John

So, you say you want to digitise your magazine?

In magazines on November 11, 2006 at 1:39 pm

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Here’s an interesting development in the magazine world taking on the new media world–skip the print and go directly digital. Jon Fine, a media columnist with BusinessWeek, picked up on the launch of Viv, “an independently published health-and-wellness play with certain New Age overtones aimed at women 35-plus.” Due to launch on December 1, Viv Mag is solely available through the Web, and viewable through Zinio Systems’ online reader.

Now, I know that there’s been a lot of talk surrounding the whole issue of traditional print media trying to embrace the web, but I don’t think this is the way. It’s a gutsy move, no doubt, as Fine put it: “The notion of doing an entirely digital magazine has been frequently discussed among the halls of major magazine publishers, but none have taken a leap like Viv. (Time Inc. did try the Web-only Office Pirates, but it was operated as a straight Web site and in any event died a fairly quick death.) I’d be telling a very big lie if I said Viv’s success was guaranteed, or even likely.

“But I can’t help but think this: I just returned from the American Magazine Conference, where a bunch of top execs once again made the argument of how magazines are embracing the Internet, oh yes, we truly get it now, whatever ‘it’ is. And yet it takes someone far outside from any big magazine company to try something that smacks of the next-generation magazine.”

It’s a gutsy leap of faith by Viv, but it doesn’t make sense. There’s no solid ground to land on when it arrives. I’ve always held firm by the argument that one media trying to integrate itself into another is doomed from the start. Print media, being traditional, doesn’t mean it’s outdated; it’s got merits that can’t be emulated by plonking your whole magazine onto the Web. “A woman’s magazine that you can’t flick, fondle or flaunt is no woman’s magazine at all,” writes David Hepworth in his column for Guardian (again. I know, I quote him often, but he’s an awesome columnist for MediaGuardian.)

And that’s the thing: you can’t feel a magazine on the web. You can’t take it to the bathroom with you, take it to the beach, to the cafe, slip it in your bag and read it on the train. There’s a sensual pleasure in a magazine, from the cover lamination, to the paper grammage, to the dog-earring the pages you want to catch up on. I can’t imagine booting up a computer just to read a magazine. Try it for yourself–The Fader has a completely free downloadable pdf file of its entire issue, and it’s a horrible experience reading 100 pages of it on the computer. Different forms of media, different purposes. I hope Viv does well, but I’m not hopeful.

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