Remember when people bought albums? Like, a bunch of songs on a CD together, usually by the same artist…. I can see I lost you at “CD”. Nevermind.
Today, we frequently buy music one song at a time, on a computer. Some of us miss the album. Some of us have vinyl collections. Some of us curse ourselves every day for letting our dipshit ex-boyfriends keep our vinyl collections. But for the most part, we purchase, listen to, and ruthlessly criticize our music on our computers.
Magazines are going the same way. The print magazine, despite predictions (admittedly by myself on this very blog,) isn’t dead and isn’t particularly interested in going anywhere. But it will evolve, into a sort of hip luxury item, like vinyl. (Yes I do make this shit up as I go along. But I’m right. You’ll see.) And most of us, within about a year or so, will be reading our magazines on our tablets. And it’s going to be awesome because we’ll be saving trees.
Now here’s the thing. When the magazine is no longer dependent on the limitations of paper, what happens to its content? When it becomes fully tagged and searchable, what happens to its cohesiveness? What if I find an awesome article in a magazine I have no other interest in, and just want to buy that article? Why shouldn’t I be able to do that?
I think some publishers will begin doing the following: selling articles by themselves. And making them awesome by themselves. When a whole issue is one article, the potential for making a really beautiful, immersive reading experience – the whole reason we love magazines – is huge.
I don’t mean short three-paragraph piece about the latest shoes – that’s what blogs are made for. I mean those long, engrossing, in-depth examples of real journalism. The kind that take a good half-hour to absorb. The kind of thing I still read magazines for.
How would you design differently for a single article? What would you expect from it? What would you reasonably pay for it?
For full disclosure, I work at Zinio writing ads for digital magazines now. As far as I know no one is thinking about this much yet. Just me. And all I do is think about digital magazines now, all the freaking time.