All the E-readers and tablets are fine and exciting as long as they offer something new. If magazine publishers are going to do the same mistakes as they have been doing online, that is copy and paste the print content on a digital format, then let’s forget them.
Who will want to carry an extra item if its only a digital copy of what they can get on print. The other day, Time Inc released a video of what Sports Illustrated might look on a color E-reader. Besides giving updated sports results and bigger slideshows, the rest was exactly the same. Page of text, with same layout as print, with a few lonely photographs to illustrate them. Sorry, but there was nothing exciting about that.( Bonnier released another example of a boring Print to E Reader layout in this this video. When you are done yawing, please continue). If the format is reinvented then the layout should be too. What we need is a Alexey Brodovitch of the E reader, a revolutionary mind that will break the old tired rules of publishing and make reading magazine exciting again. Someone that will invent the continuous magazine for example, breaking away from the daily, weekly, monthly, bi monthly cycle that printing and circulation demanded. Someone that will take advantage of the new possibilities, the new format for all that it has. Simply applying cheap make-up on a dead format will not work. People are not going to purchase and use these electronic tablets just to save the environment. The salvation of the magazine is all in the content, not the support.
Take for example photography ( mmm, wonder why ?). Up to now, publishing empires of America have used photogrpahy only as a tool to prove or confirm a point , not as a narrative. Take news magazine like Time or Newsweek. They will use photography to illustrate an article on a topic, just to confirm with a visual what is being written about in the text. Why ? because as humans, we tend to trust more what we see than what we read. The written text has authority while the visual has credibility. In the current print media, the text is always, always privileged over the visual, even if sometimes the images would be a much better tool of communication. The image is used as a punctuation point after a series of written facts and explanations.
Part of the reason for this lies in the print limitation. Photographs have a lot of color and that used to be more expensive. Also, they can take more space and print is limited in the number of pages it can offer. Finally, they are much more difficult to lay out than plain black and whit columns of text.
But E readers and Tablets have none of these limitations. They are free of all the rules and regulation that had dictated the behavior of their print brothers. They are free of space , time and cost limitations. They no longer have to be the punctuation points of their text sibling. They can now freely and openly become masters of the information, leaving a simple caption the role of punctuating their reality.
The current batch of e magazines are a boring crop of conference room challenged idea spit out by a committee of politically frighten mid managers. They come out of the mind of those who want to save their jobs rather than create new idea. Where are the great Art Directors of tomorrow? Those that will reinvent the layout and the magazine at the same time. We have the tools, what we need now are the creatives.
Same goes for photographers. It will be those that stop thinking about photography as a punctuation mark, as a one image narrative, as a quarter space or double page , those who reinvent the narrative that will pierce through the frozen grounds of the current creative tundra .
Let’s kill the punctuation mark.