A quick thought that those of us who work at magazines tend to forget: our readers really aren’t as familiar with our product as we are. Authors’ and editors’ names, section titles and how the magazine and website are organized may seem perfectly obvious to us, but to our readers, they can be confusing and unclear.
Every now and then, try to step back and imagine what your website would look like if you were visiting for the first time. Would it be easy to find what you’re looking for? (And what would you be looking for?) Does the navigation make sense? Can you easily tell what the content is about? Is the page you’re on (and it may not be the home page) interesting and attractive enough that you want to stay? Is the text readable? And is it obvious that this is the website of a magazine? (Maybe too obvious?)
Too hard a task? Find a friend that a) doesn’t work in the industry and b) doesn’t read your magazine and ask them to assess your site. Or, if you have a new staff member or intern on board, ask them to give you some honest feedback on the site before they get too used to its look and feel. You might be surprised at what they tell you.
You may have seen the news that Time Inc. has launched a video of a potential digital edition for Sports Illustrated
, for the tablet (laptop/iPhone hybrid) Apple is rumoured to be developing.
I, of course, am skeptical. When I’m online, I have no attention span and don’t want to browse through just one site/product. When I’m not online, I like to pick up paper magazines. That being said, it’s nice to see someone doing something innovative and exploring new formats.
I also have a few questions – feel free to pipe in with the answers:
• Given that the financial problems in the industry are due to declining ad revenue, and given that it’s unlikely that paid digital versions will increase a magazine’s subscriber base, how will developing a paid model for digital versions help the bottom line? Will the presumed reduction in printing and distribution costs really make that much of a difference?
• The same question, put a different way: this kind of product, especially for a weekly magazine, will involve a lot more complex work than ink on paper, and even than on a website – therefore more staff. How will that affect budgets?
• When you cut back on the words and fill in the blanks with videos of bikini-clad models, at what point is your product no longer a magazine?
But what I really find interesting here is that I pulled this from an Apple rumours site, macrumors.com
, whose audience is quite different from the media types we’re all used to hearing from (although admittedly there’s probably a bit of overlap). So I recommend reading the comments, just to get a sense of what non-magazine people (but admittedly gadget geeks) think about the idea. Some highlights:
“It’s a decent mockup, but I don’t quite get the point of these digitized magazines. How are they any different from a well-designed website like Espn.com or NYT.com? Why would I pay another $30 a year for something I get free everyday RIGHT NOW?”
“The problem is people are use to getting stuff for free online already.. Magazines are gonna have to really up it to stay afloat. Interactive stuff with games could be the next thing. Live chat with friends, football pools. etc”
“Reading a magazine is hugely different from reading a website. Magazines generally have artistic full-color layouts, with incredibly designed content mixed in with gorgeous high-resolution photos. A website is a bit more of a cheap consumable that doesn’t have that sort of effort put into it. I’ve known for a long time that I would much prefer to read Wired on a device like this than I do trying to browse the same content on the Wired website.”
“This all looks very nice, but wait until they futz it all up with distracting pop-ads that you can’t skip through. We’ll be running back to paper…”
“These devices are not paper and it is critical that the reader has the ability to alter the layout to enlarge the text and reduce the size of the photos (or eliminate them). This will be hard for the magazines’ art directors to accept. The video (from the YouTube link) shows how the people responsible for creating it don’t yet have a clue about how to do this successfully.”
“Theoretically, the issues could be completely free of charge. If you look at most magazine subscriptions – e.g., Wired, at $10 per year(!) – that cost wouldn’t even handle the costs to print the issues, let alone deliver them to your home. Magazines make all their money on advertisements in the issue. If you remove the printing and delivery costs completely, we could see a library of every major magazine for free on iTunes. Personally I’d love this device in more ways than one. I’ve always much preferred reading magazines than having to see web banners or pop-up ads on a website. A magazine has lovely full page ads and I totally don’t mind them. In fact, I rather quite enjoy ads in magazines. If they keep the same ad system as in magazines (which I think they will), reading a magazine on a tablet will be much more enjoyable than websites.”