Media: Perspective: Mags could flourish where both old and new media collide

By the time you read this, the world might just know what Apple has got up its sleeve.

Will it be the fabled tablet computer or just a shinier iPod and some fancy speakers? Who knows? Whatever the reality of the product, one of the intriguing things about the Apple hype has been the amount of time devoted to linking it with magazines.

Slap in the middle of the most hyped technology launch for years, we keep hearing about Time and Conde Nast and all these old-world media brands. And, when you think about it, you realise we've been getting all sorts of interesting magazine news recently. There have been the inevitable moments of gloom: titles closing down, people being laid off and Borders going bankrupt, depriving many people of access to a more esoteric magazine selection. But there have also been glimpses of possible futures.

Stack Magazines is going strong - curating and delivering independent magazines to its subscribers. MagCloud is growing - letting people make and sell their own magazines. And dire prognostications about a declining industry don't seem to be stopping people starting new titles - they pop up all the time. Then there's a host of people exploring how magazines might work on ebooks and tablets. Something with the glossy interactivity of an iPhone and the size, scale and portability of a magazine might be perfect for a lot of mag content.

That's probably why we've had a flurry of demo videos flying around showing how they imagine the "iMagazine" working. The most convincing and thorough is called Mag+ and was made for the Scandinavian media giant Bonnier by the design company BERG. A bit of Googling for Mag+ will find a magnificent video illustrating the possibilities of such a device. Two clever bits of thinking stuck out for me - demonstrating how these hybrid developments need to pluck the best experiences from the old media and the new.

First - they've abandoned the page-turning metaphor (still desperately clung to by so many online magazines) and have adopted the long, vertical scrolling page we're all used to on the web. That's embracing the new to good effect. But they've retained the idea of a magazine with periodically separate issues - so you get that satisfying feeling of actually managing to finish reading something. You don't get that endless stream of relentlessly updating content that makes the web so compelling, but sometimes so exhausting.

And what's especially interesting about all this is that it's actually going to happen. Maybe this year. Maybe next. But very soon.

People have been prognosticating about this stuff for years and now it's finally happening. It's both scary and exciting. But, for now, for the beginning of the year, let's all just act like it's going to be mostly exciting.


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