The Future of Magazines

To start with a statement. Modern society is perpetuating an insatiable drive for innovation and new features in the digital world. This demand shows no signs of slowing down, but is change always the best course of action? In the magazine market, let us indulge ourselves for a moment in musing about what may come in the next ten years — more video content, better audio capabilities, personalised integrated ads, compatibility with new technology such as VR, etc. It is easy to become excited by these ideas, just for the sheer novelty factor, but in reality, the discussion would benefit from everyone taking a step back and viewing the history of the magazine afresh.

Think of a magazine, any magazine, print or digital; what is the first thing that comes to mind? The front cover, right? Think Vogue. That iconic choice of font, the recurring layout, the photography. The cover is the entryway to your favourite periodical. Once you’re beyond the cover, then you’re reading the content, which is the flesh and blood of any magazine. Without good content a magazine won’t sell subscriptions, that’s a fact. Magazines can import as many gimmicks and new features as they like, but without consistent, high-quality content they will not survive. The point is that there exists a core set of principles which define and constitute a magazine. These principles are timeless and should not, and likely will not be forsaken for new gadgets. For example, we have long had the capability to import videos into digital magazines, but it remains an uncommon practice. Why?

article imageWell, to put it simply, they’re not needed. That is not to say that digital is the enemy. There have been many amazing features added to magazines in recent decades that have only been possible because of the development of new technology. New audio capabilities and text-reading technology have been used to develop tools that assist disabled persons in accessing magazines. This text-reading software also means that archives can be searched by keyword, which in turn allows the indexing of the content, increasing discoverability and usability in one fell swoop. Citing and sharing articles via social media has never been easier, creating a self-sustaining marketing to attract new subscribers. You will have noticed by now that none of those features alter the content of the magazine in any way, they solely facilitate the reading and distribution of the magazine.

Commercially, perhaps the two most important changes have been the digitisation of archived issues and the development of dedicated apps for magazines. Most periodicals now have their own apps and/or digital version. This portability has opened up a brand new market for magazines, as well as allowing longtime subscribers the freedom to read their favourite magazine wherever they are. Working in tandem with this is the increasing desire for old, archived issues which have been gathering dust for years in libraries and private collections. Scanning technology has meant that magazine owners have been able to bring the past into the present. This has hugely increased the value of magazines as academic resources and as unique windows for our cultural history.

To conclude, there is clearly a digital presence for magazines. Yet there are still print loyalists who have not embraced the demand for online resources. Signs indicate that publishers who build their digital archives and make them available to current readers and subscribers are making their magazines into digital survivors. Many magazines will be lost because they have not invested time and money into making the digital archive work now. It is a matter of foresight, publishers should always keep one eye on the future. A reactionary policy is a dangerous game, and even with a reactionary policy, publishers must realise that we are now living in a digital world. By crystallising their archives publishers would be guaranteeing their content is available for future generations, and as previously said, preservation of good content is the paramount aim of digital publishing.

The Importance of Modern Archives

What is the ideal scenario for a librarian when it comes to purchasing an online serial? I think it usually comes down to three major factors; Is the access IP authenticated? Is the access unlimited? Does the subscription include access to the complete archive?

With Exact Editions, librarians can rest assured that we will always meet the first two requirements. However, as much as we always strive to meet the third, occasionally there are barriers which restrict our ability to offer the complete archive. The reasoning varies from case to case, sometimes it is financial, sometimes it is licensing, and sometimes it is exclusivity. Whatever the cause, all is not lost.

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The Modern Archive of TLS includes every issue as it is released

In those cases where we are unable to acquire the complete archive, we still aim to provide what we are now calling the ‘Modern Archive’. This remains a very rich and attractive proposition for libraries, namely because of the fact the archives on the platform are always rolling, and therefore expanding. The best recent example of this is The Times Literary Supplement, which joined the platform only last week. We are in the fortunate position of being the sole institutional provider of the archives from 2012 — Present. As expected we immediately received a storm of interest from universities around the world; the modern archive of TLS is a much-desired resource (especially with the promise of a new issue every week) and will supplement current library holdings.

Library holdings bring me to the next point, the problem of ‘fixed’ archives. This happens when online providers will only secure a deal for certain years of an archive, e.g. 1980–2015. Now this will obviously be a powerful resource with 35 years of content, however, students will be missing out on recent and future issues, which are often very important as they are culturally current. Exact Editions has always leaned away from these ‘landlocked’ archives, instead opting to always offer institutions an archive which is going to grow and bring the latest content.

“Can I check: does it mirror exactly the latest printed content of the TLS, so that guaranteed access to the current issue is provided?” — Interested librarian

This question we received from a potential institutional subscriber illustrates my point exactly. Librarians are always keen to secure content which is at the forefront of its field. When archives are growing organically they are pushing the user and their research with them into the future — not just providing retrospective glimpses of what once was there.

Any comments or suggestions? Please feel free to get in touch via info@exacteditions.com

How to Present Digital Magazines

Part of the joy of reading magazines, as opposed to books and journals, are the inventive cover designs and enthralling double spread images contained within the pages. The physical appeal of magazines, combined with engaging topical content, is perhaps why many readers and institutions are so proud of their large and growing collections of archived issues. But what about those collections which are missing a few issues? Or those archives which have outlived several generations of readers? It can be a laborious process hunting down a print copy of a magazine issue which hasn’t been printed for 30 years.

Luckily for these readers, the aesthetics of the print version can naturally move on to the digital platform, particularly with the technological development of better screens which now elucidate every minuscule detail of the original. Not only that, but archives can now be preserved ad finitum with no risk of decay or misplacement. This means that a wide audience of readers can experience these archives in their entirety, whereas in the past those old issues may have been confined to dust-gathering shelves in library vaults. Because of digital preservation, these archived issues can be given a new lease of life, finding new readers many decades after they were first published. In an academic sense, the availability of archives opens up new windows of opportunity for researchers by facilitating quick, easy and reliable access to previously rare resources.

A key question for digital providers must be — how do we present these resources to the world? One neat approach is to use a Stacking Interface to organise the archive by decade and year. This system encourages the reader to observe the development of the cover design (an essential feature of any successful magazine) through the years. The Stacking Technology also offers users an elegant and intuitive interface for browsing through older issues, especially when combined with an intelligent search feature. For example, a reader may wish to search Geographical for coverage of deforestation in Brazil, but only in 1994, and the Stacking Technology will automatically narrow the search results. This technology transcends devices and is available on Web, iOS and Android platforms. The power this offers to academics goes without saying; fast, efficient research in a friendly format.

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Geographical Archive — Stacking Technology

What does this mean for digital magazine providers? As more and more magazines recognise the value and importance of their archive, it is likely there will be continual drive towards digitisation. Print publishers will be searching for the best way to present their backfile to the world. The Stacking Interface has already found many supporters in both publishing and academic circles as it offers a dynamic combination of utility and style. Stacks are a great way of organising deep and informative archives, and because of the periodical nature of magazines they will only continue to become more impressive.

So Film UK Hits the App Store

So Film UK is new to the App Store today.

Brand new to the UK market, this off-beat movie magazine celebrates the maverick side of movies and TV. It’s the only magazine that mixes history, sports, society and politics to deal with the film, its legends and its sidelines.

It joins So Film España and the original So Film Français on Apple’s Newsstand, to complete So Film’s big bilingual family.

Take a peek at it in the App Store here or read more about the launch over at InPublishing.

So Film UK