Along the way in our discussion of ingenuity we met Johannes Gutenberg, a gaggle of DIY-ers and a few other characters concerned with the business of forward thinking and making things in new ways. Gutenberg was a good place to start as his storied work with moveable type ushered in a new age of learning and thus the advancement of society as a whole. Let's leap forward to the here and now where we are experiencing another great leap in publishing, the magazine app. Is it just a glorified PDF or the way forward? We are in the early stages but I believe the ingenuity of developers and end-users of this medium alike will usher in a new age of publishing.
About a year ago, Wired jumped out in front of many other publications with a much-ballyhooed edition of their magazine for the iPad. There was a distinct wow factor at the time. Talk about moveable type! It was fun to flip through a magazine again. There was plenty to love, but the critics who knew plenty about UX, publishing models and so on were able to poke a few holes in the initial release. Essentially they were split on like/dislike, but where was the precedent? Who was right? Well, a year later and Wired is still pushing the evolution of the medium. And it's getting better. They've been an integral part of the initial thrust of magazine apps alongside the likes of Popular Mechanics, Sports Illustrated, Self, and Oprah. Just like in the 15th century, it would seem we are witnessing a publishing revolution.
The magazine apps have opened up new possibilities for making content stickier. We still have many of the same columns and guest appearances by our favorite writers, photographers and illustrators. But how about embedded video and audio files to go along with our text? Additional links to other relevant content? We can now do these things -- and under a familiar masthead, one with equity. These capabilities foster a new kind of immersion in topics of interest to readers everywhere. At least those with tablets. What about the tactile experience? To be honest, not everything needs to be tactile to our fingers. A little mental stimulation is just fine, thank you very much.
But as the critics pointed out, a few growing pains persist. And these are not all tied to the developers -- some of them fall back onto us marketers. For example, in a recent Wired edition for the iPad I noticed several static ads that looked as if they'd been "ripped from the headlines," or maybe more appropriately, "ripped from the print edition." These were certainly a missed opportunity to take advantage of the technology being employed. Also, a few with QR codes. QR codes in a magazine app? It's easy to surmise that no one has really figured out how to best implement these codes. But seriously, am I going to take out my mobile device, scan the QR code from my tablet, and find myself enlightened? I'm more likely to find myself mildly annoyed without even scanning the code. This before I swipe through to the next article. These electronic editions are a specific medium and so they require a bit of attention in how they are utilized. We're learning, just as Gutenberg's contemporaries did before they began spewing forth centuries of learning into the world, fostering a new generation of luminaries. So with a little ingenuity on the part of developers (and a little help from us), new ways of capitalizing on this burgeoning technology will continue to surface. But I digress. We were speaking about magazine apps, not QR codes.
From the business side, ingenuity has already served many of the tablet 'zine companies well. The apps have served as new ways of hooking additional readers when they were being lost to browsing online. Sure, the big publishers still manage to get folks signing on for year-long subscriptions. But now, they can also sell more one-off editions because they've wiggled their way into the lifestyle of today's consumer and made it easy for them to access content (except <ahem> for those long download times). And a few publishers like Condé Naste are now offering discounts over print subscriptions. Call now! At the other end of the spectrum there are smaller niche publications who serve a specific clientele (more likely to have already invested in tablets) who can now play on the same field with the Wired's and Time's of the world. So the electronic edition makes a lot of sense for them as well.
Time will tell whether the electronic edition is here to stay. Ingenuity will foster new ways of evolving this technology and what it eventually becomes. And even where it lives. Textbooks, car manuals and even more, I'm sure. It will be exciting to see -- and read.