And now we need to add another layer of richness somewhere inside this flow?
Like Hammersley says digital publications are just a symptom of a bigger problem. And the bigger problem of assembling such a magazine is just part of the transition from the old process of creating, assembling and publishing print media to the new way of doing things.
Of course everybody is waiting for Apple’s tablet offering which will most likely set the industry standard, but imagining what a flat high resolution interactive tablet will look and work like, is not too difficult. A (multi-)touch screen, some hardware buttons, network connectivity and HD image and video display. Do you need much more?
Using that hardware to reimagine the concept and use of a magazine including its more indirect properties such as coffee table displayability, spine information etc. are what Jack Schulze talks about in the Mag+ video by BERG.
Toolmaker and platform
Being a more technically inclined1, I’m very interested which platform will be used for these publications. Right now two obvious contenders would be:
- A Flash/AIR version which is not very hopeful from an openness point of view. And also what we’ve seen from the current Flash web magazines and applications, the user experience will probable be nothing to write home about (page turn animations anybody?).
If the current state of Flash on the iPhone is an indication, Apple will not allow this.
- A HTML5 version which seems a very likely contender. Apple is already pushing this hard for advanced stuff using HTML5 on the iPhone and with a similar sprinkling of Webkit specific extensions it should be more than possible to deliver the experiences enivisioned in these prototypes.
- Native applications seem too cumbersome for the publication release cycle and building a CMS-like solution for digital magazines in a native language yields the same problem: how to markup the magazine in the CMS? Which would result in a more or less complex markup language (such as HTML).
Adobe probably already has tools that make it ‘easy’ to create rich publications from their existing publication tools such as InDesign and Flash though I can’t find anything about such tools except this news release on a collaboration with Condé Nast. If I go to Adobe.com, there’s nothing about what I can do to ready my business for this transition.
It seems that there is a big opportunity for new toolmakers working from agile principles and using open standards to create the authoring and collaboration environments for the publications of the future.
What’s also interesting is how much of the magazine will be downloaded offline (like the podcast, App Store model) and how much of it will rely on a web connection. And how big will a Sports Illustrated filled with high res images and HD video be? Probably more than 1G. How does that impact your immediate reading experience?
Another thought is that because most of the publications are not as space constrained as print media, they can allow much more space for beautiful photography and video material (as the Sports Illustrated issue does). Depending on the compensations paid, the increased demand could at least herald an interesting new age for professional photographers.
I’m interested in what Hammersley will write as a solution to all this. I have no experience in print and am writing this as a bystander with an interest in the web.
- And interested in open platforms. ↩