Apple’s iPad has been unveiled, and it’s potential as a web browser and electronic book reader has people like Josh Quitter thinking about the future of reading in an outstanding, forward-thinking piece focused on how the Internet could impact traditional print magazines.
Personally, I love magazines. I think they have the best chance of any current print format to survive the switch to digital because mags already integrate multiple media.
The visual component is an integral part of the experience. If properly harnessed, the multi-media capacity of the web allows for a richer reader experience than print alone. With the web, features like supporting video, interview audio, and flash animated maps and charts can be used along with the typical photos and graphics.
To survive, magazine outfits need to take three steps:
1. Offer full digital versions for much lower subscription costs than on newsstands.
2. Use the money they save from print production to flood the virtual pages with interactive multi-media content. Maps to click, drag, and scale. Photo slideshows. Audio and video from the interviews. Interactive charts. Links for further reading from past issues.
3. Boost interactivity by providing comment and response mechanisms for digital edition consumers. Schedule chats with the author. Allow a reader to annotate a portion of the article, make comments and publish them to the page. Other viewers could opt to see these annotations – like a collaborative pdf document.
Perhaps the changing tastes of readers is a by-product of a more formally educated population than we had 30 years ago. In college, you can’t get by with writing a paper and citing only one source. In college, you learn that most people’s writing is influenced by their personal views and not fully objective. As you are exposed to a variety of ideas, you find that often every perspective on a topic has some foundation in fact and can contribute to the discussion.
Perhaps that’s why the next generation of readers wants conversation as much as they want information. They want their news and information from multiple sources and from a variety of perspectives. They don’t merely want to be told, they want to be shown.
This is a lesson that every traditional medium can learn from as we transition to an increasingly digital age.