If This Is The Future Of Magazines, Magazines Are Doomed

Apr 9th, 2010 | By | Category: Apple iPad

This video presents Popular Science + –  the first digital magazine from publisher Bonnier’s ongoing project to rethink the way magazines can be read on devices like the Apple iPad.

With Popular Science +, the publisher is trying to define “the future of digital magazines.”

The demo is slick – but also seems completely misguided. Popular Science + seems to exist in a state of denial about the existence of new media and social media.

In fact, the explicit goals of the project put preserving the status quo ahead of innovation:

Our goal has been to preserve all the qualities that make magazines such a powerful, popular medium—inspired packaging of carefully curated content by a team of expert editors, delivered in a visually dazzling issue with a beginning, middle and end—and at the same time to reinvent it in a way that makes it come to life on the iPad’s screen.”

They’ve taken a 100 year-old vision for magazines and translated it very elegantly onto a new platform.

How does Google/Twitter/YouTube/blogging/podcasting/social networking fit into this sterile vision?

It doesn’t.

Popular Science + is going to get all sorts of buzz, awards and accolades – but it seems like a classic example of William Horton’s concept of horseless carriage thinking (pdf):

How do we react to change? To new technologies? To new media?

Do we use them to solve old problems and develop new markets?

Sometimes, but not always.

In the early part of this century, in the U.S. and Canada, what we now call automobiles were called “horseless carriages.”

For the first 15 years, automobiles were just horse-drawn carriages with the horse taken off the front and an engine bolted on underneath. For the first six or seven years, most automobiles came with a buggy whip holder as standard equipment.

I refer to this phenomenon as horseless-carriage thinking. It refers to the tendency of designers to use new technologies, especially communications media, in exactly the same ways they used earlier technologies and media.

Bonnier has clearly put a tremendous amount of thought an time into Popular Science +.

But, if this is the future of magazines, magazines are doomed.

Do you think indie publishers will be able to reinvent magazines in ways that big publishers like Bonnier can’t imagine?

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2 Responses to “If This Is The Future Of Magazines, Magazines Are Doomed”

  1. Me says:

    “completely misguided” There couldn’t be a better characterization. Just watching the scrolling makes me nauseous. There’s just got to be a new paradigm. This needn’t be indie, an evolution more likely.

    It’s significant Apple just announced an upgrade to their iPhone OS for later this year that will include multitasking for the iPad – to my mind this is essential for this platform to thrive.

  2. Nick says:

    It’s like the teleportation has finally arrived but they are still focused on the personal jetpack because it is more romantic and easier to predict its arrival.

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