Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Magazines on the iPad. Maybe pictures aren't the point.

After a few weeks the iPad feels like a neat domestic device. It's ideal for keeping at the end of the dining table to settle arguments or check train times. It's perfect for sitting on your lap when you're not that bothered about what you're supposed to be watching on the TV. It slots into all sorts of intervals in daily life. We listen to the Archers podcast last thing at night on it. I'm sure it will have lots of similar uses.

However I've justified my purchase on the basis of it being touted as The Future Of Magazines. For the last year crystal ball gazers have promised that the iPad's large screen and fabulous display would mean it can finally equal the visual impact that magazine editors hold so dear.

I've downloaded a few, ranging from customised edition apps like Wired and Popular Science to "page-turning" facsimiles such as you can get for Wallpaper or Esquire. Only time will tell whether these will outlive the novelty stage.

However I'm already wondering whether pictures on the iPad will ever have the same impact as they have in a glossy magazine. This is partly because if you get the pictures big enough then you have to cheat on the grammar of the traditional magazine by drastically reducing the number of words on the spread. It's also because the pictures are behind glass rather than under your fingers. Once we're looking at a screen we expect to be able to choose what we want to see big, not have it dictated to us by an editor.

It could be that what the iPad does best is provide another means of navigating material on the web through traditional news readers and very clever things like Flipboard. Which would be no help to anyone.

Still. Early days.


  1. I think the iPad is great and use it all the time, but not for magazines. I haven't bothered with any of them mainly because a) I don't find video material compelling and b) as you say the images dont quite work. Someone lent me a copy of Rouleur (arty cycling magazine) and it is gorgeous. The paper is nice, the images are great and the writing superb : a great experience. It wouldn't work half as well as an e-zine and it tempts me to subscribe even though it is pricey. Slightly Foxed is another publication that is perfect in print too -well worth supporting if you don't already read it.

  2. Magazines as conveyers of information etc. to spheres of interest: largely trumped by internet.
    Magazines as coffee table books: way forward/ last hope.

  3. Off the iPad theme, I know, but there's possibly much to be said here about the future of 'boutique' magazines - miniscule print runs (-5k?), lush production values, staggering cover prices, etc. They've crept in to occupy what look like comfortable little niches in fields of interest (art & design, high-end cycling, serious foodiness...) naturally given to appreciating their exclusivity and highly independent editorial weight & worth. The coffee table magazine appears to have a future, as Richard notes above.
    So, Mr Hepworth, is there a small corner of the music mag field with space for same, d'ythink? Six issues a year? £10 a pop? I'd buy it...

  4. Well, I don't know if you can write off magazines as a supplier of information in that way. The majority of magazines sold in this country are weekly picture magazines about celebrities. There's no sign yet of the internet trumping that.

    Re: the big fat quarterly coffee table read. Those tend to work in areas where there is a massive amount of money spent on advertising. High-end fashion, yes. CDs, no.

  5. Ah, but say you eschew the filthy ad buck and push subs to float the boat? No dumbing down to pander to the industry! ;-) chance of it even paying for itself for at least a couple of years either, of course, but newsstand titles with necessarily big runs are hardly any different on that score.

    Quarterly, £60 annual subs... I'd pay!
    *reaches for coat, shuffles towards door*

  6. There's already a music 'coffee table' read called 'Loops'. Although it should sell for £12 you can get it from Amazon for £6 so maybe there isn't a market for it.